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Norwich Bulletin - 3/1/2009

The Truth About Presidents and Their Pets - Part Two

There are stories that start out great but the ending leaves a bit to be desired. We all know about Socks, the Clinton’s tuxedo cat. He was found by Chelsea as a small kitten playing outside while taking her piano lessons. Chelsea went outside to see the baby and he jumped into her arms.

That was it, Chelsea was hooked and would not even consider letting the kitten go, and she brought it home to the Governor’s Mansion. Socks was adopted by the Clintons and they brought him to Washington. Socks was a national sensation, receiving tons of letters from the general public. He was a celebrity and a cherished pet at the White House.

And then the Clintons decided to add a new member of the family. Buddy, the Golden Retriever, came to live in the White House and Socks did not like him. Perhaps he was not introduced to Buddy properly and he was expected to immediately accept the dog, but that did not happen. Socks would hide and wait for the dog to walk buy and then jump out and take a swipe at him. Hillary repaid Socks for his years of loyalty by having him declawed. And if that wasn’t enough, to add insult to injury, as soon as the Clintons’ presidency ended, they got rid of Socks. Socks lives with a family friend in southern Maryland. Jeers to the Clintons for getting rid of their first pet to make room for the dog!

But “using” pets is bi-partisan so let’s talk about Earnest. Our former president, George W. Bush is also a pet owner. He has owned three cats since the beginning of his public life as the Governor of Texas. When their beloved cat India died, there was a White House press release eulogizing the cat and hailing the Bush family for their affection for their pets.

And the Bushes truly did mourn for this cat. However, there was a second cat that is not talked about. As Governor of Texas, the Bushes had a polydactyl stray that the President found in a tree, and they called him Earnie. With the process of a presidential campaign looming ahead, Bush brought Earnie into the house and began using his love for this stray in a lot of his political propaganda. Earnie, the stray was a beloved as the elite black American Shorthair, India.

Bush made comments, such as sometimes you find yourself up a tree but if you just hang in there and never give up, things will get better for you, just like they did for Earnie. And things were better – until the election was over. When the Bush family moved into the White House, they were short one member. They decided that the stray that was good enough for the campaign, was not good enough for the White House.

Instead, he was shipped out to California to live with one of their friends. Earnie ran away and took to the streets of Los Angeles – his life was no longer better. He was eventually found and brought back to the Freeman family. He is alive and well today, but not because of anything the Bushes did or did not do. Jeers to President Bush for his treatment of a stray named Earnie.

Pets have also been used as political ploys throughout the years. For instance, Herbert Hoover opened his home to a German Shepherd named King Tut because an advisor thought the dog would make Hoover more popular with the public. And when Lyndon Johnson’s picture of him holding his dogs by the ears came out, the Republicans in Congress immediately used it to help damage Johnson’s political career. Jeers to both of these presidents for using their animals.

All the Presidents have their animal stories – some good, some bad. But there is no doubt that presidential pets humanize their owners to all of us and have probably helped reduce the stress for the commander in chief. After all, who listens better than your own animal companions? They certainly don’t care about our politics or whether the budget can be balanced. They just enjoy being at the foot of the President’s bed, or curled up on a presidential lap in the Oval Office.

Here’s hoping that President Obama’s animal stories will be in our cheers column one day.

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