S is for Sheep, Shetland Sheepdog, Spaniels, St Bernard, Siberian Husky, Siamese and Socks
George Washington (1789-1797), James Monroe (1817-1825), Rutherford B. Hayes (1877-1881), Grover Cleveland (1885-1889, 1893-1897), Theodore Roosevelt (1901-1909), Woodrow Wilson (1913-1921), Calvin Coolidge (1923-1929), Gerald Ford (1974-1977), Jimmy Carter (1977-1981), Ronald Reagan (1981-1989), and William Jefferson Clinton (1993-2001).
President Woodrow Wilson wanted to do his part for the war effort (WW 1) so he encouraged the gardening staff to sign up to fight and let a flock of sheep take over the grazing of the WH grounds. When the sheep was sheared he had their wool sold to benefit … There was also a ram named Old Ike that reportedly liked to chew on tobacco. (Wilson’s sheep below!)
After the untimely death of Prudence Prim, President Calvin Coolidge was sent a Shetland sheepdog (aka Scotch collie) by a family in Michigan. She was originally named Diana of Wildwood but she was always getting into trouble so the Coolidge’s renamed her Calamity Jane, after the Wild West star. As a result of Calamity Jane, the sheltie’s popularity rose during the 1920s. (Representative photo)
Both Presidents George Washington and James Madison were known to have spaniels. (Vintage illustration)
President Theodore Roosevelt was offered a St Bernard in 1902 that he tried to turn down. But in December of that year, Rollo came to the WH. The 200 pound brown and white dog was a gentle giant, especially with children. He willingly let the children play rough with him and never growled or bared his teeth. He was a child’s delight.
One of President Ronald Reagan’s ranch dogs was a Siberian husky named Taca. (Representative photo)
President Rutherford B Hayes has the honor of being the first pet parent to a Siamese in America. The previously unknown breed was sent by the American consul in Bangkok, David B. Sickels. The precious cat was first shipped to Hong Kong, then San Francisco; from there she traveled overland (no planes in those days!!) to Washington. First Lady Lucy called her first Miss Pussy and then changed her name to Siam. She was quite the fashionable pet in Washington with her elegant and slender body, long legs and bright blue eyes. Sadly, she became ill after just a few months and even though the President’s personal physician was looking after her, she didn’t survive. (Representative vintage photos.)
It was many years later before another Siamese would enter the WH. President Gerald R. Ford’s daughter Susan (photo below!) brought her Siamese named Shan to the WH in 1974.
The last Siamese in the WH (so far) was First Daughter Amy Carter’s Misty Malarkey Ying Yang, otherwise known as Misty. From First Lady Rosalyn’s autobiography she recounted a funny incident from a state dinner(with Mexican President Lopez Portillo) just as she and the President were asked to walk down the grand stairway. “Drawing a deep breath, I moved with Jimmy to the top of the grand stairway. The Marine band announcing us blared forth, the military aides snapped to attention, and at the foot of the stairs the guests and a battery of press waited expectantly in this very formal atmosphere. First down the stairs in the spotlight the whole way padded Misty Marlarky! I don’t know who was more surprised – the guests, the press, me or Misty. But immediately there was laughter in the great hallway, and a relaxed and comfortable, warm, elegant, and thrilling evening had begun.”
From the Presidential Pets Museum website – here are some highlights of President William ‘Bill’ Clinton’s Famous Feline’s life:
*Shortly after the 1992 presidential election, photographers stalked him on the lawn of then–Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton’s mansion, luring him into camera range with catnip.
*He was the subject of a popular 1990s TV comedy, Murphy Brown, in which the star of the show unintentionally kidnapped him from the White House.
* He starred in a never-released video game designed for the Super Nintendo and Sega Genesis systems in 1993. In the game, he had to dodge various obstacles such as spies and corrupt politicians to warn the Clintons of nuclear threat.
*He appeared in Muppet form on Larry King Live for an interview with Kermit the Frog, who was guest hosting.
*He was the subject of a cartoon book and a song; he was a character in a cartoon strip; and he even appeared with President Clinton in a series of stamps in the Central African Republic.
*Who is he? He is Socks, a black-and-white stray cat who reportedly jumped into the arms of Chelsea Clinton as she was leaving her piano teacher’s home in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1991.
I’ll take questions, now…
Socks directs his secretarial staff in the answering of his fan mail – yes, that’s really all his fan mail!!
When Socks first came to the WH he had free roam of the grounds; but just like the paparazzi of today stalk celebrities, the poor cat was hounded by photographers. The Clinton family decided it was better for Socks to become an indoor cat. He did visit the President frequently in the Oval Office as well as the President’s secretary, Betty Curie. First Lady Hillary would take him along with her when she visited children or senior citizens in local hospitals, traveling in style with his own luxurious carrier with the Presidential seal emblazoned upon it. At events he would sit on the First Lady’s lap enjoying the attention.
In 1997 when Buddy came to live at the WH they did not get along. Socks was used to receiving all the attention and now suddenly he was supplanted by a bounding chocolate colored menace. Socks decided immediately that he didn’t like Buddy and never did. When the Clintons left the WH in 2001 they decided to separate the two disagreeable pets. Betty Currie took Socks with her to Maryland to live while Buddy went to New York with the Clintons. Socks continued to make public appearances in support of animal charities and when he died in 2009 at the age of 20 (!) the Clintons released this statement: “Socks brought much happiness to Chelsea and us over the years, and enjoyment to kids and cat lovers everywhere. We’re grateful for those memories, and we especially want to thank our good friend, Betty Currie, for taking such loving care of Socks for so many years.”
Click to the badge below to read the Simon’s review of Socks and Buddy’s book!!!