All the presidents’ dogs

What sort of canine companion might Donald Trump bring to the White House?


I’m not sure why so many rural Westerners voted for President Donald J. Trump. He doesn’t drive a pickup with a gun rack. He doesn’t wear Levis or Wranglers, and his hairstyle certainly wouldn’t work in a Wyoming wind. He’s never fixed fence, bucked bales, cut wheat or field-dressed an elk. But most important, he doesn’t have a dog, and he needs a canine companion in the White House, especially since his wife, Melania, apparently plans to stay for months in Manhattan with their son.

What’s the de facto bachelor president going to do? He’ll need a warm heart and a cold nose to come home to. Who’s going to bring him his slippers and fetch his newspaper? Oh, I forgot. He doesn’t read the news. No matter. He still needs a dog.

Every president has had one. Trump scorns tradition, but maybe a furry, friendly creature with paws will make the president pause and not send out so many bombastic tweets. He is going to need a wagging tail to cheer him up. Yes, he has lapdogs in his presidential cabinet, but that’s not the same. As Harry Truman famously said, “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.”

In March 2009, when the dog was brought “home” to the White House, he was introduced to the world as “Bo.”
Official White House photo/Pete Souza

George H.W. Bush had a springer spaniel named Millie. Millie’s Book, as dictated by the dog to Barbara Bush, outsold the president’s own memoirs. LBJ famously picked up his beagles — named Him and Her — by the ears, “to make them bark,” he said. A maudlin speech by Richard Nixon about his cocker spaniel Checkers helped save Tricky Dick’s political career at one point. The public adored FDR’s Scottie, named Fala. 

James Garfield named his dog Veto. George Washington began his presidency with black-and-tan Virginia hounds. James Buchanan’s Newfoundland often lay motionless for hours, doing nothing, with one eye open and the other eye closed, rather like Congress. President Rutherford B. Hayes, like Trump, lost the popular vote and squeaked by with a narrow electoral victory, thereby earning the nickname “Rutherfraud.” Hayes sought comfort in his dogs, surrounding himself with a cocker spaniel, a small black mutt, a mastiff, a greyhound, a pair of shepherds and two hunting pups.

My own presidential hero, Theodore Roosevelt, came to Pennsylvania Avenue with a Pekingese, a St. Bernard, and enough other dogs to fill an animal shelter. Among others, Teddy had a Manchester terrier, a Chesapeake retriever, a bull terrier named Pete and a Jack Russell called Skip — the president’s favorite dog, because he found it while he was hunting bears in Colorado. 

We Westerners love our dogs. They do-si-do in the back of our pickup trucks, guard sheep, herd cattle, flush pheasants, and always seem glad to see us. Trump has never tied a bandanna around his neck. Trump doesn’t have mud on his boots; he doesn’t even have boots. He needs cowboy boots, a snap-button shirt, leather work gloves, and a pair of fencing pliers in his hip pocket, but most of all he needs a dog. How can you trust a man without a dog?

A lot of rural Westerners voted for Trump. If he’s going to be our head of state, then he needs a dog to talk to and share confidential briefings with. A good dog listens well, responds to treats, and rarely barks back.

But what kind of dog? Out West, we have a variety of working dogs and canine companions. We live with Labrador retrievers, border collies, Australian shepherds and blue heelers. But unlike the dogs that roam ranches and our cherished public lands, Trump’s pup would live in a penthouse when not in the White House. What kind of dog would fit Donald Trump’s lifestyle? Would it be a fluffy toy poodle with ribbons, a diamond-studded collar and toenails painted pink? It would have to be a female dog, because a male dog might be too competitive and garner too much attention.

Dog owners do look like their furry counterparts. Or so people say.

I recommend a Chihuahua, but we’d have to be sure the dog arrived in the country legally and acquired a green card. Maybe Putin could send Trump a Russian wolfhound, but I’d be leery of a hidden microphone in the dog’s collar. Perhaps the best fit for President Trump would be a Pomeranian. The hairstyle would work. It’s a yappy little dog with attitude that needs constant grooming, affection and attention. On second thought, however, maybe Trump should get a fish in a bowl or a cat.

Andrew Gulliford is a contributor to Writers on the Range, the opinion service of High Country News. He is professor of history and Environmental Studies at Fort Lewis College in Colorado and can be reached at [email protected].

Note: the opinions expressed in this column are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of High Country News, its board or staff. If you'd like to share an opinion piece of your own, please write Betsy Marston at [email protected].

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