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Congressional Critters

Updated: Feb 18, 2021

by GABRIEL MINICHIELLO - February 15, 2021 - Why some Presidential Pets are better than others objectively.

graphic by PAIGE KUPER

It is no surprise to the reader that politics are a very divisive subject of human enterprise, especially lately, and for that reason, I offer them my respect. In this sense, acceptable criteria must be established in order to accurately judge any item in the political sphere. Diving deep into the true issue that divides us as Americans -- the pets that our past presidents have held so dearly-is what truly matters. This tier list will be based upon my personal criteria, as animals from different presidencies hold very few universal similarities or differences.

Understandably, no two pets are exactly the same, but crucially, I, as a critic, do not care. There are certain bridges one must burn in order to make the truth known, and their sacrifices are a risk that I am willing to take. Nevertheless, let us begin the tier list.

Number 10: President Woodrow Wilson: Old Ike, the Tobacco Chewing Ram (sheep)

Woodrow Wilson never struck me as a keep-a-whole-herd-of-sheep-grazing-at-the-White-House type of guy, but nevertheless, he was. Wilson kept this herd of White House sheep in order to help the war effort of World War I, as the sheep would take care of the White House Lawn while the gardeners were at war. Old Ike was the ram in charge of this group, and for whatever reason, he liked chewing tobacco. He apparently had a penchant for being mean to guests and would steal old cigar butts from off the ground to chew. Old Ike is number 10 on my list because he was quite a character, but I show no compassion towards Big Tobacco.

Number 9: President Jimmy Carter: Grits (Border Collie dog)

It is a very presidential thing indeed to name one’s pet after food, but then again I may or may not be very hungry while writing this. Grits was Carter’s border collie while he was in office, and the dog was a very capable companion to President Carter’s daughter, Amy. For this reason, Grits is number 9 on this list, as he was nicer than Old Ike, and overall was a very good boy.

Number 8: President Benjamin Henry Harrison: Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection (Opossums)

Where do I begin with these two? In truth, I have never seen a “possum,” nor do I believe they should “live” with other people, but apparently President Harrison did. Their names come from the old Republican Party platform, where Reciprocity and Protection were key elements in past policy-making. In truth, the names of these marsupials are what keep me coming back to them, and for that reason, these distinguished gentlemen are number 8 on my list.

Number 7: President John F. Kennedy: Leprechaun (Pony)

It is a little known fact that Leprechauns are used to guard the gold at Fort Knox, but you didn’t hear that from me. This Leprechaun, however, had four hooves and a horse-like demeanor (because he was a horse), and was all around a great member of the Kennedy family. Most of my liking towards him is because he occupied some of his time at the Kennedy home on Rattlesnake Mountain, which sounds more intense than it needs to be. For that reason, Leprechaun, the pony of Rattlesnake Mountain, receives number 7 on my list.

Number 6: President Calvin Coolidge: Rebecca (Raccoon)

As we now approach number 6, the contestants become more enamored in their own legends and mythologies. In actuality, Rebecca was a raccoon that was sent to the White House to be eaten for Thanksgiving but was spared by Coolidge himself. I am not lying. She was kept in a bathtub and would drape herself around Coolidge and his wife like a cat. I cannot begin to express my reverence for this animal, as she would also claw her way up visitors' legs and ruin silk upholstery. Sometimes I feel that raccoons have it better than the rest of us, but nevertheless, Rebecca obtains number 6 on my tier list.

Number 5: President Henry Hoover: Eaglehurst Gillette (Gordon Setter dog)

The further this list continues, the more creative these Presidents get, and the more my sanity wanes. Eaglehurst Gillette was a Gordon Setter from Hoover’s administration that had a reputation somewhat like my grandfather in the sense that he acted like an old man. Gillette was eventually given to a friend of the Hoovers, as his incessant barking broke Hoover’s concentration towards not fixing the Great Depression. For these reasons, Eaglehurst Gillette obtains number 5 on my list.

Number 4: President Lyndon B. Johnson - Him/Her (Beagle dogs)

The next entry on this list comes from the administration of President Lyndon B. Johnson. Johnson, not particularly known as a creative man, kept Him and Her as pets during his term as president. The beagles’ father, named “Beagle” by Johnson, was kept as a pet when Johnson was vice president. Understandably, Johnson brought his terrible naming ability with him when he was sworn in as president, as evidenced by these two animals. In all, Him and Her make it to Number 4 on the list, simply because I have great pity for them.

Number 3: President William McKinnley - Washington Post (Mexican double-yellow parrot)

Nothing says democracy like keeping the press figuratively in a cage. Washington Post, however, was one of McKinnley’s favorite pets, and the former president even gave the animal the formal position of White House Greeter. Washington Post could also whistle “Yankee Doodle Dandy'' and was popular with the ladies because he would compliment them if they walked by his cage. The reader will note that I am in awe of this bird, and I believe that his personality alone is Number 3 material.

Number 2: President Harry S. Truman - Feller, the Unwanted Dog (Cocker Spaniel dog)

It is very obvious that former President Harry S. Truman was not a fan of dogs. Feller was given to him by a woman from his home state of Missouri, but Truman would later give the poor dog away to his physician. Remarkably, Feller holds a terribly sad story and an even more unfortunate name. He obtains number 2 on my list primarily because I cannot believe this was a historical event. Poor Feller.

Number 1: John Quincy Adams - The Bathtub Alligator (Alligator)

Drum roll, please. The most well regarded and interesting presidential pet of all time is … John Quincy Adams’ Bathtub Alligator. Apparently, if you are the Marquis de Lafayette in 1824 and you are traveling to the White House, you bring a housewarming alligator for the standing president. I am not kidding when I reveal to you, the audience, that the leader of the United States in 1824 kept an alligator in the unfinished bathroom of the White House’s East Wing. Adams would show off the alligator to unsuspecting guests, and the Alligator would for some reason just play along. For this legendary image, The Bathtub Alligator will remain number 1 in my heart, and number 1 as the best Presidential Pet of all time.

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