What were the President's first pets

First Dogs and Cats in the White House : Why heads of government need dogs and cats

Having something in common with Donald Trump is unflattering. And yet there is one thing that connects the German Chancellor Angela Merkel (CDU) with the outgoing US President. Both have no pets. In Merkel's case, this may be due to the fact that her love for animals is a little exotic. “I find common toads or bats something very interesting,” the Chancellor revealed a few years ago. Classic pets are simply not.

Donald Trump, on the other hand, probably wanted to prevent someone from stealing the show from him, neither dog nor cat. The petless episode broke with a more than 200-year-old tradition in which US presidents could always count on animal companions.

The first, George Washington, had 14 dogs, possibly more, plus horses, a donkey, and parrots. John Quincy Adams kept an alligator, Abraham Lincoln a domestic pig, Theodore Roosevelt could have filled a private zoo with his animals - including the bear "Jonathan Edwards" and the lizard "Bill".

With the arrival of the Bidens, the old order was restored. The new president and his wife Jill bring twelve paws with them as reinforcements, the two sheepdogs "Champ" and "Major" and the tomcat "Winston". Via Twitter, the “First Dogs” have been attuning the American people to a turning point for weeks. Dog owners are the better presidents, "Champ" and "Major" tweeted recently, a clear tip against Trump.

The fact that they once fetched “Major” from the animal shelter speaks for the Bidens, so the male is officially the first “rescue dog” in the White House. However, the dog cannot claim the title of the first rescued presidential pet, this belongs to the former stray cat "Socks" of the Clinton family.

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A "major" mishap

Even before moving into the White House, "Major" made headlines. In November, Biden had to hobble around wearing a support shoe because he sprained his right ankle while playing with the dog and sustained small stress fractures in his foot.

This shows that pets can be a hairy affair, but it's even hairier when you're left without a four-legged friend. Especially in politics. "If you're looking for a friend in Washington, buy a dog," Harry Truman had already known.

Why a pet is good for you

This is not only due to the fact that dealing with the balls of fur is calming. Those who can pet animals reduce stress and relax. It has been scientifically proven. The animal companions also help against loneliness, which is why millions of people in this country have bought pets in the corona lockdown.

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But you also do politics with animals, says US Politics Professor James H. Lebovic. He has researched the subject scientifically and says: "Pets are an important power". Presidents would plan their deployment very carefully. In economically bad times, the animal remains in the background, but in "times of war or a scandal, dogs are welcome companions in public".

The dog as a crisis saver

After the Lewinsky affair became known, ex-President Bill Clinton appeared not only with his wife Hillary, but also with his Labrador "Buddy". Richard Nixon won the election when he held "Checkers" up to the camera. The cocker spaniel with the sad look managed to push allegations of corruption into the background. Gerhard Schröder (SPD), as Federal Chancellor under great pressure because of the Hartz laws, brought "Holly" into the house in 2003. But the border terrier could not prevent Schröder's election two years later.

And it is probably no coincidence that Bavaria's Prime Minister Markus Söder (CSU) posted photos of his youngest family member a few days ago when his state groaned under high corona numbers and night curfews: the puppy named "Molly", a grimace with black fur and button eyes, was "nice news in difficult times," tweeted Söder. Perhaps “Molly” will also help in the race for the candidacy for chancellor.


What Ramelow's dog is tweeting

To do this, the bitch would have to get a Twitter account. Other four-legged friends have already made further progress, including in Germany. "Attila von Ramelow", the Jack Russel Terrier of the Thuringian Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow, has been trying for a long time with short messages. If, however, he publicly threatens to bite off all the Nazis' eggs, one cannot really imagine that in the case of the small, slightly overweight, bow-legged fellow.


Big dogs are great

Despite its awesome name, “Attila” couldn't end up in Moscow under any circumstances. Russian President Vladimir Putin does not bother with small livestock, only large dogs come into his household. They have the advantage that they can be used to intimidate state guests, such as Angela Merkel, if necessary.

The Chancellor is said to be afraid of dogs because she was once bitten. She was therefore not very enthusiastic when Putin had his black Labrador bitch "Koni" in his room on a state visit years ago and sniffed the visit from Germany. Merkel made a good face for a bad game, but the German-Russian relationship should not have improved the “Konis” performance.


Larry: First Cat, influencer, government critic

Another four-legged friend, on the other hand, always tries to maintain good diplomatic relations in his country. If it had been up to Larry, Great Britain would still be part of the European Union. Since 2011 the cat has lived at 10 Downing Street in London, the home of the British prime ministers. David Cameron once had "Larry" taken out of the animal shelter and made him "Chief Mouser", the top mouse hunter. But the tablecloth with Cameron was cut at the latest when the conservative politician ushered in the beginning of the end with his Brexit vote.

More than 400,000 people follow "Larry" on Twitter, the cat has fans all over the world. Although "Sunny" and "Bo", the dogs of ex-US President Barack Obama, have a book about themselves to show, they can't get close to the British government cat. "Larry" entertains his followers with cat videos, but is also a political influencer, fact checker and one of the biggest government critics.

It is therefore no wonder that Cameron showed a photo of himself and "Larry" on his lap in the House of Commons in his farewell speech to counter rumors of a breakdown. When Theresa May resigned, Larry published her track record - a blank, blank sheet of paper.

The hangover is also at war with Boris Johnson, not only because this dog brought "Dylan" into the house, but because of Brexit and the Corona policy. The hard lockdown is bad for everyone, but especially for those who have to share their house with Boris Johnson, tweeted "Larry".

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