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A Cinderella story: Joe Biden’s shelter dog is going to the White House

By Tanya Lara Published Nov 11, 2020 6:28 am

You know a true-blue dog lover when you see one. On National Cat Day on Oct. 29, US President-elect Joe Biden posted a photo of himself on Instagram…with a DOG.

To be fair, he used the day to raise a very important issue raging in the United States—the need to bring back pets to the White House.

“Some Americans celebrate #NationalCatDay, some celebrate #NationalDogDay—President Trump celebrates neither. It says a lot,” Biden wrote in his post. “It’s time to bring a pet back to the White House!”

As someone who grew up with dogs and spent a considerable time of her adult life scooping dog poop, I agree with Biden a hundred percent.

It is very telling that Donald Trump has no pets. Early in his presidency he was mistakenly thought to have a dog, which was in the “hospital.” No pictures of the dog surfaced—just like his tax returns, which he said in 2016 were being audited.

US President-elect Joe Biden brings home Major from the Delaware Humane Association in November 2019. Photo from TMZ
Jill Biden with Major (left) and Champ (right) Photo from Twitter @DrBiden
Then Vice President Joe Biden with the puppy Champ, 2009

Apparently, Trump didn’t pay attention to the saying, “ If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” Trump is the first US president in 150 years to not have a pet during his time in the White House.

President-elect Biden and wife Jill Biden are certified dog lovers with Mrs. Biden often posting photos of their two German shepherds on Twitter when she was stumping for her husband.

“I miss my boys,” she wrote on Twitter with a picture of the two dogs back in Wilmington, Delaware.

Major is a former shelter dog that the Bidens adopted from the Delaware Humane Association, “two years after initially fostering him,” according to the Humane Rescue.

Big dogs, along with certain breeds like Pitbulls, stay longer in shelters because they have a harder time finding forever homes compared to smaller dogs.

President Barack Obama’s Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny. Photo by Pete Souza 
First Lady Michelle Obama with Bo at a children’s hospital Christmas reading.
First Lady Laura Bush with Barney and Miss Beazely

And now this gentle giant is heading to the White House! As DOTUS (Dogs of the United States), he and his brother Champ will have hoomans around them 24/7—to walk them, feed them, play with them, and most importantly to boop them.

“A number of news outlets have reported that Major will be the first rescue dog to live in the White House, but the more appropriate title appears to be first shelter dog. (President Lyndon B. Johnson’s terrier mix, Yuki, was a rescue—found by daughter Luci at a Texas gas station before being gifted to the president),” according to the Washington Post.

Major’s big brother is Champ, who is 12 years old. He’s been with the family since he was a puppy and shortly before Biden was elected vice president.

Getting a German shepherd was a promise Jill Biden made to her husband once the campaign was over in 2008.

"I've had German shepherds since I was a kid and I've actually trained them and shown them in the past," then Vice President Biden told ABC in 2008.

First Lady Barbara Bush with English springer spaniel Millie and her litter
President George HW Bush and Barbara Bush

It was Biden’s grandchildren who named the puppy “Champ” when they were visiting at Christmas.

It’s also a nickname Biden’s own father used to call him. "Any time you get knocked down, champ — get up!" his father would tell him.

Past POTUS, FLOTUS and their DOTUS

Unlike Washington politicians, White House pets have the ability to be bipartisan—at least judging from the huge fan base they develop.

When the Obamas were leaving the White House, fans of Bo and Sunny were saddened that they would no longer see the two Portuguese water dogs on the White House lawn or Christmas cards.

President Bill Clinton and his chocolate Labrador retriever Buddy 
President George W. Bush with Scottish terriers Barney and Miss Beazely
President Barack Obama plays with puppy Bo. Photo by Pete Souza

Thanks to Obama White House photographer Pete Souza (who is the best at throwing shade at Trump on Instagram), Bo and Sunny were the most photographed DOTUS.

As Malia and Sasha Obama grew up in the public eye—so did Bo and Sunny. (The older Bo was a campaign promise by President Obama to his daughters.)

One video I particularly enjoyed watching was of First Lady Michelle Obama at her Christmas reading at the National Children’s Medical Center, when Bo jumped on her lap as soon as she sat down in front of the kids.

“This is exactly what he does at home. He tries to beat Malia and Sasha to my lap,” she said, calling Bo “the big baby in the room.” (Watch video here.)

President Ronald Reagan and Lucky, a Bouvier des Flandres 
Reagan and Rex, a King Charles spaniel

Before the Portuguese water dogs, there were Scottish terriers in command of the White House lawn. President George W. Bush and Laura Bush had Barney and Miss Beazely, and India the cat. (President Franklin Roosevelt also had a Scottish terrier named Fala.)

Seventy-five days before George W. left the house, Barney bit Reuters reporter Jon Decker on his index finger. (The reporter was treated by the White House medical staff.) It seemed not too long ago when the Bushes introduced their new dog Miss Beazely to the White House press corps. (Watch here.)

The Clintons had two pets—Socks the cat and Buddy the chocolate Labrador retriever. Unfortunately, they didn’t get along very well.

It was reported that President Bill Clinton’s daughter Chelsea, then a teenager, preferred Socks, and the President preferred Buddy.

When the Clintons left the White House and moved into their smaller, private home in New York, the Clintons left Socks in the care of the former president’s secretary Betty Curie.

President Gerald Ford, First Lady Betty Ford and daughter Susan with Liberty and her litter.
President Richard Nixon had three dogs when he was in the White House.
President Jimmy Carter with Grits, named in honor of Carter’s southern roots
Amy Carter with Grits

President George H.W. Bush and Barbara Bush had an English springer spaniels named Millie and Ranger. The latter was Bush’s favorite, according to the Presidential Pet Museum. President Bush also said once, “The other day our dog Ranger appeared at a press conference, and he was called Millie [by reporters]. He’s a strong male dog here, as you can see, and his feelings were slightly hurt.”

When he was running for reelection against Bill Clinton, Bush Sr. said, “Millie knows more about foreign affairs than these two bozos,” referring to Clinton and his running mate Al Gore.

Many years later, Bush and Clinton became very good friends. Clinton would often jokingly refer to Bush Sr. as “dad” and to Barbara as “mom,” as he did during the dedication of George W.’s Presidential Library.

Buddy and Socks unfortunately didn’t get along in the Clinton White House
Two former presidents and a service dog: George H.W, Bush, Bill Clinton and Sully

When Bush Sr. became frail, he was given a service dog, a Labrador retriever called Sully. In one of his visits to Bush the three of them are pictured together: two former presidents and a loyal service dog. (Watch Sully say say goodbye to his master at Bush Sr.’s funeral here.)

In the Reagan years, the top dogs were Rex, a King Charles spaniel, and Lucky, a Bouvier des Flandres, whom First Lady Nancy Reagan described as a “ball of fluff, the size of a pony.”

President Jimmy Carter had Grits, a gift from his daughter’s Amy’s teacher. According to the Presidential Pet Museum, the dog was born on the same day Jimmy Carter won the presidential election and named Grits in honor of the Carter family’s Southern roots.

There are so many more presidential pets in US history, as colorful as the presidents occupying the White House—and we haven’t even touched on the Nixon years (he had three dogs, by the way).

Banner photo from Joe Biden’s Instagram
Photos from the Presidential Pet Museum