The Obamas announced on Monday, Aug. 19, 2013, that they have added a new addition to the first family; a new puppy, a female Portuguese Water Dog, they named Sunny. Sunny was born in Michigan in June 2012, will be a companion to first dog, Bo Obama. Sunny joins the long list of Presidential pets that have been remembered in history. First Lady Michelle Obama also tweeted about the new puppy; "So excited to introduce the newest member of the Obama family — our puppy, Sunny!"
The White House announced the new arrival on the White House blog, writing; "Sunny is the perfect little sister for Bo - full of energy and very affectionate - and the First Family picked her name because it fit her cheerful personality." The announcement was accompanied by a few pictures and a video of Sunny and Bo frolicking on the White House lawn.
Very little has been released about the new first dog's life before arriving at the White House, the only personal history released was that Sunny was birth date and place. The Obamas are giving a donation to the Washington Humane Society in honor of her adoption.
Sunny will be a "little sister" and companion to Bo Obama, the first family's older Portuguese Water Dog, assisting in all his formal duties which were listed in the White House announcement as ranging "from visiting Walter Reed and the Children's National Medical Center, to inspecting the Holiday decorations at the White House, to greeting guests at the White House on tours and during the Easter Egg Roll." Bo has been a regular feature of the White House Christmas decorations as where his predecessor George W. Bush's dogs Barney and Miss Beazley, and was featured on this year's Christmas card.
Last fall, First Lady Michelle Obama told the press, she had been worried about Bo having little interaction with other dogs. Play dates with other dogs did not work well for the long run. Now Bo will have a new friend and companion. The Obamas like the Bushes have now introduced a second dog for the second presidential term.
President Barack Obama memorably announced during his acceptance speech when he won the presidency in November 2008 that that he would be keeping his promise to get his daughters a dog; "Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House."
For the next couple of months the press speculated as to what kind of dog breed the Obamas would be getting, as Obama stated in first press conference as president-elect, they would be adopting a shelter dog; "Our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts… Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic."
The Obamas settled on Portuguese Water Dogs because the breed is hypo allergic. Bo arrived at the White House on April 14, 2009 with much press fanfare. Senator Edward Kennedy gifted the six-month old puppy to the Obamas. Bo, too had a previous family and home before arriving at the White House like his new sister Sunny.
There is a long history of presidents and their pets, with the first pets sometimes eclipsing their owner's fame or press time. With the exception of Chester A. Arthur and Franklin Pierce, all the presidents owned pets. President Harry Truman (1945-1953) said it best when he declared "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." Every modern president has had a dog, or other pet that often humanized them to the public.
Although most of the pets where prominently featured during their owner's tenures, there were some more remembered than others. In recent history no presidential pet had a larger space in the spotlight than President George W. Bush's (2001-2009) Scottish Terrier, Barney. The Bushes received Barney as a gift in November 2000, he moved into the White House after Bush's inauguration.
The most photographed presidential pet, Barney Bush was featured in his own holiday video series called Barney Cams, and from 2004 to 2008 had his own photo of the day feature published on the White House website, accompanying the section of the site already dedicated to the Bush family's pets.
The attention the White House spent on Barney was so great that the Democrats complained during the 2004 campaign about the costs and press as a campaign ploy. However, the President's affection for his dog was real, with the president referring to Barney as "the son I never had." The Scottie spent time in the Oval Office, and was often seen trailing his master on walks, accompanied the President to his ranch in Crawford, Texas and met various dignitaries and heads of state the President hosted.
Before Barney Bush, another Scottish Terrier held the mantel as most famous Presidential pet, Franklin Delano Roosevelt's (1933-1945) beloved Fala. Fala was a gift to the President from his cousin, Margaret "Daisy" Suckley, and came to the White House at six months old in Nov. 1940 The Scottie was always by Roosevelt's side during his third term, and last few months in office, travelling almost everywhere with the President. He too was a film star, headlining an MGM produced film about his daily activities.
However, Fala was immortalized in a 1944 campaign speech, where Roosevelt addressed Republican charges that Fala was forgotten in the Aleutian Islands after a Presidential tour, and that Roosevelt sent a U.S. Navy destroyer to retrieve the Scottie. Speaking on Sept. 23, 1944 to the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, Chauffeurs, Warehousemen and Helpers of America the President stated; "You know, Fala is Scotch, and being a Scottie, as soon as he learned that the Republican fiction writers in Congress and out had concocted a story that I'd left him behind on an Aleutian island and had sent a destroyer back to find him - at a cost to the taxpayers of two or three, or eight or twenty million dollars - his Scotch soul was furious. He has not been the same dog since." With those words Fala secured his preeminence in history in what would be known as the Fala Speech.
Bo had some big shoes to fill as the presidential pet, but has developed his own celebrity status, even if not as extensive as some of his predecessors. Bo has accompanied the first family on presidential vacations including their most recent trip to Martha's Vineyard, the Massachusetts Island where he flew there with his own secret service detail, and was greeted by the locals with a dog parade. Now Sunny will come along for the ride, and experience all the joys and duties of being a first dog.
Presidential pets have played a long role in presidential and political history, having often been the subject of campaign controversies and public relation ploys. These furry friends have also humanized their owners for the public, telling a lot of their personalities, showing sides' presidents would not be able to let loose without their pets. Presidential pets and dogs particularly have been confidents and companions. These pets have captured the hearts of the nation along the way, and most importantly of their presidential owners.
Barack Obama (2009-2017): Bo, born October 9, 2008 and Sunny born in June 2012, both Portuguese Water Dogs.
George W. Bush (2001-2009): Bush brought Spotty (1989-2004), a Springer Spaniel and a puppy of his parent's dog, Millie back to live in the White House. She was named after baseball player Spot Fetcher. Barney (2000-2013), a Scottish Terrier came to the White House as puppy, and was the President's favorite. Ever so the celebrity, when he died this past Feb. 2, 2013 from lymphoma, the media covered the sad event and memorialized his life. Barney was joined Miss Beazley, also a Scottish Terrier born October 28, 2004, and was a gift from the President to his wife First Lady Laura Bush for her birthday. She was introduced on Jan. 6, 2005 to the press on the White House's South Lawn where both dogs played. Both Scottish Terriers have bronze statues dedicated to them in Bush's Presidential Library and Museum. The Bushes also had a cat named India.
Bill Clinton (1993-2001): Buddy (1997-2002), a chocolate brown Labrador Retriever, and the Clintons daughter, Chelsea's cat named Socks (1989-2009). Buddy and Socks did not get along, and after the Clintons left the White House, Socks stayed with the President's secretary Betty Currie. Buddy died after being hit by a car on Jan. 2, 2002 in front of the Clintons' home in Chappaqua, New York.
George H. W. Bush (1989-1993): The Bushs' Springer Spaniels where considered the most loved residents at the White House during President Bush's tenure, and one of the most remembered White House pets. Millie (1985-1997) had a litter of six puppies in the White House, the first family kept one, Ranger in the White House, and gave the rest away to their grown children as pets. Millie was also the author of a book "Millie's Book: As Dictated to Barbara Bush," which reached number one on the New York Times bestseller list, she was the only presidential pet to be credited as an author.
Ronald Reagan (1981-1989): The Reagan's had a number of dogs most them remained at his ranch in Santa Barbara. There were two dogs that were favorites. Lucky (1984-1995), a Bouvier des Flandres, who was big and rambunctious; she stayed only a year at the White House before permanently moving to the ranch. Then, the President gifted one-year old Rex (1984-1998), a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel to First Lady Nancy. Rex was named after the White House Curator Rex Scouten, and made his first appearance at the White House tree lighting ceremony in 1985. The Reagan's other dogs included; Victory, a Golden Retriever; Peggy, an Irish Setter; Taca, a Siberian Husky, and Fuzzy, a Belgian sheepdog.
Jimmy Carter (1977-1981): The Carters had two dogs; Grits, a Border Collie and Lewis Brown, an Afghan Hound. Grits was a present, but was returned. Amy Carter's Siamese cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang was the most remembered pet the Carters had at the White House.
Gerald Ford (1974-1977): Liberty (1974-1984), a Golden Retriever came to the White House as puppy, and who had her own litter of puppies, the Fords kept one of them, Misty. Liberty was often present at presidential meetings, wagging her tail on command to indicate the President wanted the meeting to end. The Ford's daughter, Susan also had a Siamese cat named Shan.
Richard Nixon (1969-1974): As President he had had three dogs at the White House, Vicki, a Poodle; Pasha, a Yorkshire Terrier; and King Timahoe, an Irish Setter, none of them bonded much with Nixon. However, Nixon's most remembered pet was Checkers, (1952-1964) a cocker spaniel. During the 1952 presidential campaign, there were accusations that Nixon then Republican Dwight Eisenhower's vice-presidential candidate had a slush fund he was using for personal reasons, which threatened his candidacy. Nixon gave an impassioned speech on television on Sept. 23, 2012 defending himself telling the nation the only present he received was a cocker spaniel puppy, saying; "It was a little cocker spaniel dog, in a crate that had been sent all the way from Texas -black and white, spotted, and our little girl Tricia, the six-year-old, named it Checkers. And you know, the kids, like all kids, loved the dog, and I just want to say this, right now, that regardless of what they say about it, we are going to keep it." The speech became known as the Checkers speech, and it worked, Nixon remained on the ticket, becoming the Vice President in November 1952.
Lyndon B. Johnson (1963-1969): Johnson is most famously known for picking up one of his Beagle's by the ears, the moment was caught by a press photographer causing a stir among animal lovers, who believed his actions were cruel. However, aside from the President's particular brand of humor, he loved his dogs; which included Him and Her, both Beagles; Edgar and Freckles, Beagles; Blanco, a white Collie and Yuki, a mixed breed stray that the President's daughter Luci found at a Texas gas station, which became a favorite pet of the President's.
John F. Kennedy (1961-1963) The Kennedy family, particularly the President's children, Caroline and John had a menagerie of pets; including ponies, most famously one named Macaroni, hamsters, birds, dogs and cats. The dog's included; Gaullie, a Poodle; Charlie, a Welsh Terrier; Pushinka, a Mutt, that was a gift to Caroline from Soviet Union Premier Nikita Khrushchev, space dog Strelka was her mother. Pushinka and Charlie had puppies; Butterfly, White Tips, Blackie, and Streaker, which the President referred to as "the pupniks." Other dogs included; Shannon, an Irish Cocker Spaniel gifted by the Prime Minister of Ireland; Wolf, a mixed breed, mostly Wolfhound and Schnauzer, and Clipper, a German Shepherd.
Dwight D. Eisenhower (1953-1961): Heidi, a Weimaraner, who spent her time on the White House grounds.
Harry S. Truman (1945-1953): Feller, a Cocker Spaniel, and Mike, an Irish Setter. Feller was a gift that arrived at the White House for Christmas in 1947. Feller did not stay long at the White House, Truman gave the spaniel to his personal physician to keep.
Franklin D. Roosevelt (1933-1945): Fala (1940-1952), "Murray the Outlaw of Falahill," a Scottish Terrier, the President's favorite companion pet, who was immortalized in Roosevelt's Washington memorial, sitting next to his master for eternity. Other dogs included; Majora a German Shepherd, Meggie, a Scottish Terrier; Winks, a Llewellyn Setter; Tiny an Old English Sheepdog; President a Great Dane, and Blaze, a Bullmastiff.
Bonnie K. Goodman is the Editor of the Academic Buzz Network, a series of political, academic & education blogs which includes History Musings: History, News & Politics. She has a BA in History & Art History & a Masters in Library and Information Studies, both from McGill University, and has done graduate work in Jewish history at Concordia University as part of the MA in Judaic Studies program. Her specializations are US, Canadian & Israeli politics.