Pets in the White House

Updated February 21, 2017 | Factmonster Staff
New First Pets
Spot, Ernie, and India go to Washington

by Holly Hartman

Socks on the podium in the White House briefing room. The former First Cat belongs to Chelsea Clinton—Bill and Hillary Clinton are both allergic.
This article was posted on February 4, 2000.

So long, Socks and Buddy. In January 2001, George W. Bush, the 43rd president of the United States, will bring a new set of First Pets to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

Electoral Pets

When Bush takes the White House, he'll bring with him another returning son—Spot Fetcher Bush. As a pup, Spot frolicked on the White House lawn with his mother Millie, the English springer spaniel of former president George Bush.

"I like waking up in the morning and feeding my cats."
Gov. George W. Bush

The Bushes also have two cats, Ernie and India. Spot discovered Ernie, a stray orange-and-white kitten, hiding in a tree. The kitten was named for author Ernest Hemingway, whose cat, like Ernie, had six toes on each foot. Black, short-haired India is usually called Willie; the president-elect likes to make up nicknames.

A third cat, Cowboy, went to "cat heaven" in February 2000 at the age of 12. Cowboy, who was said to be Bush's favorite, had kidney disease.

Counting the Runners-up

Vice President Al Gore has a shaggy gray-and-white mutt named Daisy. Al junior found the injured stray on a family vacation and named her Inspector Turnip. After the Gores took her home, the dog took to sleeping in the family's flower gardens, and as a result was renamed Daisy.

The Gores also have a black Labrador retriever called Shiloh, in memory of the Tennessee town that saw one of the bloodiest and most controversial battles of the Civil War.

Why Dogs Are a Candidate's Best Friend

Having pets may do as much to warm up a candidate's image as the ever-popular baby-kissing—in fact, more American homes have pets than children. As candidates Bush and Gore both posed for photographs with their pets, and chatted about their animal companions while on the campaign trail.

"If you want
a friend in Washington, get a dog."
President Harry S Truman

Besides, whoever makes it to the White House will probably appreciate the loyal companionship of pets. Running the country can be a hard and lonely job. Only presidents Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and Chester Alan Arthur had no pets.

Although the White House has been home to creatures from alligators to zebras, dogs are the perennial favorite. "Any man who does not like dogs and want them about does not deserve to be in the White House," President Calvin Coolidge said. Dogs can be an image-booster, too—they are widely seen as honest and faithful, unlike cats, who are sometimes viewed as sneaky characters.

Fur and Feathers for Candidates Past

Presidents' Dogs Quiz

Pets in the White House Slideshow

Complete List of Presidential Pets

Top 30 Pet Names

Of the former candidates, only Bill Bradley does not keep pets. Elizabeth Dole is currently petless, however—her elderly miniature schnauzer, Leader, died during the campaign. Alan Keyes and Gary Bauer are also dog lovers.

Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan has a 14-year-old tabby cat named Gipper, who often sits on his lap at staff meetings.

Steve Forbes has two poodles and 50 chickens. He and his wife play with, feed, and pet the birds. The Forbeses are protective of their chickens and will not permit them to be photographed, much less eaten.

Senator John McCain, perhaps the most colorful character in the early race, certainly has the most colorful menagerie. The McCain family shelters four cats, three dogs—two mini-Dobermans and a springer spaniel—three parakeets, two snakes, one rabbit, one turtle, one hamster, one mouse, one iguana, one gecko, and 13 fish. In summer 2000, the family also cared for one orphan jackrabbit and one iguana egg (courtesy of the McCain iguana, Henrietta).

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