October 6, 2009
10 Political Leaders and their Dogs
1) Ronald Reagan owned two dogs a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel named Rex and a Bouvier des Flanders [Belgian Cattle Dog] called Lucky. Lucky, a gift, who started out as a small bundle of fur grew as Nancy Reagan put it “to be the size of a pony,” she also was terrible at being walked on a leash and on one occasion whilst Margaret Thatcher was visiting unceremoniously dragged Ronald Reagan across the White House lawn in front of photographers. This was considered humiliating for a United States President and Lucky was promptly dispatched to the Reagan ranch in California.
2) Theodore Roosevelt had at least 5 dogs whilst living in the White House. One dog particularly made his mark – a Bull Terrier named Pete. Pete managed to get into a lot of trouble by snapping at cabinet members, biting the leg of a naval officer and ripping the pants of the French Ambassador Jules Jusserand. This made his position untenable and Pete was swiftly sent to the family home in New York.
3) Lyndon B. Johnson owned 7 dogs – 1 Collie called Blanco, who he apparently always shook hands with when he returned to the White House. 1 Mongrel called Yuki who disgraced himself in the Oval Office in front of everyone, including the Shah of Iran – and later bit a White House police officer in the groin. Plus 5 Beagles called – Him, Her, Beagle, Little Beagle and J Edgar; Johnson’s favourite was said to be the Beagle called Him who was run over and killed on the White House grounds. Some believe that Johnson’s popularity was damaged when a photo of him pulling Him up by his ears was published.
4) George H W Bush owned a Springer Spaniel called Millie who became well known when a book titled ‘Millie’s Book: as dictated to Barbara Bush’ was published. This book sold more copies than George Bush’s Autobiography, and after learning that his dog had made $889,176 in royalties he is quoted as saying to graduates in 1992 “Study hard, and you might grow up to be President. But let’s face it: Even then you’ll never make as much money as your dog.” He also said, referring to Al Gore and Bill Clinton –“My dog Millie knows more about foreign affairs than those two bozos.”
5) Thomas Jefferson concerned with the relatively new practice of farming sheep in Virginia and protecting them from wolves and other hungry dogs, brought back with him from France a breed of dog called ‘Chien de Berger’ or shepherd dog. The Shepherds dog was just one of the species that Jefferson was intent on colonizing in the United States. [Along with the Skylark, Nightingale, Red Legged Partridge the Hare, Angora rabbit and Angora goat.] Keen to create a pure breed of Sheep dog that was reliable and trustworthy Jefferson ordered one bitch to be ‘hung’ when she was found eating a sheep.
6) Franklin D Roosevelt had many pets but it was a Scottish terrier named Fala that became his absolute favourite. Wherever the President went Fara went, Roosevelt, concerned with Fala’s health even issued written orders to the White House staff that ‘Not one crumb will be fed to Fala except by the President.’ On one occasion in December 1941 when ‘A Declaration by the United Nations’ was being signed in the Oval Office it was reported that there was not a heartbeat to be heard from all the guests gathered round for the mementos occasion – apart from that of Fala who was sleeping ‘rather heavily’ whilst laying stretched out on the floor in the office. With regards to the widely reported myth that Roosevelt spent $15,000 for a destroyer to pick up Fala this was addressed in Roosevelt’s so called ‘Fala Speech’ which he ended by saying “I think I have the right to resent, to object to libellous statements about my dog.”
7) Adolf Hitler was said to adore the loyalty and obedience of the German shepherd dog [Alsatian]. His favourite being Blondi who was constantly by his side and even allowed to sleep in his bedroom, this affection however was not shared by his girlfriend Eva who according to her secretary would regularly kick Blondi under the dining room table. Hitler took Blondi and her four puppies to the bunker with him along with Eva and her two terriers. In his last days Hitler no longer trusted the SS and wanted to check that the cyanide capsules he had been given actually worked. He ordered his physician Werner Haase to test them on Blondi who was duly taken to the toilet, her jaws forced open and cyanide capsules crushed – by pliers – into her mouth. She died instantly. Hitler came in soon after, saw Blondi dead and walked out without saying a word. Blondi’s four puppies were then ordered to be shot and so were taken from the arms of the Goebbels children, who had been playing with them, and immediately destroyed along with Eva’s two terriers.
8) Richard Nixon was a rising star in 1952 until the New York Post ran the headline “Secret Rich Man’s Trust Fund Keeps Nixon in Style Far Beyond his Salary.” Nixon went on TV to defend this saying yes there was a fund but it wasn’t secret – it was for covering campaign expenses, with no donor ever receiving special treatment – and he produced the financial proof from an independent audit. Although he did declare that there was one very special gift he had received; a black and white Cocker Spaniel – since named Checkers – who was given to the family by a man in Texas after hearing that the Nixon children wanted a dog. He went on to say ‘you know the kids love the dog and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what the press have to say about it we are going to keep it.’ This speech was an unprecedented success, [the first of its type] filmed in a studio set that was designed to represent a middle class den; Nixon had changed the political landscape to one where personality could potentially exceed policy.
9) Winston Churchill had a poodle named Rufus who it’s reported was very much included as part of the family; he ate in the dining room where a cloth was laid for him on the Persian carpet beside the head of the table and no one was able to eat until the butler had served Rufus’s meal. Another example is when on one evening whilst residing at Chequers [Prime Minister’s holiday home] the family sat down to watch Oliver Twist; Rufus was sitting on Churchill’s lap and at the point where Bill Sykes is about to drown his dog Bulls Eye, Churchill covered Rufus’s eyes with both hands and said “Don’t look now dear I’ll tell you about it afterwards.
“When Rufus died Churchill got another Poodle and said “His name is Rufus II – but the II is silent.”
10) John F Kennedy in 1961 faced a major crisis; [simply put] the USA had surrounded the Soviet Union with military bases housing nuclear missiles. The leader of the Soviet Union – Nikita Krushchev had decided to equalise the balance of power by turning Cuba – just 70 miles from Florida into a naval base, also housing nuclear missiles – pointing directly at America. There followed a ‘standoff’ with the potential for utterly devastating consequences. Kennedy favoured a blockade and negotiations, Krushchev also appeared to prefer a peaceful compromise and resolution; in due course both came to an agreement minus conflict. However Kennedy’s military advisors also known as Joint Chiefs of Staff complained bitterly that the political talk was weak, stating this was ‘the greatest defeat in our history’ and still heatedly urged an invasion; causing Kennedy in his office to be ‘absolutely shocked’ and ‘stuttering in reply.’ Kennedy nevertheless remained resolute and now almost 50 years later historians pretty much agree that this was the most dangerous moment in the cold war, and an imperishable example of how one man through wise statesmanship prevented a catastrophe; that may well still be in the wings.
President Krushchev subsequently went on to give a gift to JFK’s daughter Caroline – a dog named Pushinka – who was the offspring of Russian space dogs Strelka and Pushok both of whom were as usual for space dogs [hardy] stray mongrels. Charlie the Kennedy’s pedigree Welsh terrier got along very well with Pushinka resulting in four puppies, which John Kennedy called ‘pupniks.’ Descendents of which are still alive today.