Keeping pets in the White House has become a tradition dating back to Thomas Jefferson, who owned a mockingbird during his term. Throughout the years, these pets have become celebrities of sorts with their immense popularity. According to President Harry S. Truman, "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." Most presidents have adopted this piece of advice. However, some presidents preferred different and unusual animals as pets. Below are a few examples.
REBECCA RACCOON COOLIDGE
President Calvin Coolidge pardoned a live animal for his Thanksgiving dinner in November 1926. Plot twist: it wasn't a turkey! He saved a live raccoon! It's an odd menu choice for sure, and President Coolidge thought so as well. Though raccoon meat was declared less fatty than a possum, the president declined to eat it, saying it might be edible for some people, but not for him. Known to be animal lovers of animals, the President and First Lady Coolidge received unsolicited pets regularly. Adopting and naming a raccoon is a feat.
Known as one of the most famous pets in White House history, this pony belonged to President John F. Kennedy's daughter, Caroline. She and Macaroni had a photo shoot with Life Magazine, which inspired singer-songwriter Neil Diamond to write his hit song "Sweet Caroline."
Other exotic animals like cubs, alligators, tigers, and parrots also had their share of fun in the White House. Farm animals also had their turn inside as well. President Woodrow Wilson brought in a flock of sheep to graze the lawns of the White House.
With all of the First Pets above who have made history, let's take a look at the most recent pets who have captivated America's hearts and attention.
CHAMP AND MAJOR BIDEN
Champ and Major Biden are the newest occupants of the White House. These two German Shepherds arrived a few days after the inauguration and are reportedly already feeling at home. According to First Lady Jill Biden, "Champ is enjoying his new dog bed by the fireplace, and Major loves running around on the South Lawn."
Champ is from a breeder in Pennsylvania. He has been with the Biden family since 2008 and was a post-election gift from his wife. He has spent eight years in the vice presidential residence, so he's no stranger to living under the political spotlight. Major, on the other hand, is a rescue dog from the Delaware Humane Association. He was adopted to be a part of the Biden clan in 2018 and is officially the first shelter dog to live in the White House. The First Lady also says that she would love to get a cat, telling Fox 5 in Washington, "I love having animals around the house."
Prior to Champ and Major, the following members of the first families occupied the White House as well. Their immense popularity made some of these pets household names. Who could resist their charm?
BO AND SUNNY OBAMA
In his 2008 campaign, Barack Obama promised his daughters a dog, win or lose, after the election. In April 2009, a Portuguese Water Dog named Bo officially joined the family at the White House. He has a distinctive white chest and front paws and was a gift from late Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., Obama's key supporter in his 2008 presidential campaign. An all-black female Portuguese water dog named Sunny joined the family in August 2013. This pair of White House canine ambassadors are extremely popular and in-demand, that they have schedules memo-ed to Michelle Obama at the start of every month. Several request schedules come in for her approval.
The First Presidential Cat since the Carter years was the pet cat of U.S. President Bill Clinton's family during his presidency. The Clintons adopted Socks in 1991, during the early years of the Clinton administration. Socks' origin story is quite interesting, jumping into Chelsea Clinton's arms as she was leaving her piano teacher's home in Arkansas. Socks was well-known for the cute black spot beside his nose, which particularly captured America's heart. He was a favorite for photographers, so much that the Clinton family often had to ask them to leave the cat alone. Unfortunately for Socks, the Clintons adopted a Labrador Retriever named Buddy in 1997. According to Hilary Clinton, Socks "despised Buddy from first sight, instantly and forever." Socks found Buddy's intrusion intolerable since the beginning. Even Bill Clinton admitted that he "did better with the Palestines' and the Isrealis' that I've done with Socks and Buddy."