Barack Obama, per his election victory speech promise to his daughters, will be carrying on the time honored tradition of pets in the White House. While this tradition has recently gained notoriety, probably due to our current historically peak levels of per capita household pet ownership, as well as ever expanding mass media, pets cohabiting with the first family in the White House is nothing new or even recent.
George Washington began the pet tradition as first President of the United States, as he kept with him one of his famed and beloved Revolutionary War steeds, Nelson, as well as an array of many other prized horses. Our first first lady had with her a cherished parrot.
Abraham Lincoln had an assortment of pets in the White House that included a pig, a turkey named Jack, and a dog named Jip. Not to be outdone, Theodore Roosevelt had a collection of pets that dwarfed that of honest Abe, including Algonquin, a calico pony, Pete, his favorite bull terrier, along with several other canines. President T. Roosevelt also had a Macaw named Eli Yale, as well as a lion, hyena, wildcat, coyote, five bears, two parrots, zebra, barn owl, snakes, lizards, rats, roosters, and raccoon.
Calvin Coolidge also had a literal zoo-like array of pets at the White House, which included as many as 12 dogs, several exotic bird species, two cats, a bear, a donkey, a wallaby, a bobcat, a bear, and a pigmy hippo.
Recently, our nation has become quite familiar with the Clinton's famous chocolate lab, Buddy, as well as President GW Bush's well known Scottish Terriers, Miss Beasley and Barney (who recently made headlines for biting a reporter).
A Presidential display of adoration of animals sets an example of compassion, illustrates the human animal bond at the highest level, and sets the bar high for responsible pet ownership. While we are still very much a work in progress in reaching optimal animal welfare standards as a nation, Presidential pets remind us that the majority of Americans are compassionate people, capable of selfless love and respect for animals.
I am please to know that Barack Obama and the first family elect will continue this endearing tradition.
For more indepth Presidential pet information, please refer to my primary source for the information contained in this post, the Presidential Pet Museum.
Roger Welton, DVM