Presidential Pets:a look at Oval Office companions

Posted by Dr. Kim Smyth on Feb 06 2012

Presidents’ Day is coming up! Throughout the history of America, our presidents have retired at the end of the day much like the rest of us – to the company of beloved pets. I thought it would be fun to take a look at some of the pets that kept the feet of our noble leaders warm in the Oval Office.

I wanted to start at the beginning with George Washington, our first president, but it turns out that while he had many dogs, they were mostly generic hounds and hound mixes. And our second president, John Adams, had only horses. His wife Abigail did have two dogs, though.

I had to go to our third president, Thomas Jefferson (who happens to be one of my favorites) to find a president with a full-breed dog. He had two Briards, and is credited with bringing them to the United States from France.

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From there, it gets a little weird for a few terms:

  • James Madison had no pets, but his wife had a green parrot.
  • James Monroe also had no pets of his own.
  • John Quincy Adams apparently had an alligator! Definitely not the warm and cuddly type of pet. His wife took it one step further, and kept silkworms!
  • Andrew Jackson gave us a break from the odd pet. He had “Sam Patches,” his wartime mount, and several other racing horses.
  • Martin Van Buren brought us back to the exotic pets, receiving a pair of tiger cubs from the Sultan of Oman. Luckily, he was encouraged to give these pets to the zoo.

Modern presidents have tended toward the more common cats and dogs. The current First Dog is Bo Obama, a Portuguese Water Dog. And who can forget President Bill Clinton’s cat Socks, who had a notoriously bad relationship with Buddy, the chocolate Labrador Retriever puppy the Clintons added to their house while in office.

Some First Dogs have more time on their hands than others. President George H.W. Bush’s Springer Spaniel Millie even had time to write her own book! The tome, called “Millie’s Book,” describes a day in the life of Millie, including morning briefings with President Bush.

Presidents evoke many emotions in us commoners, from awe to ire, from jealousy to pity. It warms my heart a little to know that throughout our sometimes troubled history, American presidents were comforted by the joyful, loving eyes of their pets.

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