“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog!”
This discerning commentary by President Harry Truman is one of many historical insights offered by FIRST PET, a retrospective of U.S. presidents and the more than 400 “first pets” that have taken up residence at the White House. Beyond man’s best friend, the menagerie of presidential pets includes: alligator, bear, blue macaw, coyote, horses, hyena, kangaroo rat, raccoons, sheep, snakes, wildcat, and many, many more.
Chuck Zoeller, Director of Creative Services at Associated Press, culled the vast AP photo library to present renowned, rare and never before seen color photographs of first pets and their presidential masters, as well as surprising fun facts. Did you know…?
Under President Calvin Coolidge and first lady Grace, a virtual zoo passed through the White House at various times, including numerous dogs, cats, two raccoons, a bobcat, a goose, a cow, and two lion cubs – a gift from the mayor of Johannesburg, South Africa.
At a 1964 photo op, President Lyndon Johnson raised the ire of some dog lovers when he lifted his beagle Her by the ears, as captured in a famous Associated Press photo.
Laddie Boy, President Warren G. Harding’s Airedale, had his own seat at Cabinet meetings.
And following is a list of Presidential pet “firsts”:
First Pet to gain national attention and celebrity status – Lara (President James Buchanan)
First Pet to be photographed – Fido (President Abraham Lincoln)
First Pet to be murdered – Fido (President Abraham Lincoln)
First Pet to become addicted to chewing tobacco – Old Ike (President Woodrow Wilson)
First Pet to become a YouTube sensation – Barney (President George W. Bush)
First Pet to author best-selling book – Millie (President George H.W. Bush)