Founding Fidos – dogs of the American Revolution
We’re looking forward to celebrating the 120th anniversary of the birth of the nation this Fourth of July – how quickly time has passed since the Bicentennial year of 1976! Since we’re veterinarians, this seems like a good time to recognize the Founding Fidos – the pets of the Founders who led the United States through the Revolution and beyond.
The first settlers brought farm animals, of course, but also dogs and cats as pets, which they called “favorites”. In addition, colonials made pets out of the wild animals they encountered in North America, including raccoons, deer and squirrels – even beavers.
George Washington raised hounds (he was father of American Foxhounds as well as the country). After the battle of Germantown, his men found a hound whose collar identified him as belonging to General Howe, a British officer. Despite being at war with England, Washington instructed that the dog be cleaned and fed and returned to his owner – dog lover to dog lover.
Abigail Adams brought the first pets to the White House, her horse Cleopatra and two mixed breed dogs named Juno and Satan. She wrote to her granddaughter: “If you love me … you must love my dog.”
A portrait of William Penn with his Great Dane hangs in the state capital building in Harrisburg; in 1965, Pennsylvania declared them the official state dog.
Briards won the heart of Thomas Jefferson, who was bought a pregnant bitch in France, while he was the minister to that country. Bergère (or Buzzy) whelped two pups on the trip back to America and jump started his breeding program.
Ben Franklin’s son, during his time in France as ambassador, kept a large Newfoundland that was much remarked upon. It’s still hard to ignore them!
Samuel Adams also kept a large Newfoundland named Queue, who displayed his revolutionary fervor by attacking anyone wearing a British uniform. He survived many counter-attacks from disconcerted Redcoats.
The first house cats living at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue were reported to have belonged to Abraham Lincoln; they were named Tabby and Dixie. He once remarked that Dixie was “…smarter than my whole cabinet.” Who knows – Dixie could be the subject for Doris Kearns Goodwin’s next book!
Have a very happy 4th with your pets!