For National Dogs in Politics Day on September 23 we celebrate The First Dog of the United States (FDOTUS), who holds an important place in the hearts of all Americans. Dogs and other pets have a long history of living in the White House; they have endeared us to their owners (the First Families) and have even swayed the vote of animal lovers with interests in the rights of their furry friends. Learn more about the history of man’s best friend and their role in politics today.
History of National Dogs in Politics Day
In 1952, a dog changed the course of a presidential election. Today, National Dogs in Politics Day, not only marks this occasion, it commemorates all of America’s greatest political pooches.
On September 23, 1952, Richard Nixon used television (still in its infancy) to speak directly to 60 million viewers — the largest audience at the time. Dubbed the “Checkers Speech”, Nixon refuted charges that he had abused campaign contributions. By alluding to his children and the family dog, a black and white cocker spaniel named Checkers, Nixon touched a public nerve making him seem more personable. Through this speech, Nixon was able to gain the public’s trust, downplay the charges and stay on the Eisenhower ticket as vice president.
Throughout history in the White House, almost every President has had a dog as part of the First Family. It’s no surprise given Americans’ love for dogs and the fact dogs can calm pretty much any situation – kind of important for the most powerful position in the world.
National Dogs in Politics Day timeline
Millie, the beloved dog of George and Barbara Bush, was given credit for authoring Millie’s Book which hit the New York Times’ nonfiction bestseller list in 1990.
The famous speech that eventually launched National Dogs in Politics Day is presented to the American public
While President Harry S. Truman was noted to say “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog”, once he arrived in the White House, he said the Truman’s preferred to be a “pet-free family”. They gave their Cocker Spaniel, Feller, to his personal physician.
George and Martha Washington had a variety of pets while in the White House including several dogs – American Foxhounds, Black and Tan Coonhounds, and a Greyhound. Thanks, George, for getting the White House started off on the right paw!
National Dogs in Politics Day FAQs
Does President Donald J. Trump have a dog?
President Trump is the first US President to not have a pet while in the White House since James K. Polk, our 11th President serving from 1845 – 1849.
What day is National Hug Your Dog Day?
Which President had a pet alligator?
John Quincey Adams, serving as our 6th President from 1925 – 1929, is claimed to have had a pet alligator which was kept in the East Room bathtub.
National Dogs in Politics Day Activities
Read the "Checkers" speech
Regarded as a turning point in American political oratory, the "Checkers" speech demonstrates how easily attention can be diverted from one topic to another. After a single speech, Nixon once again had the trust of the public. Orators, political science and journalism students as well as historians continue to study the "Checkers" speech today.
Read Buddy’s book
While her husband was in office, First Lady Hillary Clinton wrote “Dear Socks, Dear Buddy”, a children’s book which included excerpts from over 50 letters written to their First Pets - Socks (cat) and Buddy (dog).
Dress up your dog
Get creative by making a quick costume for your pup. You can go old school with a monocle and top hat, or give it an 80's suit a la Ronald Reagan. Take some photos, share it on social media with the appropriate hashtags, and let the laughter ensue.
5 Fun Facts About Famous Dogs In The White House
Bo, a Portuguese Water Hound, moved into the Obama White House on April 14, 2009, after a thorough review of hypoallergenic options since Malia suffered from allergies.
Spotty, George W. Bush’s English Springer Spaniel and the only dog to have lived in the White House in two non-consecutive terms, was born to Millie, George H. W. Bush’s dog while they were in the White House.
Buddy moved into the White House towards the end of Clinton’s second term much to Socks, the Clinton’s cat’s, chagrin; it was a stereotypical cat/dog relationship; Buddy died tragically after leaving the White House in an automobile accident while the Clinton’s were away.
Millie, an English Springer Spaniel belonging to Barbara and George H. W. Bush is known as “the most famous White House dog in history”; she was portrayed in television episodes of Murphy Brown, Who’s the Boss, and Wings.
Rex, Ronald and Nancy Reagan’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, often refused to enter the Lincoln Bedroom in the White House; this room has long been thought to be haunted by Abraham Lincoln’s ghost – seems like Rex also believed this to be true.
Why We Love Dogs in Politics
Our Presidents seem just like us
Every dog in the White House gets lots of attention, similar to that of their owners and other celebrities. Having a dog around makes the First Family and “the most powerful person in the world” seem more normal, more relatable, and more compassionate.
It lightens a heavy topic
Your grandmother always told you to stay away from talking politics or religion at the dinner table, but that doesn’t mean the dogs are out of play. Keeping pets in the mix of conversation can keep the mood light, allowing you to have civil discussions with no risk of mashed potatoes flying across the table!
Dogs are Patriotic
Dogs have been an integral part of shaping American history and politics, especially during wartime. In virtually every war in which America has been involved, dogs have been part of our winning missions.
National Dogs in Politics Day dates