Presidential Pets: A Look Back

President Ronald Reagan Lucky

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Domestic cat entering house and looking at camera
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Power to the Pets

The White House is gaining a furry new resident: A tabby cat named Willow. The Bidens are no strangers to owning pets: Last year, they welcomed a German shepherd puppy named Commander, and they also own Major, who currently lives in Delaware. Willow and Commander are just the latest presidential pets to have roamed the halls and grounds of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, from Bo and Barney to Fala and Macaroni the pony. Here's a primer on some of the most prominent presidential pets of the past, from loyal pooches to profane parrots.

Related: The Most Expensive Pets to Own

Obama family with Bo and Sunny
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President Barack Obama

Bo and Sunny
This duo of fluffy Portuguese water dogs took the world by storm, even though Obama was rumored not to be a dog person. Bo joined the first family a few months after they moved into the White House in 2009, making good on a promise Obama had made his daughters: That they would get a puppy after the campaign, win or lose. Sunny joined the family in 2013, and was by all accounts a bit naughtier than her brother, even having accidents in the White House, according to the Presidential Pet Museum.

Related: Types of People Who Shouldn't Get a Dog

Bo and Sunny
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Did you know?

A North Dakota man was arrested in January 2016 after he said he was plotting to kidnap Bo or Sunny. Secret Service agents caught wind of the scheme and tracked the man to a hotel in Washington, D.C., where they found a cache of weapons. (The man also told agents that he was Jesus, among other dubious claims.)

George W. and Laura Bush with Spot
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President George W. Bush

Spot, Barney, India, and Miss Beazley
"W" moved into the White House with three pets in tow: Spot, an English springer spaniel who had been littermates with another presidential pet, George H.W. Bush's Ranger; Barney, a Scottish terrier; and India, a black cat. Spot was a dignified Oval Office companion — at least more so than Barney — but was put to sleep in 2004 after repeated strokes. Miss Beazley, another Scottish terrier, joined the first family in 2005.

Related: Free Perks of Owning a Dog

George Bush and Barney
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Did you know?

Barney had his own website and starred in "Barney Cam" videos, which featured a dog's perspective on the White House. The videos often featured cameos from White House staff and sometimes the president himself, such as in this cheesy clip where Bush chides Barney about the dog's disappointment over not being picked for a Cabinet position.

Related: Dogs Who Make More Than Their Owners

President Bill Clinton Socks and Buddy
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President Bill Clinton

Socks and Buddy
The Clintons made a splash when they moved into the White House with only a cat in tow, not the traditional dog. Socks, a stray the family adopted in 1991, reportedly liked to sit on President Clinton's shoulders in the Oval Office and curl up with Clinton's secretary, Betty Curie. Buddy, a chocolate labrador retriever, crashed the party in 1997 as a puppy. Socks was not amused, and according to Hillary Clinton, "despised Buddy from first sight, instantly and forever."

Related: What Kind of Cat is Cheapest to Own?

Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill
Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill by Kaneko (CC BY)

Did you know?

Socks starred in a never-released Super Nintendo game called "Socks the Cat Rocks the Hill," which tasked the cat with navigating obstacles in an effort to warn the Clintons of a stolen nuclear missile launcher. Though the game was canceled in 1994, you can see some of the action here — Socks even has to battle bosses that bear a striking resemblance to political bigwigs like Ross Perot.

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President George H.W. Bush Millie
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President George H.W. Bush

Millie and Ranger
English springer spaniel Millie was probably among the most notable White House pets. She was portrayed on TV shows including "Who's the Boss," and "Murphy Brown," and even in cartoon form on "The Simpsons." She gave birth to six puppies at the White House. They included Ranger, who would go on to terrorize the squirrels on the White House lawn, and Spot, who would become President George W. Bush's dog.

Related: Fun Facts About Dogs

Millie's Book

Did you know?

Millie teamed up with Barbara Bush to "write" a children's book, aptly titled "Millie's Book," that would top the New York Times best-seller list in 1990. It even outsold books by former President Ronald Reagan and former first lady Nancy Reagan.

President Ronald Reagan Lucky
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President Ronald Reagan

Lucky and Rex
Though Reagan was an animal lover who had several dogs at his California ranch, none moved to the White House when Reagan took office in 1981. Lucky, a Bouvier des Flandres, was a gift to the Reagans in late 1984, but she was so boisterous and ungainly that she was sent back to the ranch within a year. Soon after came Rex, a gift from conservative icon William F. Buckley. The Cavalier King Charles spaniel was a bit more dignified and managed to make it to the end of the Reagans' years in the White House before moving back to California with them.

Related: The Easiest and Hardest Dogs to Train

Lincoln Bedroom
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Did you know?

The White House has long been rumored to host various ghosts, and the Lincoln Bedroom has been the epicenter of many a spooky story. Rex reportedly took an instant disliking to that particular room, often barking at the door but never crossing the threshold.

Amy Carter and Grits

President Jimmy Carter

Misty Malarky Ying Yang, Lewis Brown, and Grits
The Carters' Siamese cat, the distinctly named Misty Malarky Ying Yang, was the family's most notable White House pet. They also had an Afghan hound, Lewis Brown, and a border collie, Grits. Grits was a gift from daughter Amy Carter's teacher when the family moved into the White House. He was eventually sent back to live with the teacher in 1979 after not quite adjusting to life in the spotlight.

Related: Vintage Photos of Patriotic Places Across America

Amy Carter with her cat, Misty Malarky Yin Yang.
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Did you know?

Despite the feminine name, Misty Malarky Ying Yang was a male cat. He was Amy Carter's constant companion, reportedly meowing during her practice sessions on the violin, sleeping in her dollhouse, and occasionally feasting on steak and seafood from the White House kitchen.

President Gerald Ford Liberty
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President Gerald Ford

Liberty, Misty, and Shan
The Fords got Liberty, a golden retriever, shortly after they moved into the White House. She became a full-fledged celebrity when she gave birth to nine puppies in a whelping box that had been custom made by White House carpenters. The Fords kept one of the puppies, Misty. They also had a Siamese cat, Shan, who slept in Susan Ford's room and spent most of her days dodging Liberty.

Gerald Ford Liberty
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Did you know?

Liberty was so popular that the Ford family regularly received letters asking for more information about the dog. President Ford's secretary would send replies "autographed" with Liberty's inky paw print, but because the letters became so popular, she eventually switched to a custom paw-print rubber stamp.

  President Richard Nixon dogs
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President Richard Nixon

Vicky, Pasha, and King Timahoe
Vicky, a French poodle, and Pasha, a Yorkshire terrier, moved into the White House with the Nixons in 1969. King Timahoe, an Irish setter, joined the family shortly thereafter. The three dogs got along famously, romping on the White House lawn and in the gardens. They even had a dog run just outside the West Wing and a heated dog house with a suite for each occupant.

Richard Nixon and Checkers
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Did you know?

President Nixon's most famous dog, Checkers, never lived in the White House. The cocker spaniel gained infamy in 1952 when Nixon, then a California senator and candidate for the vice presidency, denied charges of using campaign funds for personal use in a now-famous televised speech. During the address, Nixon said he would be keeping one campaign gift, no matter what anyone said: Checkers the dog.

Lyndon B. Johnson beagles
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President Lyndon B. Johnson

Him and Her, Edgar and Freckles, Blanco, and Yuki
LBJ was "genuinely infatuated with dogs," according to the American Kennel Club, and kept at least five pooches at the White House for some or all of his time there. The most famous were beagles Him and Her, and they largely had the run of the place, meeting heads of state, napping in the Oval Office, and even swimming in the White House pool. The crew was rounded out by Edgar and Freckles, also beagles; Blanco, a white collie; and Yuki, a mutt fond of "singing" with LBJ.

Related: Cheapest Dog Breeds to Own

LBJ lifting dog by ears
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Did You Know?

Pet lovers were outraged when a photo of LBJ pulling Him up by the ears appeared in Life magazine in 1964. The president faced criticism not just from groups like the Humane Society, but newspaper editorials and the general public. Johnson had to issue a public apology to cool the outrage.

JFK with dog Charlie
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President John F. Kennedy

Charlie, Gaullie, Pushinka, Shannon, Wolf, Clipper, and Tom Kitten
It's safe to say the Kennedys loved animals: During their time in the White House, they had more than a half-dozen dogs, a cat, birds, horses, ponies, hamsters, and a rabbit. JFK was closest to Charlie, a Welsh terrier, while first lady Jackie Kennedy preferred Gaullie, a French poodle, and Clipper, a German shepherd. Pushinka, a gift from Soviet leader Nikita Khruschev, was the puppy of a space dog that orbited Earth aboard Sputnik 5

Related: The Most Surprising Election Upsets in U.S. History

Caroline Kennedy riding Macaroni
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FDR and Fala
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Other Presidential Pet Highlights

  • Heidi, a Weimaraner owned by Dwight D. Eisenhower, was kicked out of the White House after she urinated on a $20,000 rug.
  • FDR's famous Scottish terrier, Fala, is memorialized in bronze right alongside Roosevelt at the FDR Memorial in Washington, D.C. — the only presidential pet to receive such an honor. 
  • Teddy Roosevelt had what essentially amounted to a White House zoo. His pets included a bear, a badger, a lizard, a blue macaw, a one-legged rooster, a snake, horses, ponies, and (of course) several dogs and and a cat. 
  • President James Buchanan probably had the biggest dog to ever set foot in the White House: a Newfoundland named Lara, rumored to weigh a whopping 170 pounds, who slept alongside the nation's only bachelor president.
  • President Andrew Jackson's naughty African gray parrot, Poll, disrupted a gathering before Jackson's funeral by swearing so much and so loudly that he had to be removed from Jackson's Tennessee home.
  • Only three presidents haven't had pets: James K. Polk, Andrew Johnson, and Donald Trump.