Bo Obama, the Portuguese Water Dog that occupies the White House during the current administration, is but one of a long line of presidential pups. While they may not have directly influenced executive decisions, these special animals have been a source of intrigue and fascination. Let’s take a random stroll through some of the more interesting stories of dogs and the leaders who loved them:
Pushinka (John F. Kennedy) - Given to the president’s daughter Caroline as a goodwill gesture from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Pushinka was the daughter of the first Russian dog in space, Strelka.
It was the height of the Cold War, after all, so suspicions rose that the dog was a plant, bugged with a listening device. The mixed-breed dog was quickly assimilated into the Kennedy family and even went on to mate with their Welsh terrier, Charlie, which resulted in four puppies.
Him and Her (Lyndon Johnson) - The ’60s were a time of great social upheaval. And it all fell in the lap of a president who took office after the boss he had a very tumultuous relationship with was assassinated on that fateful day of November 22, 1963. It’s no wonder he notoriously struggled with internal demons.
Maybe it’s only fitting that the fate of Lyndon Johnson’s most famous dogs played out the way it did. Coldly (or at least curiously) named Him and Her, the pair of registered beagles were born on June 27, 1963. Dog lovers were ready to impeach Johnson after the “ear lifting” stunt, where the president lifted Him by the ears on the White House lawn.
Both Him and Her met cruel endings. Her died at the White House in November 1964 after swallowing a stone. Him died in June 1966 after being hit by a car while chasing a squirrel.
Fala (Franklin Roosevelt) - No presidential pet bond was greater than that of FDR and his black Scottish terrier, Fala. The two were notoriously inseparable. The special bond was so great that it may have continued beyond death. Biographer Jim Bishop wrote that just after Roosevelt passed away, “a snapping, snarling series of barks was heard. No one had paid any attention to Fala. He had been dozing in a corner of the room. For a reason beyond understanding, he ran directly for the front screen door and bashed his black head against it. The screen broke and he crawled through and ran snapping and barking up into the hills.”
While Fala nearly died later that year after he was attacked by Elliott Roosevelt’s bull mastiff, he would live another 6+ years until his passing on April 5, 1952.
Rex (Ronald Reagan) - Likely the most famous Cavalier King Charles Spaniel in American history, Rex was given to the Reagans as a Christmas gift from another conservative icon, William F. Buckley.
Rex made many appearances in the famous Reagan diaries, as Ronnie pined for his absent Nancy: “Rex and I are lonesome,” or “Rex and I are roommates again.”
Sweet Lips (George Washington) - Our first president had many dogs, but if you had to choose one, how could you not spotlight a dog with the name Sweet Lips? While it was one of many hunting hounds kept by the president, just as the affectionate name suggests, Sweet Lips held a special place in Washington’s heart as his companion during his stays in Philadelphia.
The father of our country was also largely responsible for creating an AKC-recognized breed. By taking French staghounds (provided by Marquis de Lafayette) and carefully breeding them with his smaller Virginia hounds, Washington eventually came up with the American Foxhound… one of the least popular AKC breeds today.