Presidents love their pets, and over the years the American public has taken to them pretty well, too. Few could resist the charms of Socks the cat (Bill Clinton), or of Millie, the spirited springer spaniel (George H.W.Bush and his wife, Barbara) who memorably cavorted across the White House lawn with her litter of six puppies (she was also the only First Pet to write her own book). In 2009, when the newly installed Obama family was in search of a canine companion, millions followed the selection of Bo, the six-month-old Portugese water dog, given as a gift to Malia and Sasha Obama by Senator Edward M. Kennedy and his wife, Victoria, in 2009.
But pets have also played a role in presidential politics. Like so many other animals before her (think Fala; think Checkers), Millie, the Bush dog, was evoked in a speech in 1992 during the contentious presidential election season. President George H. W. Bush famously declared that “my dog Millie knows more about foreign affairs than these two bozos.” (He was referring to his opponents, Bill Clinton and Al Gore.)