All-American Dogs: A History of Presidential Pets from Every Era

Dey Street. Aug. 2022. 288p. ISBN 9780063158276. $23.99. PETS
Hager, historian-in-residence at the currently closed Presidential Pet Museum, is uniquely qualified to write this chronologically arranged book. There is scant information documenting dogs and other pets owned by the earliest U.S. presidents. Dogs were historically valued for the work they provided and not as pets. In the 1900s, that view shifted dramatically as more and more politicians publicly showed their dogs to influence their appeal to constituents. Fala, Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Scottish terrier, was incredibly popular, while Lyndon B. Johnson was excoriated by the press when he lifted his beagle, Him, up by his ears for an infamous photo. Books have even been presented as having been written by the pets themselves; take, for example, Millie’s Book, “authored” by the English springer spaniel owned by Barbara Bush, or Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids’ Letters to the First Pets about the tuxedo cat and chocolate lab owned by the Clintons. Some dogs, like Major, President Biden’s German shepherd rescue dog, were remembered for their destructive behavior and biting staff and visitors.
VERDICT This brief book is more of a curiosity than a detailed study. Although it may have a limited audience, it is an enjoyable and timely addition to comprehensive collections.
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