Presidents and Their Best Friends!

Column the week of February 20, 2017,Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday in the Albert Lea Tribune. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.

FDR at a picnic on "Sunset Hill" near Pine Plains, NY. Fala is 4 months old. The doll next to the president is a handmade shaker doll made by Mary Garettson of Rhinebeck, NY. August 8, 1940

FDR at a picnic on “Sunset Hill” near Pine Plains, NY. Fala is 4 months old. The doll next to the president is a handmade shaker doll made by Mary Garettson of Rhinebeck, NY. August 8, 1940

Today is Presidents Day. Do you know why we celebrate this day? I am one of those people who have not paid much attention as to the observance, other than it is a holiday to shop and have a long weekend.

I decided to look up a little history, and then I thought it might be fun to look a little into the history of first dogs, too. Those presidents loved their animals.

Following George Washington’s death in 1799, the day of his birthday, Feb. 22, became a day of remembrance because at the time he was venerated as one of the most important people in history. It wasn’t until 1879 that President Rutherford B. Hayes signed a law declaring it a national holiday. Presidents Day isn’t celebrated on any president’s actual birthday but on the third Monday of February. Today it is a holiday to recognize the achievements of all of America’s chief executives.

If you enjoyed the little tidbits about the day, visit the History Channel at history.com for more.

In researching some of the information for Presidents Day, I found many of our presidents had first dogs. I always feel you can tell a lot about a person by the animals they have. Or the fact they are an animal lover at all. Our past presidents loved animals.

In fact, Franklin D. Roosevelt had a Scottish Terrier named Fala. Fala had his own press secretary.

Did you know John F. Kennedy was allergic to dogs, but in spite of his allergies they had nine dogs, one of which was named Pushinka, which was a gift from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

Herbert Hoover used his dog, King Tut, in his campaign photos in 1928. They say it could be possible it was his police dog that helped him win the election.

During George W. Bush’s reign his Scottish terrier, Barney, was an internet sensation with his “Barney Cam” videos.

The website dogtime.com has an impressive list of presidents and their dogs, plus the other animals in their lives.

George Washington had interesting names for his dogs: Sweet Lips, Scentwell and Vulcan were American staghounds. I can guess what President Washington had on his mind when he named his black and tan coonhounds, Drunkard, Taster, Tipler and Tipsy.

Maybe the name Fido for a dog caught on when Abraham Lincoln named his dog, Fido.

Calvin Coolidge said, “Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House.” He certainly had the dogs to back up his statement.  He named his dogs, Peter Pan, Paul Pry, Calamity Jane, Tiny Tim, Blackberry, Ruby Rouch, Boston Beans, King Cole, Palo Alto and Bessie. The most famous of their dogs were Rob Roy and Prudence Prim. These dogs got baths with bluing to make their coats look whiter.

These are just a few of the White House dogs. My research found 32 presidents owned dogs, but this number is a little fuzzy depending on the resource. These dogs came in all shapes and sizes from terriers to collies to sheepdogs and yes, let us not forget Bo, President’s Obama’s Portuguese terrier. That I could find he is the only president that brought a Portuguese terrier to the White House.

Richard Nixon’s dog, Checkers, is immortalized in history in the Checkers Speech. Unfortunately Checkers’s life ended and Checkers never made it to the presidency, only the vice presidency.

Other animals that helped the presidents in the White House were  mockingbirds, parrots, an alligator, silk worms, horses, tiger cubs, a goat, a cow, an elephant, white mice, cats, a Piebald rat, a zebra, a hyena and many more usual and unusual creatures.

Perhaps Dwight D. Eisenhower summed up the reason we have had so many first dogs.

“The friendship of a dog is precious. It becomes even more so when one is so far removed from him … I have a Scottie. In him I find consolation and diversion … he is the “one person” to whom I can talk without the conversation turning back to war.” — Dwight D. Eisenhower

Today let us also remember those first dogs, that as Dwight D. Eisenhower said, bring consolation, diversion and solace to the past presidents. We might owe them more than we know

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