1600 Pennsylvania Avenue has been the residence of every one of our country’s Commander-in-Chiefs since John Adams. It has seen two fires, multiple restorations and enumerable moments in history. It has also been home to hundreds of presidential pets including dogs, cats, mice, parrots, snakes and even tiger cubs.
In honor of President’s Day, I am counting down the top 5 most Influential Presidential Pets.
5) “Socks” Clinton: Socks is probably one of the most famous First Cats. He belonged to President Clinton’s daughter, Chelsea. A cartoon version of Socks (and later the Clinton’s dog Buddy) curated the “White House for Kids” Website during the Clinton tenure. Socks was featured in books, TV shows, songs, and almost had his own video game, “Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill” for Nintendo and Sega. When the Clinton’s adopted their Chocolate Lab “Buddy”, Socks was not a happy camper. The two pets needed to be kept separated, and as a result, Sock eventually went on to live with President Clinton’s Secretary, Betty Currie. Socks was eventually euthanized at the ripe of age of almost 20, due to cancer.
4) “Checkers” Nixon: Though Checkers was not truly a presidential pet since he passed before Richard Nixon ever became president, he still has an important place in history. Checkers is credited with saving the career of then Senator Nixon, allowing him to stay on as Dwight D. Eisenhower’s running mate and become Vice President, and eventually President. During the Eisenhower presidential campaign, Nixon was accused of accepting illegal campaign contributions. He denied the allegations in a televised speech, admitting to accepting only one gift, a spotted cocker spaniel named Checkers. In the Checkers Speech Nixon famously stated, “And you know, the kids, like all kids, love the dog and I just want to say this right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we’re gonna keep it.”
3) “Pauline Wayne” Taft: Pauline was a Holstein Cow that lived at the White House during the Taft administration. She grazed on the White House lawn and provided milk for the first family. Pauline was not the White House’s first cow, in fact what made her so notable was that she was the last. Prior to Pauline Wayne’s tenure at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, farm animals were commonplace on the grounds.
2) “Fala” Roosevelt: Fala was a Scottish Terrier belonging to FDR. Fala was a constant travel companion to the President, accompanying him to important events. He became embroiled in controversy when President Roosevelt’s opponents accused him of accidently leaving Fala in the Aleutian Islands and sending a U.S. Navy Destroyer to retrieve him at great tax payer expense. The President addressed the controversy at the end of a speech during his 1944 Presidential campaign. This speech famously became known as the Fala Speech. FDR stated, “Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family don’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them. You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I’d left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him—at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars—his Scotch soul was furious.” Fala survived FDR but was eventually buried beside him. A statue of Fala bedside Roosevelt is featured in the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial in Washington D.C.
1) Jack the Turkey: Jack was one of many animals who resided in the White House with President Lincoln. Jack was received by the Lincolns to be a part of their Christmas dinner. President Lincoln’s son, Tad, however adopted the turkey and named it Jack. He begged his father to spare the bird. At first President Lincoln insisted Jack be sent to his fate, but eventually relented, letting Tad have his way. This was a one-time event until President George H.W. Bush began the now customary “pardoning” of a Turkey every Thanksgiving back in 1989.