Many lovable pets have graced the historic halls of the White House. Some have had brushes with celebrity, while others (looking at you Checkers) may have even changed the course of political history. Here are a few of our favorites.
Bo (Barack Obama)
While we love Sunny (Portuguese water dog number 2 in the Obama family) you can’t beat the way Bo found his way to the White House. Bo Obama was born just a month before Barack Obama was elected to office. Bo’s breeders, Art and Martha Stern, were ardent supporters of the president, and wanted to name the dog after a slogan used in his campaign, so they called him “New Hope”. “New Hope” was adopted by one family, but was quickly returned to the Sterns. Ted Kennedy would soon-after give him as a gift to the Obama family (fulfilling the prophecy of his initial name). The Obama family renamed him and the rest is history.
Socks the Cat (Bill Clinton)
Did any other Presidential pet have a video game to call his own? This cat was popular enough to warrant a never-to-be released Super Nintendo Cartridge bearing his name (which was owned not by the Clinton family, but rather a fan club known as the Presidential Socks Partnership) where he apparently fights spies, reporters and politicians in the White House before engaging in boss battles with ex-presidents like Gerald Ford. That said, there are many other good reasons for featuring Socks on this list. He had loads of pop culture cache, and was the subject of an episode of Murphy Brown, as well as an interview (in puppet form) with Kermit the Frog on Larry King Live. Reporters loved him and lured him to their cameras with catnip. In Clinton’s second term, the family would get a Labrador retriever named Buddy and, naturally, Socks despised him.
Checkers (Richard Nixon)
Checkers had already passed when Nixon was elected president (meaning, he never actually lived in the White House), but he played a major role in the former president’s political ascent. In what would be known as the “Checkers Speech,” Nixon tried to appeal to voters (for the first time ever on television) during a scandal that had plagued his vice presidential bid alongside Dwight Eisenhower. Many cite his direct mention of Checkers in the speech as the humanizing moment that saved that campaign.
Her and Him (Lyndon Baines Johnson)
Lyndon B. Johnson loved animals, and took especially good care of his beagles Her and Him, who lived with LBJ in the White House.
The two would be immortalized in a Life Magazine spread with a very flattering cover photo. There was, however, a slight uproar over an image inside the magazine, where Johnson can be seen lifting Him by the ears, something many saw as cruel. Though Johnson thought Him enjoyed having his ears tugged, he was eventually coaxed into making a public apology.
Also of note—earlier in his political career, Johnson had another beagle named Little Beagle Johnson. This allowed the president, his wife, (nicknamed Lady Bird) his two daughters (named Lynda Bird and Luci Baines), and the dog all share the same three initials.
Pushinka (John F. Kennedy)
During the Cold War, Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev and John F. Kennedy would correspond and occasionally send each other gifts. One such gift, from the Soviets to Kennedy, was Pushinka—the offspring of Strelka, one of the first dogs to survive being launched into space by the Russians!
Tabby and Dixie (Abraham Lincoln)
President Lincoln loved cats and kittens, and would allegedly play with them for hours (yes, savor the adorable thought of honest Abe endlessly cavorting with cute felines). His cats Tabby and Dixie were his close confidants, and he would talk to them for tens of minutes at a time. One story also has those two eating from his golden fork beneath the White House dining room table, much to Mrs. Mary Todd Lincoln’s dismay.
Satan (John Adams)
While he was the second President, John Adams was the very first to actually take up residency in the White House, where he was joined by his wife Abigail, some horses, and at least two mixed breed dogs. Those dogs, Satan and Juno, would become the first to run on the famous estate’s lawn — and while there is record of Abigail writing fondly about Juno, Satan is, well…his name is Satan.
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