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
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.
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!"
Bo and Sunny, Obama's pals
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
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.
See Spot walk
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.
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.
Bubba and Buddy
President Bill Clinton gets an enthusiastic greeting from his chocolate Labrador retriever, Buddy, on the South Lawn of the White House in June 1999.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
Give me Liberty
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.
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
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.
Fly like a beagle
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.
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
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.
When a Feller needs a friend
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.
A jolly good Fala
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.
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.
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.
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.