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Newseum exhibit features presidential pets

The Newseum in Washington, as part of its new exhibit, “First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Pets,” is letting visitors cast their votes — with money — on what kind of dog the Obamas should get.

The exhibit, which started Nov. 14 and is expected to stay open at least through January’s inauguration,  showcases some of the top dogs who have resided at the White House.

While hundreds of pets have lived at the White House — including parrots, goats, a one-legged rooster, raccoons and cats — dogs have been the most popular pet, from Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier, Fala, to George H.W. Bush’s English springer spaniel, Millie, whose book sold more copies than Bush’s own.

Many presidents had multiple dogs, according to the Newseum. Calvin Coolidge kept 12 dogs and a pair of raccoons and John F. Kennedy, though allergic to dogs, had nine, including one that was a gift from Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev.

More than a few presidents brought other critters with them. President Theodore Roosevelt and his family had a one-legged rooster and a pony named Algonquin that once rode in the White House elevator. President William Howard Taft had a Jersey cow named Pauline.

“Animals have always been a part of White House life,” said Newseum exhibits chief Cathy Trost. “More than 50 dogs have lived at the White House, along with alligators, goats, raccoons, parrots, you name it.”

Visitors are casting votes for what kind of dog the Obamas should get with pennies, quarters and a few dollar bills in a small exhibit on presidential pets at the Newseum, a museum about the news. (The museum, which announced a staff reduction this week, says it will use the cash for educational programs.)

Voters can choose from the American Kennel Club’s top five recommendations for allergy-sensitive breeds — poodle, soft coated wheaten terrier, bichon frise, Chinese crested and miniature schnauzer — along with an unspecified shelter dog, as several animal welfare organizations have recommended.

So far, a shelter dog appears to be the people’s choice, followed by the bichon frise, Trost said.


Comment from Anne-n-Spencer
Time December 1, 2008 at 10:23 am

Well, you certainly picked the most controversial President-and-Dog photograph ever taken. That image of LBJ holding his Beagle up by the ears aroused the ire of dog lovers all over the country. I’m still voting for a shelter adoption, and I hope the Obamas end up with a lovable shelter pooch of no particular breed. If their daughter’s allergies are serious enough to require them to choose from one of the “non-allergenic” types, then we should put on our collective thinking caps and try to put the family in touch with one of the breed-specific rescue groups.