Former Presidents Obsessed With Their Dogs

Being the leader of the free world is a pretty big job. So if you're president of the United States, it's important to have at least one person in your corner that you can always count on—even if that person is actually a dog.

Yes, dogs have a long and colorful history in the White House, with the First Pooch often significantly more popular than its master. And for good reason: who wants to think about war and unemployment when you can focus on the adorable antics of a cute lil' puppy? With that in mind, here's a look at some presidents who, along with the rest of the nation, became obsessed with their canine companions.

Barack Obama

Changer-in-chief Barack Obama will go down as one of the more memorable orators in U.S. political history. During his first verbal at-bat as president, his 2009 inaugural address, the president famously welcomed Portuguese water dog Bo to the family. Four years later, another dog of the aqua variety, Sunny, entered the mix. We can't comment on the cuddly canines' politics (pawlitics?), but they're cuter than the dickens. Cuter than all the dickenses, in fact.

We aren't the only ones who think so. During their tenure as First Pooches, Bo and Sunny became such well-liked fixtures, they had official schedules for photos and public appearances. When they weren't being fluffy eye-candy for the masses, the doggie duo spent their time being doted on by their owners, especially First Lady Michelle Obama. The FLOTUS has gushed over how Bo and Sunny not only sit in her lap, but also sit in her chair. They're also experts at receiving massages and cuddles, apparently.

Although Sunny and Bo have better lives than most humans, their stardom has had downsides. In January 2016, law enforcement had to nab a man who planned on nabbing the Obama dogs. The pressures of fame may have also taken a toll on Sunny — during a 2013 Christmas gathering she frightened a toddler, causing the child to topple over. More recently, Sunny allegedly turned a White House guest's face into a chew toy. Maybe fame isn't for everyone. Either that, or Sunny was just being a dog ... nah, it's the fame.

George Washington

The father of our country didn't just help birth the world's greatest democracy, he was also really into animal husbandry too. He took particular pride in the creation of a special breed that he called "Virginia Hounds," but which modern scientists know as "velociraptors." Okay, they were actually dogs, but we wouldn't put anything past George Washington. Washington bred a number of these black and tan coonhounds during his time as president, naming them Drunkard, Taster, Tipler, and Tipsy. We sense a theme. He also had three staghounds, named Sweetlips, Scentwell, and Vulcan. Who knew ol' George "Woodteeth" Washington was actually a Trekkie?

George H. W. Bush

President Bush the Elder, as he was known in The Silmarillion, only served one term in office, but it was notable for one major event. No, not the Gulf War; actually, his four years in office are best known for introducing the world to the English springer spaniel known as Millie. Arguably the most famous dog in White House history, Millie (or her stunt doubles) made cameos in several popular TV shows including Murphy Brown and The Simpsons, and went on to author the New York Times number one bestseller Millie's Book, which officially make any of us at Grunge less successful than a dog.

One of Millie's offspring also later went to the White House with Bush's son, so if you were wondering who the head of the Dog Illuminati was, now you know.

Bill Clinton

Bill Clinton is nothing if not a master politician. So when his pet Socks the Cat became a national celebrity, Slick Willie knew he had to do something to keep from alienating dog lovers. The solution? Buddy, a chocolate Labrador retriever. Buddy and Bill quickly became inseparable, but there was just one problem: Socks and Buddy hated each other, often going at it like...well, like cats and dogs. When it came time for President Clinton to leave the White House and move to a smaller home, it finally was politically safe for him to reveal his true position on the cat vs. dog issue: he kept Buddy and sent Socks off to live with a new owner. Thumbs up, Bubba.

George W. Bush

George W. Bush inherited a lot of things from his father, like the entire country, but maybe the best was his love of dogs. After the wild success of the 41st president's First Dog, Millie, the 43rd president decided to get an official presidential dog of his own: Miss Beazley, a Scottish terrier. Keeping up with the times, Miss Beazley skipped the whole writing a book thing that made Millie famous and instead opted in 2005 to star in a viral video called A Very Beazley Christmas, which features the dog teaming up with Will Smith to save the world from alien ninjas.

Okay, we made that part up, but it did include a C-Span hotline number for people who didn't like Miss Beazley to voice their complaints. And now you know why they really created the Patriot Act.

Franklin D. Roosevelt

FDR was in office for an unprecedented four terms, so it's only natural that he also had an unusual number of dogs in the household—seven over the course of his presidency. His favorite seemed to have been a Great Dane named President, which had to have been very confusing for staffers trying to hold a conversation with Roosevelt. More famous, though, was his Scottish terrier nicknamed Fala, which was an abbreviated form of his full name, Murray the Outlaw of Falahill. That one, we didn't make up. That's real. Fala was the center of controversy after FDR was accused of sending a Navy destroyer to ferry the dog around; Roosevelt rebutted the charges in a wildly popular campaign speech, stating that Fala's "little Scotch soul was furious" about the claims. Don't mess with the Scotties.

Richard M. Nixon

President Nixon's beloved dog Checkers was at the center of the first big controversy of Nixon's career when, while campaigning for vice president as Dwight D. Eisenhower's running mate in 1952, Nixon was accused of shenanigans with his political slush fund. Nixon made an impassioned TV speech where he refused to return one potentially illegal donation—Checkers, who was given to him by a supporter. The speech turned public opinion in Nixon's favor and saved his career. Unfortunately for Nixon, Checkers had passed away by the time Nixon was caught with his finger in the cookie jar again during Watergate. If only Nixon had a pet with a longer life span, like a sea turtle, who knows what might have happened!

Lyndon B. Johnson

Richard Nixon's obsession with his dog Checkers might have been a political goldmine, but Lyndon B. Johnson's love of his beagles, Him and Her, had the opposite effect, nearly sinking Johnson's presidency. During a public appearance on the lawn of the White House in 1964, Johnson incurred the wrath of the nation when he was photographed lifting Him up by his ears. The resulting controversy almost undermined Johnson's re-election bid. But it didn't stop Johnson from adoring his dogs; after both Him and Her passed away, Johnson adopted four other dogs, including a wild mutt his daughter found at a gas station. And if that doesn't balance the scales for Vietnam, we don't know what will.

Herbert Hoover

Richard Nixon and Franklin Roosevelt weren't the only candidates who got a boost at election time from their dog obsessions. Before either of them, there was Herbert Hoover and his famous Belgian shepherd King Tut. Hoover, you see, wanted to be president in 1928, but had a problem—almost nobody knew who he was, and those who did know thought he was a stiff, boring prig. So his public relations team came up with the idea to take a photo of Hoover playing around with his dog as a way to humanize him (Hoover, that is, not his dog).

It worked, and the pair soon entered the Oval Office. Hoover's obsession with dogs sadly proved to be fatal to poor King Tut, though; the faithful pooch was so nervous about protecting his master from the dangers of the presidency that he stopped eating and passed into lore as the dog who "worried himself to death." Poor doggie.

Warren G. Harding

Finally, no list of dog-obsessed presidents would be complete without a tribute to Warren G. Harding, making this article the first-ever tribute to Warren G. Harding. While he's usually considered among the worst presidents ever, he was wildly popular in his day, and almost all of that popularity can be traced to his beloved dog, Laddie Boy. An Airedale terrier, Laddie Boy was internationally famous, getting his own White House birthday parties, exclusive newspaper interviews, and even a statue in the Smithsonian. His collar was made of gold nuggets from the Alaskan gold rush, and he had his own seat for cabinet meetings, which he often participated in. In other words, Laddie Boy was officially twice as awesome as anyone currently running for president. They don't make them like this anymore.