All the Presidents’ Pooches

George Washington dog Drunkard

(Illustration By: Matt Wainwright)

George Washington had a dog named Drunkard, John Adams had a dog named Satan and Abraham Lincoln had a dog named Fido. (Fido never made it to DC because Lincoln didn’t think he’d survive the trip; Fido ended up outliving him.)

Harry Truman once said, “You want a friend in Washington? Get a dog.” When someone did give him a dog for Christmas in 1947, a cocker spaniel named Feller, Truman regifted him to his personal physician. Feller became nationally known as the Unwanted Dog.

Warren Harding’s dog, Laddie Boy, on the other hand, was considered an essential part of the administration. Laddie Boy sat in on high-level cabinet meetings in a hand-carved chair and even had a White House birthday party in which all the neighborhood dogs were invited to dine on dog biscuit birthday cake.

Perhaps no White House pup, however, was more acclaimed than Franklin Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier Fala. His original name was Big Boy; Franklin renamed him Murray the Outlaw of Falahill after a famous Scottish ancestor, or Fala, for short. A movie star, military member, politico and would-be diplomat, Fala was featured in an MGM film about a typical day in the White House, named an honorary Army private, given his own press secretary and brought along onboard the USS Augusta for the signing of the Atlantic Charter with Churchill in 1941.

Yes, some dogs have more illustrious careers than yours. George H.W. Bush’s springer spaniel Millie released a book, ghost-written by First Lady Barbara Bush, that outsold George’s biography.

Most presidential dogs, though, are just dogs – some with genuinely good names. James Garfield had a black Newfoundland named Veto. Calvin Coolidge had a pair of white collies, Rob Roy and Prudence Prim. Herbert Hoover had a German shepherd named King Tut, an elkhound named Weejie, an Irish wolfhound named Patrick and fox terriers named Big Ben and Sonnie. Richard Nixon had three dogs with him at the White House, a poodle named Vicky, a terrier named Pasha and an Irish setter named King Timahoe. Besides Drunkard, George Washington had more than 30 hounds, including Tipler, Tipsy and Vulcan.

But no president was more humble in naming his dogs than Lyndon Johnson, with his beagles Him and Her. A good ol’ boy to the bone, Johnson got into some deep doo with dog lovers in 1964 when he picked up his beagles by the ears in front of reporters. “Why’d you do that?” one reporter asked. “To make him bark,” Johnson replied. “It’s good for him. And, if you’ve ever followed dogs, you like to hear them yelp.”


3 thoughts on “All the Presidents’ Pooches

  1. Just catching up with this…thank you for linking back. I’ll be writing about more Presidential dogs during my summer series… And now that we can see that George W can paint, we’ll have to see if any of the Bush dogs are put to that test!

    I hope you’ll check in—series starts in July!


    • I enjoyed your piece on “The Bush Family and Their Dogs” and look forward to your next series, Kate. It’s too bad George W. didn’t discover painting earlier. Thanks for the comment!

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