On September 23, 1952, Richard Nixon delivered a speech that, when viewed within the grand scheme of things, was hardly his most memorable. After all, at the time he was only a senator running for Vice President alongside Dwight Eisenhower, so Tricky Dick was still more than 20 years away from the moment that he, as Louis CK described it, got in a helicopter and flew away. Instead, on this day 62 years ago, Nixon went on television and addressed his fellow Americans about an accusation that he had “borrowed” $18,000 from his campaign donations to use for personal reasons. While Nixon denied that he used any of the money, he did admit to accepting one personal gift on behalf of his daughters – a dog named Checkers.
Nixon refused to return this specific, four-legged gift, and while I’m sure the merits and political accuracy could be argued for days by people with fists clenched in rage, this speech would come to be known as the “Checkers Speech,” and it is believed to be responsible for the creation of Dogs in Politics Day. Although not exactly the most important holiday on my Hooters wall calendar, Dogs in Politics Day should be a time to celebrate the nation’s beloved First Canines, as they are, in most cases, the only inhabitants of 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. that the majority of people appreciate. (Of course, “historians” would claim that Checkers died before Nixon was elected president, but historians are probably jerks who don’t believe that Checkers actually went to live at a farm up north.)
So with all due respect to Teddy Roosevelt’s bear, Ronald Reagan’s horses at Rancho del Cielo, Andrew Jackson’s parrot that, according to legend, he taught to swear, and even Amy Carter’s pet Siamese named Misty Malarky Ying Yang, today’s tribute is only to the presidential man’s best friends, whose adorable faces have won the hearts of Americans, but mostly because we know that they’ve probably peed somewhere in the Oval Office.
10) Bo and Sunny Obama
Breed: Portuguese Water Dogs
Critics might be outright enraged over the idea that these dogs would make the list over Rutherford B. Hayes’ Cocker Spaniel Dot*, obviously due to the fact that we’ve never seen Sunny’s and Bo’s birth certificates to prove that they were born in the U.S. and not, in fact, Portugal or Kenya. But they look like giant stuffed animals and I want to roll around in the grass with them and rub their tummies!
*Hayes also had a cat named Miss Pussy, because he was a notorious pervert.
9) Hector Cleveland
Breed: Japanese Poodle
While Grover Cleveland reportedly had a number of dogs, as well as some mock(yeah)ing(yeah)birds(yeah), Hector was the only pet whose name was important enough to remember. Was it because Hector was believed to be the first dog to ever attend the White House’s Easter Egg Roll? Or was there a far more serious and sinister reason that Cleveland’s beloved Dachshunds and Cocker Spaniel were too insignificant for someone to write their names down? I’m pretty sure the answer to both of those questions is yes.
8) Pushinka Kennedy
A lot of real Americans would probably take serious exception to the inclusion of a dog that not only lacks a specific breed, but was also the gift of Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev – possibly taunting the U.S. for not being the first nation to send a dog into space – but mutts deserve their place in history. Kudos to Pushinka for not only serving as a symbol of peaceful coexistence in a time that the average American feared the Red Menace, but also for being the adorable face of the end of mainstream First Dog pure-breed supremacy.
7) Miss Beazley Bush
Breed: Scottish Terrier
Both Miss Beazley and her older companion, Barney Bush (also a Scottish Terrier), have moved on to that farm up north in the past two years, but they were both never too far from George W. and Laura Bush’s sides when they were the residents of the White House. Miss Beazley joined the First Family in 2005 as a birthday present for Laura, and the tiny black pooch was responsible for bringing us the classic “A Very Beazley Christmas.”
6) Him and Her Johnson
President Lyndon Johnson’s love of dogs was well-documented, as he was the proud human papa of Beagles J. Edgar and Freckles, as well as Blanco the White Collie and Yuki the Mongrel Dog. But the president’s most well-known dogs were the simply-named pair Him and Her, as he was often photographed taking walks with these famous Beagles around the White House. Of course, Him is also well-remembered for the above photo that reportedly pissed a lot of people off, and the dogs punched their tickets to that farm I keep mentioning way too early, as Her swallowed a stone in 1964 and Him was hit by a car while chasing a squirrel across the White House lawn.
5) Victory Reagan
Breed: Golden Retriever
For as long as people have been running for office, politicians have been stereotyped as baby kissers and puppy huggers, and Ronald Reagan kept that tradition alive when he accepted a Golden Retriever pup named Victory as a present while campaigning in 1980. Reagan, unlike other presidents, didn’t like to keep his dogs at the White House, which is why Victory lived at Rancho del Cielo in California with the Gipper’s aforementioned horses and other pets. Should not ever living at the White House disqualify Victory? No, because he was adorable.
4) Buddy Clinton
Breed: Labrador Retriever
While some scoundrels in this era of online “investigative journalism” have tried to paint 4-year old Buddy Clinton’s unfortunate trip to that northern farm as something far more sinister, Slick Willy definitely loved the Labrador retriever that his wife, Hillary Clinton, gave him when Chelsea Clinton left for college in 1997. Bill gave the dog the name Buddy as a tribute to his uncle, and after Buddy’s departure, he adopted Buddy’s nephew and named him Seamus after the Irish poet Seamus Heaney, because chicks dig a guy who likes poets.
3) Tiny Tim Coolidge
If President Calvin Coolidge is remembered for anything, it’s his family’s love of pets. In fact, the 30th President of the U.S. had an amazing variety of furry friends and beloved critters, including a pair of raccoons named Rebecca and Horace (fun fact: they were meant to be food), lion cubs named Tax Reduction and Budget Bureau, and even a pygmy hippo named Billy, whose story was pretty incredible. Never before have I imagined a small hippo in the White House, but now I plan to write a children’s book about it, and, yes, he definitely has a top hat. Monocle-clad hippos aside, it’s very difficult to choose the “best” of Coolidge’s 11 dogs, because a Bulldog named Boston Beans is basically the most adorable thing that I’ve thought about today, aside from a president that is a tiny hippo, but Tiny Tim (above) makes me want to travel back in time and just snuggle him, YES I DO! WHO’S A GOOD FIRST PET? YOU ARE!
2) TIE – Drunkard Washington
Breed: Black and Tan Coonhound
If my basic Florida education taught me anything as a child, it was that George Washington was the most important president in this nation’s history, which means that his seven dogs are probably the most important First Pets of all-time. While there’s a case to be made that G-Dubs was the nation’s first ever Trekkie, since he named one of his American Staghounds Vulcan, some nerds would argue that Star Trek didn’t exist in the 1700s. So because of that, my team of researchers has determined that Drunkard the Black and Tan Coonhound was the most important of Washington’s dogs, because that name is the best.
2) TIE – Fido Lincoln
According to presidential canine lore, “Honest” Abraham Lincoln was basically the first president to ever spoil the hell out of his dog. Abe apparently refused to take his beloved mutt Fido with him to Washington DC once he was elected, because he was afraid that the timid pooch wouldn’t be able to handle the trip from Illinois, and he’d have hated the bells and cannons. So he did the noble thing and gave Fido to some friends, but with the dog came some very interesting instructions.
The Roll family was asked never to scold Fido for entering the house with muddy paws. He was not to be tied up alone in the backyard. Additionally, Fido was to be allowed into the Roll home whenever he scratched at the front door and into the Rolls’ dining room at mealtimes. Fido was used to being given food by everyone sitting around the table. To make Fido feel at home, the Lincolns gave the Rolls their horsehair sofa. (Via Roger J. Norton)
Geez, Abe, did Fido also get to sleep in the Roll family’s bed? Of course he did! Dogs are basically small, furry people and they should be allowed to do whatever they want.
1) Rollo Roosevelt
Breed: Saint Bernard
Like Coolidge after him, Teddy Roosevelt was a man who loved animals. Among his many, many pets were a small bear, pony, five guinea pigs, eight dogs, and even a one-legged rooster. Of the dogs, Rollo the Saint Bernard was the best, because Saint Bernards are big and furry, and they sometimes carry barrels full of whisky on their necks, which is probably the coolest thing that dogs have ever done. Therefore, Rollo was the best presidential dog, even if he didn’t have a pygmy hippo as a best friend to accompany him on random adventures.
In conclusion, I’m way too caught up on the thought of a hippo in a top hat, so happy Dogs in Politics Day, everyone!