September 23rd is Dogs in Politics Day or National Checkers Day – not the game, but more about that in a minute. There is a day to learn everything you never wanted to know about First Pet’s.
Honesty & Integrity Questioned
The first ever nationally televised address by a vice presidential candidate ties politics to to our love of pets.
Why National Checkers Day you ask? In 1952 the then Vice Presidential candidate Senator Richard Nixon had been accused of misdeeds in regards to a fund established by his supporters, that would reimburse him for his political expenses during the campaign. In an effort to defend himself, Nixon spoke to the nation in a half-hour live televised speech.
All other details aside, he stated he would keep one gift; a Cocker Spaniel which his children named Checks or Checkers, giving this infamous speech its name.
“A man down in Texas heard Pat on the radio mention that our two youngsters would like to have a dog, and, believe it or not, the day we left before this camp
aign trip we got a message from Union Station in Baltimore, saying they had a package for us. We went down to get it. You know what it was?
It was a little cocker spaniel dog, in a crate that he had sent all the way from Texas, black and white, spotted, and our little girl Tricia, the six year old, named it Checks.
And you know, the kids, like all kids, loved the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it.”
-Richard Nixon September 23, 1952
The largest television audience at that time, nearly 60 million Americans saw (or heard) The “Checkers Speech” and this led to an outpouring of public support.
Thanks to Checkers, Nixon made the ticket with Eisenhower and now we celebrate Dogs in Politics Day or better known as National Checkers Day, thanks to a little black and white cocker spaniel.
Not all presidential pets that have lived at the white house took such a notable role in political history. Presidential pets go back all the way to Number 1 himself George Washington, althoughy they never had the opportunity to live or graize at 1900 Pennsylvania Avenue. A little bit of everything has been a pet in the white house, horses and hounds, fish and foul.
South Lawn Sightings
During World War I, Woodrow Wilson, the 28th president, kept a herd of sheep on the White House lawn. John Quincy Adams 1825-1829 had an alligator that was a gift from the Marquis de Lafayette. Ali as I’ll call her lived in the bathroom. President Millard Fillmore (1850-1853) kept two ponies named Mason & Dixon. The unique pet prize and name of pet go to President Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893) who had two opossums named Mr. Reciprocity & Mr. Protection.
The Usual Suspects
Who says Warren Harding (1921-1923) wasn’t hip? POTUS 29 and his family had a birthday party for their Airdale Terrier, Laddie Boy. They invited other dogs and served a dog biscuit cake, complete with frosting. All of this without a Three Dog Bakery in sight.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945) had a well know Scottish terrier named Fala. The family had other dogs as well, including another Scottish Terrier named Meggie, a German shepherd named Major and an English Setter named Winks.
President John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) family had a number of dogs and horses, as well as other pets like hamsters and parakeets.
President Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969) had beagles. He learned holding your dog up by its ears is not the best way to win friends and influence people.
President Gerald Ford (1974-1977) had a golden retriever named Liberty, who had a litter of puppies while in the White House. The Fords kept one of the puppies and named her Misty. Ford’s daughter, Susan, also had a Siamese cat named Shan.
President George H.W. Bush (1989-1993) had an English springer spaniel named Millie, the bestselling “author” of her own book.
President Barack Obama (2009-2017) had two Portuguese Water Dogs named Sunny and Bo during his eight years at the White House.
You can learn more about all the president’s pets at the Presidential Pet Museum website. Has your favorite dog breed, cat, goldfish, or rodent has ever taken up residence at the White House?