Biden's dogs bring return of presidential pets to the White House

LIBCATHEY
·4 min read

For the first time in four years, pets are heading back to the White House.

Barking up the same tree as President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, whose campaign boasted several firsts, the soon-to-be first canines are slated to make major history of their own as Major -- the family's second German shepherd -- will be the first-ever shelter dog to live at the White House.

The Biden family adopted 2-year-old Major two years ago from the Delaware Humane Association -- a few months before Biden announced his run for the presidency. They welcomed their first German shepherd, Champ, a month after the 2008 election.

PHOTO: Joe Biden's dogs, Major and Champ, in a photo posted to Joe Biden's Instagram account. (joebiden/Instagram)
PHOTO: Joe Biden's dogs, Major and Champ, in a photo posted to Joe Biden's Instagram account. (joebiden/Instagram)

"I have two German shepherds. One thinks he's Secret Service and he is," Biden said of 12-year-old Champ.

"And the other one is a puppy," he said while campaigning in Iowa last year. "My vet said, 'your shepherd's 12 -years-old. He's getting slow. The best thing to keep him going is get another little puppy.'"

MORE: Presidential Pets: Paws in the White House

The Delaware Humane Association, a no-kill shelter, said Major came from a litter of six German shepherd puppies that "were surrendered and not doing well at all" after being exposed to "something toxic" in a previous home.

"Today is Major’s lucky day!," the humane society wrote on its Facebook page at the time. "Not only did Major find his forever home, but he got adopted by Vice President Joe Biden & Dr. Jill Biden! The Bidens have gotten to know Major while fostering him and are now ready to make the adoption official."

Sunday, just a few days ahead of Biden's Inauguration Day, the Delaware Humane Association was hosting an "indoguration" ceremony via Zoom. Touted as the world's largest virtual party for dogs, it was actually a fundraiser for the association.

"Let's celebrate the first-ever shelter pup to become First Dog and raise $$$ to help more shelter animals like Major live the American Dream," the Facebook post announcing the celebration said.

Champ, a name coined by his grandchildren but also the nickname Biden's father gave him when he was a child, lived at the vice presidential residence at the U.S. Naval Observatory. Months into his first term as the second dog, the family had to replace the off-white carpet at the residence with hardwood floors because of "the occasional puppy accident," a Biden spokeswoman told The Washington Post at the time. She added that he'd "generally been a good dog."

PHOTO: Joe and Jill Biden with their dogs, Major and Champ, in a photo posted to Joe Biden's Instagram account. (joebiden/Instagram)
PHOTO: Joe and Jill Biden with their dogs, Major and Champ, in a photo posted to Joe Biden's Instagram account. (joebiden/Instagram)

Both Champ and Major are frequently featured on the Biden family's social media pages and made several appearances leading up to the election in an appeal to pet-lovers.

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"No ruff days on the trail when I have some Major motivation," Biden wrote alongside a video of Major licking his face.

PHOTO: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and their dog Champ, arrive for a Joining Forces service event at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., May 10, 2012. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: First Lady Michelle Obama and Dr. Jill Biden, wife of Vice President Joe Biden, and their dog Champ, arrive for a Joining Forces service event at the Naval Observatory in Washington, D.C., May 10, 2012. (Saul Loeb/AFP via Getty Images, FILE)

The Biden campaign even launched "Dog Lovers for Joe" with the slogan "Choose your human wisely" and ran on the promise that dogs would return to the people's house.

"Red state or Blue state, we all can agree on the power of dogs," the website said. "It's time we had a dog-lover back in the White House."

Outgoing President Donald Trump, meanwhile, is the first president in more than a century not to have a pet of some kind at the White House. Trump reportedly doesn't like dogs and in February 2019 said he doesn't "have any time" to have a pet and that getting one "feels a little phony."

"How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn?" Trump said at a rally in El Paso, Texas.

MORE: Trump welcomes Conan, hero dog from al-Baghdadi raid, to White House

But with Biden moving into the White House, Major and Champ will be joining an elite list of presidential pets -- some wackier than others.

PHOTO: Joe Biden's dog, Champ, lays down during a Joining Forces service event at the Vice President's residence at the Naval Observatory, May 10, 2012 in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Joe Biden's dog, Champ, lays down during a Joining Forces service event at the Vice President's residence at the Naval Observatory, May 10, 2012 in Washington, D.C. (Win McNamee/Getty Images, FILE)

President Theodore Roosevelt's mongrel terrier Skip was famously dubbed the Teddy Roosevelt Terrier, but he owned dozens of other animals including a one-legged rooster, snakes, guinea pigs and horses.

Many may remember President George W. Bush's Scottish terriers, Barney and Ms. Beazley, who became early online sensations with dogs' eye view videos of the White House complex.

PHOTO: President George W. Bush walks off Air Force One carrying the family pets Barney, right, and Ms. Beazley as he arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 13, 2006. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)
PHOTO: President George W. Bush walks off Air Force One carrying the family pets Barney, right, and Ms. Beazley as he arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., Aug. 13, 2006. (Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images)

President Lyndon B. Johnson's terrier mix, Yuki, was the first stray dog in the White House -- found by his daughter at a Texas gas station. Biden's Major still makes history as the White House's first official rescue dog.

President Barack Obama promised his daughters a dog while they were on the campaign trail -- win or lose. Sen. Ted Kennedy gave them Bo, a Portuguese water dog, a few months after Obama took office and Sunny was added to the family in 2013.

"Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House," Obama said in 2008.

Similarly, Biden had promised his wife Jill Biden he'd wait on getting a German shepherd -- Champ -- until after their winning 2008 campaign.

One of the oddest White House pets was a raccoon later named Rebecca that was sent to President Calvin Coolidge to be served at Thanksgiving dinner. Coolidge pardoned the raccoon instead and adopted it.

PHOTO: First Lady Grace Coolidge shows her pet raccoon to children gathered on the White House grounds for Easter egg rolling, circa 1923. (Library Of Congress via Getty Images)
PHOTO: First Lady Grace Coolidge shows her pet raccoon to children gathered on the White House grounds for Easter egg rolling, circa 1923. (Library Of Congress via Getty Images)

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