Teddy Roosevelt’s Dogs
When Vice President Teddy Roosevelt (1858-1919) assumed the presidency after William McKinley (1843-1901) died of a gunshot wound sustained in Buffalo, New York in 1901, life at the White House underwent quite a change. McKinley and his wife, Ida, had lived quietly at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue with their parrot and a cat. They were childless, having lost two daughters when the children were young.
When Teddy and Edith Roosevelt arrived in Washington with six children and a host of animals, the residence was anything but quiet. They filled the White House with life and laughter.
The Roosevelt dogs included Rollo, a friendly St. Bernard, Sailor Boy, a Chesapeake retriever, and Manchu, a black Pekingese given to daughter Alice by the last empress of China.
Blackjack was a Manchester terrier who had the misfortune of being terrified of the family cat, Tom Quartz. The cat tormented Jack by chasing him away whenever the dog came near.
Pete, a bull terrier, was finally exiled from the White House for having nipped too many visitors’ ankles. The dog used up his last chance when he ripped the pants of the French ambassador. Off to Sagamore Hill he went.Edith Roosevelt favored mixed breeds, and the first lady had a mongrel named Tip, followed by one named Mutt.
The Roosevelt family also had many other pets. At one point there was a small bear named Jonathan Edwards, a lizard named Bill, a macaw named Eli Yale, a pig named Maude, snakes, a one-legged rooster, and a pony named Algonquin.
When son Archie was sick, his brothers wanted to cheer him up so they helped Algonquin get into the White House elevator and took him up to Archie’s room. The children were delighted. The adults, with the exception of TR, were likely less so.
The president’s favorite dog was Skip, a small mutt (possibly a rat terrier) that Roosevelt found when he was on a bear hunt in the Grand Canyon. Roosevelt reported that Skip could stand his ground against anything–something Roosevelt felt he often had to do himself when facing Congress.
Skip was also a popular playmate of Archie’s. When Archie was 7, he invented a game that involved racing Skip down the polished hallways of the White House. As Roosevelt described it, Archie would place Skip between his legs and bend over holding on to the dog. Then he would count, “On your mark, Skip, ready! Go!”
And Archie gave Skip a bit of a backward shove as he propelled himself forward to run quickly down the hall. Skip would skitter on the smooth hardwood floors trying to get his footing to chase after Archie. Skip lost every time but it didn’t seem to dampen his enthusiasm to play the game again and again.
When the children had gone to bed, Skip had one more task. Roosevelt often read after dinner, so Skip would find the president and hop onto his lap for a nap.
Roosevelt was known to have said that perhaps no family enjoyed the White House more than they did. He’s probably right.