~ ( This posting is especially for scnoodlepooh - a true animal lover. She thinks she has menagerie! )
Flipping through the two hundred or so channels available to me, I wasn't having much luck as usual to find something decent to watch. My journey through the menu of stations did land on "The Animal Planet." They were running a program devoted to the history of pets in the White House.
~ When not transfixed to the boob tube for at least entertainment, why not grab the opportunity to gather some information and facts to use in a blog? The White House at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Washington, D.C., has been the home to quite a collection of pets over the years. While there has been plenty of normal pets, such as cats, dogs and birds, our Presidents and First Ladies and their families have also maintained a veritable A-to-Z zoo of exotic creatures. There have been wallabys, horses, rabbits, cattle, sheep and even an alligator.
~ Thomas Jefferson had two grizzly bear cubs, gifts from the Lewis and Clark expedition. John Quincy Adams for a brief time kept an alligator in the Presidential bath tub. Four feet long before it was sent to a zoo, it was a gift from Egypt. Abraham Lincoln had goats on the White House lawn, as well as a variety of cats and dogs for his children.
~ Teddy Roosevelt had parrots and macaws, as well as chickens and a rooster. There were also guinea pigs, snakes and even a hyena. President Taft kept a cow on the lawn. Wilson had a small flock of sheep which kept the lawn groomed. William Harding was the first President to be seen with a faithful dog at his side. Laddie Boy was Harding's Airedale. Calvin Coolidge had two well known dogs, Prudence Prim and Rob Roy. His administration also had a goose, donkey, lions, and a particularly nasty bobcat. Mrs. Coolidge was often photographed with a pet raccoon. King Tut, Herbert Hoover's German Shepherd, was at the time receiving more favorable press than his master.
~ One of the most famous and beloved of White House pets was Fala. Fala, FDR's Scottish Terrier was the first dog to be filmed with heads of state from around the world. So faithful was Fala to Roosevelt, when it died seven years after its master, it was interred with the President.
~ Camelot gave the country its most intimate look into the lives of a First Family. The Kennedy's did not disappoint when it came to pets. There were an assortment of rabbits, cats and dogs for John John and Caroline to play with. There was Charlie, a Welsh Terrier who fathered puppies with the more famous Bushinka. Bushinka had been a gift from the USSR. Bushinka had actually been one of many animals to have been launched into outer space by the Russians during the space race. No less famous were the kids' ponies, especially Caroline's Macaroni.
~ LBJ followed with his two highly visible beagles, Him and Her. Animal lovers everywhere went bonkers when Johnson picked them up by the ears during a live news conference. His successor, Richard Nixon gave us Checkers, a cocker spaniel. Gerald Ford brought to the White House a Siamese cat and Liberty, a Golden Retriever.
~ The movie star who would be President came to the White House without any pets. In a highly publicized fund raiser by school children, the Reagans were presented with a puppy. The Gipper said the dog was Lucky and thus it was so named. Mr. Reagan declared Lucky as the first "official" White House pet. The puppy grew up fast and quite large. It was often filmed quite literally dragging Nancy helplessly behind. Eventually lucky was sent to their ranch and a new dog, a King Charles Spaniel named Rex was introduced.
~ George Bush introduced us to Millie, a Springer Spaniel. Millie, with Barbara Bush's help, had a best selling book. Millie had six puppies, one of which would return to the White House a few years later. Bill Clinton arrived initially with only daughter Chelsea's cat Socks. Socks was one of the most photographed and filmed of all Presidential pets. In his second term amidst the pall of scandal, Clinton received the companion he is most associated with, Buddy, a chocolate brown Labrador. Not to be outdone by Millie before them, the Clinton pets also had a best selling book "Dear Socks, Dear Buddy."
~ The current administration gives us not one, but two sons of former White House residents. George W. came aboard with Spot, the son of Millie. We are more familiar, however, with Barney, the Scottish Terrier which is often seen with the President. Barney was soon joined by another Scottie, a female named Mrs. Beasley.
~ You can't really say the White House has gone to the dogs. It's gone to animals all! Indeed, the "White Zoo" at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., just might be one of the most famous of animal habitats, for man and beast alike!