The Obama’s announced today that Sunny is now living at the White House. Sunny, so named by Michelle Obama because of her happy disposition, is a one year old Portuguese Water Dog, the same breed as the current presidential dog, Bo. The Obama’s wanted a more unusual breed with hypo allergenic fur and this docile water loving dog fitted the bill.
Yet, there is an ulterior motive. This is the legacy that Barack Obama wanted to create; uniqueness. Along with previous presidential families who acquired pets to fill their lives, President Obama’s statement was not unusual in this regards. He wanted to choose a dog with a different flavor. In looking to keep up with the previous leaders of the United States who have honored approximately 93 breeds of dog, it must have been a journey to settle on the lesser known Portuguese Water Dog. Originality leads the decision. Dogs of all shapes and sizes have been presidential friends; Ronald Reagan had six breeds including a Bouvier des Flandres, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, a Golden Retriever, an Irish Setter, a Siberian Husky and a Belgian Sheepdog.
As a result of the White House publicity, there is more interest in owning these friendly dogs and puppyfind.com offers today a total of 35 puppies for sale with a cost price of approximately $2000 a puppy. In case you wondered, Reagan’s Bouvier De Flandres has 33 puppies available but there are 507 Cavalier Kings Charles puppies. It is fair to say that the White House can encourage the growth of a dog breed but less common breeds tend to stay in the background.
And what of other pets that have made Washington DC their home? Of course there have been cats, rabbits and horses but did you know that Calvin Coolidge had a virtual zoo of 25 pets which were more newsworthy than cats and dogs. He introduced the American public to a pair of canaries, two raccoons, a donkey, a goose, a bob cat, two lion cubs, a pygmy hippo, a black bear, a wallaby and a small antelope. There have been 135 Easter Egg Rolls at the White House and the public have always flocked to this event. It is entirely possible that the pets are more exciting than the finding of eggs.
Did you know that Herbert Hoover owned two crocodiles? I’m not sure Orphan Annie knew about that.
More information on these special pets abounds and you won’t do much better than a delightful book penned by Jennifer Boswell Pickens, “Pets at the White House, 50 years of Presidents and their Pets” (2012). Filled with images of our leaders with their animal friends, the human side of American history is presented with an honesty that political commentary tends to miss.
This home, set of the most powerful political offices in the world, is endowed with the spirit of the animal world. Through a century of close animal relations, we should marvel that we live in a country which respects pets that bring fun, youthfulness, caring and love into our lives. We can only hope they encourage our leaders to make the best political decisions as well.
Written By: Victoria Judah