Sixty-seven percent of U.S households, about 85 million families, own a pet. Love for our furry friends transcends all boundaries, whether political, geographic, religious, or racial. However, despite our country’s overwhelming love of pets, President Trump is the first president since James K. Polk (our 11th president) to not own a White House pet.
There is a long history of presidential pets. Historians speculate that before automobiles and cars, Millard Fillmore (the 13th president) had two ponies. Franklin Pierce (14th) was gifted two dogs and two birds from Japan following the Perry Expedition. President Andrew Johnson (17th) fed white mice he found in his bedroom. Then, when the domesticated dogs and cats we know today became the norm, every sitting president since William McKinley has had a dog. While in office, Bill Clinton had a chocolate Labrador named Buddy and a cat named Socks. George W. Bush had three dogs, a cat, and a Longhorn cow named Ofelia (who didn’t live in the White House). President Obama’s eldest daughter Malia is allergic to animal fur, so they got two hypoallergenic Portuguese Water Dogs named Bo and Sunny.
As with many things, Trump is the exception. He has no pets. When Antonia Noori from The Washington Post delved into this idea and asked Trump why, he responded: “I don’t have any time.” This isn’t for lack of trying. Many supporters and fans have attempted to gift Trump a pet to no avail. A month after Trump was first elected, Lois Pope, a philanthropist in Palm Beach, Fla., tried to give him an adorable Goldendoodle named Patton. “It goes with the Presidency,” Pope explained. She also said that she’d shown Patton’s photo to Barron Trump, then 10, and the picture had brought tears to the boy’s eyes. But that was more than two years ago, and Trump remains dog-less.
The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker astutely noted that Trump has a history of comparing people he perceives as enemies to dogs, often accusing them of behavior not customarily associated with canines.
Historically the first dog has helped win the hearts and minds of voters. Some Americans can even tell you dozens of presidential pets right down to the breed. As the presidential election nears, the Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden and his wife, Dr. Jill Biden, adopted a ten-month-old German Shepherd from the Delaware Humane Association (DHA) in November 2018, after fostering him for several months. The pup’s name is Major. DHA posted about the lucky dog on their Facebook page as the Bidens took him to his new “forever home.” The Internet went ablaze.
As a lifelong pet owner, I think it is fascinating that Trump is the first president in 171 years without a White House pet. On a practical level, I wonder if he would get a marginal bump in the polls by adopting a pet. I guess it’s just another thing that makes Trump unique.