If you're a fan of Lin-Manuel Miranda's massively popular show Hamilton, you're familiar with the line "Martha Washington named her feral tomcat after him"—him being Alexander Hamilton. Broadway pop culture aside, this clever line shows how far back the notion of presidential pets goes.
Fast forward to 2017 and our current White House resident is one of the first in decades not to have a presidential pet. Experts believe that he really needs one—and not just for unconditional companionship.
In a USA Today "Letter to the Editor,"Krissi Barr, author of The Fido Factor: How to Get a Leg Up at Work, suggested this tidbit: "The last occupant of the White House who didn’t have a pet was Andrew Johnson. And he got impeached. "
Of course, a dog doesn't protect a president from impeachment. Richard Nixon made his dog Checkers famous by mentioning him in a televised address. That being said, it's important to note that, according to the Presidential Pet Museum, Checkers, a cocker spaniel, never actually lived at the White House.
But plenty of dogs and cats have been members of the first family and bona fide White House residents. Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Scottish Terrier named Fala was so well known that he's depicted in the FDR Memorial in Washington, DC. According to Bark Post this is the only pet ever to be represented in a presidential memorial.
Here are some of the first pets that became famous because of their owners at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. These are from the three most recent previous presidencies.
Bo and Sunny Obama
Former President Barack Obama famously promised his daughters Sasha and Malia that they could (finally) get a dog if he won the White House. When he did, he had to make good on his promise. In 2009, a Portuguese Water Dog named Bo joined their family. One year the Obama family celebrated Bo's birthday with a doggie birthday party. A few years later Sunny, also a Portuguese Water Dog, joined the family. This Washington Post article talks about the fan letters these dogs have received from dog-loving American children.
Barney and Miss Beazley Bush
During the George W. Bush White House, the original four-legged resident was Barney, a Scottish terrier. It was common to see Barney sprinting around the White House grounds. In 2004, a second Scottish terrier joined the family—Miss Beazley. The dogs even have a place of honor on the George W. Bush Presidential Library's website. Though the Bush family no longer lives in Washington, DC, they continue to add dogs to their family—most recently in 2016.
Buddy and Socks Clinton
A rivalry for the ages. That's how some people described the relationship between first pets Socks (the cat) and Buddy (the dog) during the Bill Clinton presidency. Socks was a family member first and did not like it when Buddy came along in 1997. However, the pets were eventually able to put their differences aside and come together for a good cause. In 1998, along with then First Lady Hillary Clinton, the pets "wrote" a book called Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets. Any money from book sales went to charity.