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Pets at the White House: 50 Years of Presidents and Their Pets Hardcover – September 1, 2012
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Although her account officially starts with the Kennedy years, Pickens also provides background details on the animals kept by earlier presidents, from Washington’s donkeys to Zachary Taylor’s horse, which was often spotted grazing on the White House lawn. From President Taft’s cow, Pauline Wayne, to Tad Lincoln’s turkey, forerunner of the annual Thanksgiving pardoned turkey, seemingly no animal has been overlooked. Pickens shares both legends and documented tales of an astounding variety of animals that have made their homes with our nation’s First Families. She reveals details about pets whose presence helped humanize presidential hopefuls and ensure election, and those whose constant companionship became part of their owners’ public images.
“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” President Truman famously commented. Pickens agrees. Her theory that “Animals have played a role in forming perceptions of the character and personalities of our Presidents” is supported by both the stories and the photographs she includes in her book. The Kennedy family’s “menagerie of animals, ranging from dogs, cats, birds, and hamsters to ponies, parakeets, ducks, and more,” for instance, is iconic. Few who remember the early 1960s are unfamiliar with photos of Caroline sitting atop her pony, Macaroni. Perhaps less familiar are the Kennedy’s dogs and Jacqueline Kennedy’s essay contest, the winners of which received puppies from a litter those dogs produced. Similar tales about other First Families provide more charming and warm-hearted particulars that reveal the often hidden personalities of the many famous people who have occupied the White House.
That the Nixon family’s poodle ate some of the fish from Lady Bird Johnson’s small goldfish pond or that the Ford family’s cat did not like Henry Kissinger are not matters of great national import, but they certainly are entertaining details, and readers are invited to draw their own conclusions about their significance. Whether President Reagan’s Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Rex, was the political asset some claim, “helping him dodge questions from the press,” does not even matter. The fact that Rex reacted to the rumored ghost in the Lincoln Bedroom and received substantial fan mail from the public is far more telling.
George and Barbara Bush’s dog Millie wrote her own book and raised more than a million dollars for literacy causes, and the Clinton’s cat Socks not only had his own books, but also starred on the White House’s web page. No one believes that either Millie or Socks actually wrote anything, yet people relate to the famous pets much as they do to their own less-celebrated special friends. America is a pet-friendly nation whose citizens seem to expect their leaders to share their love of animals.
Pickens has created a delightful book. Its photos, many taken by White House staff photographers, are wonderful, and the accompanying text, although brief, is revelatory and entertaining. Pets at the White House is sure to be enjoyed by America’s millions of pet lovers and appreciated by those who follow the the lives of the nation’s First Families.
--Cheryl Hibbard, Clarion ForeWord Reviews
About the Author
Jennifer Boswell Pickens is a White House social expert, speaker, and event planner. She has personally interviewed dozens of White House insiders, including First Families, social secretaries, chiefs of staff, presidential aides, and White House Executive Residence staff. Her first book, holiday top-seller Christmas at the White House, was the first to fully and accurately document the lavish public and private Christmas decorations, celebrations, themes, traditions, and memories of more than 50 years of First Families. And, like its predecessor, Pets at the White House includes intimate contributions from living former First Families. An accomplished historian, Pickens has served on the Texas Historical Records Advisory Board, Friends of the SMU Library, and on other civic and prominent boards.
Top Customer Reviews
Did you know that one first lady had a pet raccoon? Bet you didn't. You will have to read this book in order to find out who had this unusual pet. Clearly dogs were the most popular pet, but do you know what breed seemed to be the most popular among all the commander in chiefs?
Again, thanks to netgalley.com and Fife and Drum Press for the advanced copy.
I received a free digital download of this book for review from Net Galley and Fife and Drum Press - thank you!
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Wonderful pictures and an enjoyable read. It is a fun look at the White House pets a part of the first family.Published 20 months ago by Plant Lady
I love it because It is a perfect coffee table book.. Everyone looks at it and some read it others just look at the pictures. My grandchildren love it too!!! Read morePublished on September 26, 2013 by Elizabeth Bridgwater
Purchased for my mother as a Christmas gift and she thoroughly enjoyed the stories about pets in the White House.Published on April 24, 2013 by Cherrypie
I bought this book for my ten year old granddaughter for Christmas. She loved it and the whole family enjoyed reading the book and looking at the pictures. Read morePublished on March 26, 2013 by cptglo
What a cute and fun book! The pictures are great, and the stories amusing and amazing! The book really humanizes the presidents, showing their genuine love for their lucky dogs!Published on February 16, 2013 by D. Skelly
For those who want a interesting fun book to read this is it!
Some wonderful stories and pictures. One of those books to look at time and time again....
I gave this book to my son in low . I think that I am going to order one for myself .Published on February 1, 2013 by Kinga Zamecki
A lovely coffee table book ! Lots of wonderful pictures also.
Great tales are told about the various Presidents and their pets
including a cat "socks" ! Read more
Guests are drawn to it when they see the title and flip through the pages. Nice book. Good sale and great product!Published on January 21, 2013 by M. Olson