P is for Pony, Parrot, Parakeet, Poodle, Pekinese, and Portuguese Water Dog
George Washington (1789-1797), James Madison (1809-1817), Andrew Jackson (1829-1837), Zachary Taylor (1849-1850), Millard Fillmore (1850-1853), Abraham Lincoln (1861-1865), Ulysses S. Grant (1869-1977), Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), William Taft (1909-1913), Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961), John F. Kennedy (1961-1963), and Barack Obama (2009- )
Sit down and get comfy – it’s gonna be a long post!!
President Zachary Taylor had a former circus pony named Apollo. (Representative vintage photo)
President Millard Fillmore owned two ponies named Mason and Dixon.
President Abraham Lincoln gave his son Willie a pony when they arrived in Washington in 1861. Both he and his little brother Tad rode every day. After Willie died, Tad got his own pony but eventually stopped riding altogether because “the ponies make me miss Willie even more.”
President Ulysses S. Grant had a Shetland pony named Reb.
First Lady Frances Cleveland had a pair of ponies that was described in a newspaper thusly: “Mrs. Grover Cleveland’s ponies, a handsome pair of animals, which their mistress usually drives to a low and easy going phaeton.” The pony’s names are unknown to me.
First Son Archie Roosevelt had a calico Icelandic pony named Algonquin but all his brothers and sisters rode him. Algonquin was really a pet and loved to sneak up behind the children and give them a shove with his head. Archie frequently road the pony to school and other places, always with one of the President’s staffers beside him on a bicycle! One time when Archie had the measles and wanted to see his pony, his brother Quentin and the WH butler sneaked the pony into the basement elevator and took him up to Archie’s room!
First Son John F. Kennedy, Jr. was given a Connemara pony named Leprechaun by the People of Ireland.
First Daughter Caroline Kennedy had two ponies – Tex and Macaroni, both given to her by then Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson. She mostly rode Macaroni and even though the pony was stabled in Virginia he was frequently brought to the WH and freely roamed its grounds. One day he even took it upon himself to visit the President in his Oval Office – well, he looked in the window and the President opened the door for him to come in but the pony changed his mind and went back to grazing in the flower beds.
The Original First Lady Martha Washington had a parrot that moved with her back and forth between Mount Vernon and Philadelphia. On the final moving day back to Mount Vernon at the end of his presidency, George Washington was weary of hearing the caged bird screeching and said something to the effect of ‘I would leave that blasted bird behind if I could!’. I doubt that Martha would have let him. (representative painting)
First Lady Dolley Madison had a parrot named Uncle Willy – some sources say a red and blue macaw, others a green parrot – regardless, she and the parrot were inseparable. At parties she would perch the bird on her shoulder and mingle among the guests. When the British Army was invading Washington, in addition to saving the famous Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington, Mrs. Madison had the presence of mind to send her beloved parrot to the French consulate with her French-born head of staff, John Soiussat, for safe keeping until she was able to retrieve him. Uncle Willy stayed with Dolley until she died at age 81. I don’t know what happened to the bird after her death but I’m sure he was cared for by someone!
President Andrew Jackson had a parrot named Poll who apparently knew how to curse in both Spanish and English. She created such a ruckus of cursing during Jackson’s funeral, she had to be removed from the ceremony.
President Ulysses S. Grant reportedly had a parrot, type unknown. (representative photo)
First Son Kermit Roosevelt had a brilliantly colored macaw (some sources say hyacinth macaw) named Eli Yale whose screeching could be heard all over the WH. (Kermit & Eli pictured below)
President Dwight D. Eisenhower kept a parakeet named Gabby around for his grandchildren. When Gabby died in 1957 she was buried in the southwest corner of the WH garden.
First Children Caroline and John, Jr Kennedy had two parakeets named Bluebelle and Marybelle. – I already used this photo but it applies here as well.
First Daughter Helen Taft owned a white poodle named Caro.
President John F. Kennedy counted a grey poodle named Gaully among his menagerie of animals.
One other president had a poodle, but we will talk about that one later!!
First Daughter Alice Roosevelt had a black Pekinese named Manchu.
Portuguese Water Dogs
Now who do you think I am talking the most about today? Why Bo and Sunny Obama of course!! Actually more photos than talk because they really are quite cute and they are currently First Pets!!
Because of the First Daughters’ allergies the President had to find a dog that wouldn’t cause any allergic reactions. They looked at several breed types but the one they like best was the Portuguese Water Dog, or ‘Portie’. In 2009 Senator Ted Kennedy and his wife gifted the Obama girls with their new dog. They named him Bo after the First Lady’s father who went by the name of Diddley.
Bo quickly became very popular and his photo went viral. He has been the subject of at least 4 books: Bo Obama: The White House Tails, by Paul J. Salamoff and Keith Tucker; Bo Obama: First Dog of the United States of America, by Koji Kondo; First Dog, by J. Patrick Lewis and Beth Zappitello; Bo, America’s Commander in Leash, by Naren Aryal. Please go HERE to read the Library of Cats review of the 3rd & 4th of these books!!!
In 2012 Bo got a new companion in the form of a solid black Portie named Sunny. Together they rule the roost at the WH! Since both dogs were from breeders, the Obama’s made an equivalent donation to the Washington Humane Society. Both dogs have official duties – keeping the President company in the Oval Office, going to hospitals with the First Lady and meeting foreign dignitaries.
In January, 2016, the Secret Service prevented a kidnapping attempt on Bo and Sunny. That’s right – you read correctly – some loon came into Washington, D.C. with a truck loaded with weapons with the goal of kidnapping either Bo or Sunny. He was arrested and eventually released on bail – but he is not allowed to go anywhere near the WH or carry any weapon of any kind, fake or real. Go Here or Here to read the full story!
No matter what your politics, this is Bo and Sunny’s last year in the WH and I’ll be sad to see them go!
Before I end this post I wanted to take a moment to remember our friend Spooky over at 15 and Meowing. He was a beautiful house panther and will be missed by his family. Spooky left us for the Bridge on April 18. Please go HERE if you would like to leave a condolence message for Miss Ellen.