The President’s Best Friends: First Dogs, With One Notable Exception

First Dogs, dogs of past presidents

If you are a regular social media user, you are probably aware of National Puppy Day, with the ocean of puppies appearing across Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. The National Holiday was founded in 2006 by author Colleen Paige to celebrate puppies, bring attention to adopting puppies and also abuse caused by puppy mills.

Below is a list of dogs from recent Presidents, with one notable exception: Donald Trump has so far failed to fill one crucial position for White House dog, and his approval rating is the worst in history for any newly elected President at just 37%, today. Just a coincidence, surely.

He is the first President in over a century not to have a dog. For dog lovers, this is very telling all by itself. There was a story that Trump would be adopting a Goldendoodle named Patton, but that hasn’t happened yet. Maybe when Melania and Barron move to the White House? (unless he’s impeached first…keep your paws crossed.) Getting back to the holiday at hand, however, lets take a look at the past executive pooches.

Most Recent Presidential Dogs:

1. President Obama’s Dogs, Bo and Sunny

Bo and Sunny are hypoallergenic Portuguese Water Dogs. Michelle Obama created quite a stir with her post of the two pups enjoying the first day of spring in Washington D.C., post-White House.

Bo was famously referenced in Barack Obama’s victory speech when he told his daughters that they would be getting a new puppy as a victory present.

2.Bill Clinton’s Dog, Buddy.

Buddy was a Labrador Retriever, who was First Dog of the United States from 1997-2002. Buddy and the Presidential Cat, Socks, were the subjects of Hillary Clinton’s children’s book called Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets in 1998.

As an aside, at the time, the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee, once demanded to know whether taxpayer resources were being used to respond to children’s letters to the president’s cat. (Today, Chairman Jason Chaffetz is still proving more interested in investigating the Clintons for minutia than in looking into Trump’s ties to Russian oligarchs and Vladimir Putin.)

3. Mitt Romney’s Dog, Seamus the Irish Setter.

Though Romney wasn’t actually President, his dog makes the list here because the story of Seamus plagued his 2012 campaign and may have actually hurt his chances of being elected. The story of a Romney summer vacation decades earlier shocked the country when it was revealed that Mitt had attached a dog carrier to the roof rack of the family’s Chevrolet. Seamus became ill after riding for 12 hours on the roof of the family’s faux-wood-paneled station wagon. Many saw the story as a case of animal cruelty, and the negative backlash fueled many angry critics.

His critics still mention Seamus today:

A spoof of Romney on Air Force One with a carrier for Seamus
A spoof of Romney on Air Force One with a carrier for Seamus

4. George Walker Bush’s dog, Barney

Barney had his own official webpage as an extension of the White House website, and was referred to as the “First Dog”.  Barney was joined by Miss Beazley, another Scottish Terrier when Bush gave her to his wife Laura in 2005.  The Bush family also owned Spot, English springer spaniel, and offspring of Millie, the First Dog of Bush’s father and prior President.

Barney is also one of Bush’s favorite painting subjects. Notably, Barney was criticized by Russian President Vladimir Putin who felt a world leader should own a larger more intimidating dog.

“Our dear dog Barney, who has a special spot in my heart. I introduced him to Putin: Putin kind of dissed him,” Bush told his daughter. “‘You call that a dog?’ A year later, your mom and I go to visit Vladimir at his Dacha outside of Moscow and he says, ‘Would you like to meet my dog?’ Out bounds this huge hound, obviously much bigger than a Scottish Terrier. And Putin looks at me and says, ‘Bigger, stronger and faster than Barney.’”

“I took it in. I didn’t react,” Bush said. “I said, ‘Wow, anybody who thinks “my dog is bigger than your dog” is an interesting character.’ And the painting kind of reflects that,” he said of his portrait of Putin.

5. President George H.W. Bush’s dog, Millie

Millie was an English springer spaniel, and the President Bush also owned Ranger, one of Millie’s puppies. Millie was named after a longtime family friend, Mildred Caldwell Kerr. Millie was called “the most famous dog in White House history” in her day.

Millie is credited as an author of the book, Millie’s Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush. The book reached #1 on the New York Times bestseller nonfiction list. Millie was portrayed on TV episodes of Murphy Brown, Wings, Who’s The Boss, as well as The Simpsons. She also has her own dog park named for her in Houston, Texas.

The First Dogs bestowed a warm human touch to previous administrations. Will a First Dog do the same for Trump, eventually?

For more Presidential pets, check out the Presidential Pet Museum.

About Matthew Silvan 283 Articles

Matthew Silvan is a gay man from the American South who has spent years fighting against the scapegoating and demonization imposed on the LGBT community by Republicans and religious hypocrites and zealots. His writing reflects the constant struggle to overcome the inequality and discrimination still rampant in America. He is an advocate for diversity and progress, with a passion for nature and preserving the environment, who also tends to approach things in a lighthearted way despite it all.

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