The three-part series “Wonder Of Dogs” examines the roles that dogs play in human society, and how these roles have evolved and changed in strange, exciting and unexpected ways.
President Harry Truman is widely thought to have said “if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.” A sarcastic comment on the cutthroat nature of federal politics, it’s nevertheless become a presidential tradition to adopt or bring along a national dog raise a dog in the White House. The tradition may be customarily American, but many leaders also seek companionship in the company of a canine.
To a dog, an owner with high status mostly just means more room to play. But occasionally, these dogs themselves have become political celebrities.
Here are some of the most famous and influential political pups of all time:
Herbert Hoover’s Belgian Shepard, King Tut
Herbert Hoover was a career Washington bureaucrat, having served as The Secretary of Commerce and the Wartime Food Administrator during World War I among other appointments. But before his 1928 presidential campaign, Hoover hadn’t ever run for public office, and didn’t have some of the populist ease that can convince voters of a candidate’s humility and approachability. According to the White House Historical Association, in searching for ways to help change Hoover’s image, his campaign advisors noticed that he “appeared uncharacteristically amiable in a portrait with his Belgian police dog, King Tut.” So the team circulated thousands of copies of the image which the New York Times noted was “one of the happiest pictures ever made” of Hoover. King Tut even made a second career after Hoover’s win as a White House guard dog.
President Roosevelt’s Scottish Terrier Fala
Although the debate rages on, Fala is arguably one of the most politicized dogs in presidential history. The Scottish Terrier, who starred in films and even had his own White House Press Secretary to answer thousands of fan letters, Fala is most known for the stir he caused during World War II. On a trip to the Aleutian Islands in 1944, a rumor was spread that Fala was missing, and that the Navy had dispatched a ship to go and find him. When news reached congressional Republicans, they asserted that Roosevelt was spending federal combat money irresponsibly. In his now infamous Fala speech, Roosevelt addressed the claims: “Well, of course, I don’t resent attacks, and my family doesn’t resent attacks, but Fala does resent them.”
Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King’s Dog(s) Pat
You can learn a lot from your dog. At least, that’s what Canadian Prime Minister Mackenzie King attested during a 1944 speech in which he expressed his love for his dog Pat: “If I have been true to some of the great causes that I have sought to remain true to, it’s been the example that little fellow has helped in many, many ways.” It’s unclear in the speech which dog he’s referring to, as the Prime Minister owned three successive dogs, each named Pat.
Queen Elizabeth’s Corgis
It’s impossible to omit the royal corgis from the list of political power pups. Queen Elizabeth has owned a number of corgis and “dorgis” (dachshund-corgi mixes) throughout her rein, and although the monarchy doesn’t exercise real governing power anymore, this doesn’t stop the corgis from enjoying the perks of the executive lifestyle, with their own room at Buckingham Palace and quality dinners prepared by a gourmet chef. They’re also the only dogs on the list that have appeared onscreen with James Bond.
Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzon’s German Shephard
Have concerns about your dog’s health ever held you back from accepting a new job? Then there’s at least one person in the world who can probably identify with you. In early March, Colombian Vice President Angelino Garzon turned down the opportunity to become ambassador to Brazil because his dog is “very hairy and the hot climate of Brasilia could harm its health.” Considering Garzon’s status within the government, this resulted in a serious political embarrassment for Columbia, with whom Brazil is a major trading partner. But the dog’s probably happy.
King Bhumibol Adulyadej’s dog Thongdaeng
The longest serving monarch in the world, Thailand’s Bhumibol Adulyadej took time off from his ceremonial and legitimate governing duties in the early 2000‘s to document the life of his dog Thongdaeng. The former street dog became the subject of a best-selling book, with over 100,000 copies sold (no small feat, even in 2002).
Don’t forget to tune in to “Wonder Of Dogs” tomorrow at 10p!