All the Presidents’ Pets

Harry Truman said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Plenty of presidents did — and other pets, too.

By Rick Schindler / Updated Feb. 2 2021 / TODAY Illustration

The dog days have returned to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. The recent arrival of Joe Biden's German shepherds, Champ and Major, ends a four-year dog drought at the White House, and continues a tradition of presidents keeping pets that dates back to George Washington.

Do you remember Richard Nixon's "Checkers speech"? Or the time George W. Bush's Scottie bit a pesky reporter? Join TODAY as we look back at some of the most memorable presidential pals in history.

A Major milestone

Adam Schultz / White House / Handout via REUTERS

Adam Schultz / White House / Handout via REUTERS

Major, a German shepherd whom the Bidens adopted from the Delaware Humane Association in 2018, is the first shelter dog to reside at the White House. Biden hasn't spoken publicly about his name, but it may honor his late son Beau Biden, who was a major in the Delaware National Guard.


Reigning Champ

Win McNamee / Getty Images

Win McNamee / Getty Images

Champ, 12, has been with the first family since around the time Joe Biden was elected vice president in 2008. Champ's name recalls Biden's father, who used to tell him, "Any time you get knocked down, champ — get up!"

Stephanie Gomez / Delaware Humane Association via Reuters

Stephanie Gomez / Delaware Humane Association via Reuters

Win McNamee / Getty Images

Win McNamee / Getty Images

Bo and Sunny, Obama's pals

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Alex Wong / Getty Images

Bo, left, and Sunny, the Obama family's dogs, on the South Lawn of the White House on Aug. 19, 2013. Sunny, the family's second dog who made her debut that year, was a Portuguese water dog, the same breed as Bo.


Bo knows politics

Pete Souza / The White House via Getty Images

Pete Souza / The White House via Getty Images

President Barack Obama runs alongside Bo, who was around 6 months old at the time, in the White House April 12, 2009. The dog was a gift from Massachusetts Senator Ted Kennedy and his wife, Victoria, to the Obama girls.

Pete Souza / The White House via Reuters

Pete Souza / The White House via Reuters

Pete Souza / The White House via Reuters

Pete Souza / The White House via Reuters

See Spot walk

Paul J. Richards / Getty Images

Paul J. Richards / Getty Images

George W. Bush’s dog Spot Fletcher follows the president toward the White House in June 2003. Named for Texas Rangers baseball player Scott Fletcher, the springer spaniel was the daughter of President George H.W. Bush’s dog Millie.


Scot free

Win McNamee / Getty Images

Win McNamee / Getty Images

Scottish terrier Barney, First Dog in the George W. Bush White House, appeared blasé about the Christmas decorations Laura Bush unveiled to the media in December 2003. The Bushes also had a second Scottie, Miss Beazley.

Manny Ceneta / AFP

Manny Ceneta / AFP

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Bubba and Buddy

Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

President Bill Clinton gets an enthusiastic greeting from his chocolate Labrador retriever, Buddy, on the South Lawn of the White House in June 1999.


Socks appeal

Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

Smith Collection / Gado / Getty Images

Chelsea Clinton’s cat, Socks, appears puzzled by the demands of fame as photographers surround him outside the governor’s mansion in Little Rock, Arkansas, soon after Bill Clinton was elected president in November 1992.

Mario Tama / AFP

Mario Tama / AFP

Mike Nelson / AFP

Mike Nelson / AFP

Face time

Carol T. Powers / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Carol T. Powers / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Former President George H.W. Bush enjoys some face-to-face time with his wife Barbara’s springer spaniel, Millie, in Houston. The Bushes also kept one of Millie’s puppies, Ranger, as a pet.

Cynthia Johnson / Time & Life Pictures

Cynthia Johnson / Time & Life Pictures

Cavalier attitude

Diana Walker / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images

Diana Walker / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images

Nancy Reagan and her dog Rex are clearly glad to see each other as the first lady returns to the White House in April 1986. Rex was a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, generally considered a toy breed.


A stroke of Lucky

Dirck Halstead / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images

Dirck Halstead / The LIFE Images Collection / Getty Images

President Ronald Reagan pauses outside the White House to pet his dog Lucky in 1986. Lucky was a Bouvier des Flandres, a Flemish breed originally developed for cattle droving and sheep herding.

Karl Schumacher / Time & Life Pictures

Karl Schumacher / Time & Life Pictures

Bill Fitzpatrick / Time & Life Pictures

Bill Fitzpatrick / Time & Life Pictures

Play with Misty for me

President Jimmy Carter’s daughter, Amy, holds her cat, Misty, as she returns to the White House after a weekend with her parents at the Camp David presidential retreat in September 1977.

AP

AP

Give me Liberty

Corbis Historical /Getty Images

Corbis Historical /Getty Images

President Gerald R. Ford wrestles with his golden retriever, Liberty, in February 1975. The dog was a gift from Ford's daughter, Susan, and his personal photographer, David Hume Kennerly.

David Hume Kennerly / Getty Images

David Hume Kennerly / Getty Images

Ireland, France and Yorkshire

After his first dog, Checkers, passed away in 1964, Richard Nixon went on to the presidency and other pets: King Timahoe, an Irish setter; Vicky, a French poodle; and Pasha, a Yorkshire terrier, all shown here outside the White House in 1970.


A Checkered past

Ed Clark / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Ed Clark / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

In September 1952, then-vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon defended his personal finances in a television address that became famously known as the “Checkers speech," because Nixon said the only contribution he kept was the dog of that name. The cocker spaniel died in 1964, the year this photo was taken, four years before Nixon was elected president.

Pictorial Parade / Hulton Archive

Pictorial Parade / Hulton Archive

Bob Gomel / Time & Life Pictures

Bob Gomel / Time & Life Pictures

Fly like a beagle

Bettmann / Getty Images

Bettmann / Getty Images

President Lyndon Johnson had two pet beagles, Him and Her. In 1964, he raised controversy when he was photographed hoisting one of them by the ears. Him sired a litter of puppies in 1965, and LBJ’s daughter kept two of them, Kim and Freckles, shown here in the president’s lap aboard Air Force One.

White House

White House

A passel of pets

Macaroni, Caroline Kennedy's pony, was far from the only pet in the JFK family. Here Caroline and John enjoy a veritable pack of pooches while vacationing with their parents.


Her little pony

Bettmann / Getty Images

Bettmann / Getty Images

Caroline Kennedy had something many young girls only dream of: her own pony. Here she sits atop Macaroni in March 1963 while little brother John, mother Jacqueline and President John F. Kennedy look on.

AP

AP

John F. Kennedy Library / Hulton Archive

John F. Kennedy Library / Hulton Archive

When a Feller needs a friend

Thomas D. McAvoy / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

Thomas D. McAvoy / The LIFE Picture Collection / Getty Images

In December 1947, President Harry S. Truman received an unsolicited gift: a cocker spaniel puppy named Feller, who poses here by the crate he came in. The pup was adopted by Truman’s personal physician.

William J. Smith / AP

William J. Smith / AP

A jolly good Fala

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

Hulton Archive / Getty Images

One of the most famous of all presidential pets was Franklin D. Roosevelt's beloved Fala. Here FDR takes the Scottish terrier for a ride through Hyde Park in 1944.

George Skadding / Time & Life Pictures

George Skadding / Time & Life Pictures

Hoover and his hound

President Herbert Hoover takes plenty of blame from historians for the Great Depression. But he had at least one loyal fan: his German shepherd, King Tut.

HOOVER LIBRARY

HOOVER LIBRARY

Cal and his collie

Rob Roy, a white collie, was just like a member of the family to Calvin Coolidge. The 30th president stands next to his pet in this photo from the 1920s, along with his wife, Grace, and their two sons.

Hulton Archive / Hulton Archive

Hulton Archive / Hulton Archive

Laddie and his daddy

Warren G. Harding, the 29th president of the United States, had an Airedale terrier named Laddie Boy. Here they pose for photographers outside the White House, circa 1923.

Library Of Congress / Hulton Archive

Library Of Congress / Hulton Archive