Typically I try to stay away from politics in my blogs, especially in these divisive times. This story however, is only political in that it is about pets that have occupied the White House over the years and includes First Families from both sides of the aisle.
President Joe Biden’s two German shepherds, Major and Champ, will be the first pets in the White House since President Obama left office four years ago. In fact, Donald Trump was the first President in 100 years to not have a pet while in office. Major Biden also has the distinction of being the first White House pet adopted from a shelter (Delaware Humane Association).
Preparing the White House for furry residents presents a number of logistical challenges especially when considering the size of the building (55,000-square-feet) and the number of priceless art and artifacts contained within. Needless to say, the executive mansion has seen its fair share of pet accidents over the years. The Eisenhower’s’ Weimaraner, Heidi, had an accident on a $20,000 ($181,000 in today’s dollars) rug in the Diplomatic Reception Room. In 1965, Lyndon B. Johnson’s white collie, Blanco, peed on the Alexander Calder sculpture “Whale II,” while on loan to the White House from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. In her memoir, “Becoming,” Michelle Obama wrote that her dog Sunny “seemed to see no point in being house-trained, given how big her new house was.”
Champ and Major are being prepared for life in the White House by their trainer Mark Tobin. Firstly, the dogs won’t join the Bidens until their second week in the White House in order to allow things to settle a bit with the new administration. Mr. Tobin suggests that the Bidens first walk their dogs on leash around the 16-room family residence a few rooms at a time, slowly progressing through the 132-room building. He also suggests the Biden’s designate one room exclusively for the dogs, creating a safe space when they are not with the First Family. For more information on White House pets, please check out “Dog Days at the White House: The Outrageous Memoirs of the Presidential Kennel Keeper,” by Traphes L. Bryant.
This article was adapted from a story in The Wall Street Journal by author Candace Taylor titled “Hail to the First Dogs.”