Yes, there exists a Presidential Pet Museum in Washington, a place that documents and honors the wild and wooly history of our many leaders’ animal company. It’s kind of cool, right? More so when you consider that nearly every single president has enjoyed the presence of a pet during their White House tenure.
Which is why many avid lovers of pets (myself included) are waiting with bated breath to see what stripe of pet Trump will bring into the nation’s most symbolic building.
Pish posh! you say? What does it matter? Not so fast, y’all. It’s clear, to me at least, that there’s a correlation between a presidential family’s relationship to pets and the nation’s to its own dear fuzzed ones.
Bush Senior kept Millie, Reagan kept Rex, Carter kept Grits, Ford kept Liberty, Nixon kept Checkers, Johnson kept Freckles, the Kennedys kept Macaroni, and Eisenhower kept Heidi, to name just a few of our country’s recent First Pets.
In more recent memory, we saw the Bushes openly relish in their Springer’s and Scottish terriers’ company. And it was heartwarming, to say the least, to see Millie by our leader’s side on the White house lawn.
Though the connection seemed cooler with Socks (as befits many cats’ manner with all humans) than with Buddy the Lab, presidents or not –– the Clintons did not shy away from communicating that keeping cats and dogs was both presidential duty… and wickedly fun.
More recently, Bo and Sunny graced the White House residence. Portuguese Water Dogs both, they’re a pair that didn’t have to go far out of their way to be friendly and relatable –– but still managed to make nationwide connections happen. I mean, Bo still follows me on Twitter. How cool is that?
The best thing about presidential pets? They transcend politics. Ironically, perhaps, they add humanity to every president’s tenure. Which is no small feat in some cases.
Enter our new president and his present state of petlessness. While not unprecedented (for example, I’m not sure whether the Clintons kept pets before their tenure in the White House, and the Obamas definitely had not), it’s by no means likely that any pet will be gracing our nation’s First Lawn anytime soon. After all, it’s been reported that most of his nuclear family (First Lady and youngest child) will not be residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
According to our president’s personal decree, this will not be a typical US presidency. Which presents the proverbial double-edged sword’s dilemma, of course. What will it mean for the future of the First Family’s traditional pet? More to the point, what does this mean –– if anything –– to the future of pet keeping in the U.S.
To my way of thinking, it won’t matter much whether this president takes on a pet or not, though its rumored that a golden doodle might be in Barron’s future (if a New York socialite breeder gets her way), albeit not at the White House itself. After all, the Trumps are a different breed of First Family, indeed.
What’s more, I respect anyone’s right to eschew pet-keeping, especially if the pet might suffer from a person or family’s highly mobile lifestyle, for example. Keeping pets is not for everyone. Which, believe it or not, is an attitude I wish more people would adopt. Our shelters are teeming as a result of irresponsibility, poor planning, and a desire to keep pets that outstrips the ability to do so.
Still, as a veterinarian and avid “pet person,” I can’t help but lament a little the break in this particular tradition (at least as it currently stands), particularly given that any president’s pet is as much a pampered symbol of humanity, generosity, and kindness as it is a beloved family member.