Hamilton Journal News

Some White House pets had feathers

- Karin Spicer

As Jan. 20 ushered in a new presidenti­al administra­tion, the White House once again became the home of furry creatures. Two German Shepherds, Champ and Major, moved in with the Biden family.

According to the White House Historical Associatio­n, animals of all persuasion­s, from goats and squirrels to cows, have long been a major part of life at the White House.

I started writing about other dogs that called the White House home, but the more I read about the White House menagerie, one group of pets stood out.


I’ve always enjoyed watching birds, both the indoor and outdoor varieties. As children, my sister, Beth, and I both had parakeets. One died. The other was stolen by our paternal grandmothe­r.

My green parakeet was Petey and Beth’s blue parakeet was Herkee. I named mine Petey because I loved the stories of our maternal grandfathe­r’s green parakeet of the same name. His “Petey” did all kinds of tricks, so I thought that giving my bird the same name would help him do tricks, too. It didn’t. Chalk it up to the logic of a fourth-grader.

Grams gladly agreed to watch Herkee when my family traveled to New England one summer. By the time we returned, Grams had fallen in love with the parakeet, so she kept it. I don’t remember us being overly upset about losing the bird.

After all, my sister and I both had been lobbying for a dog for what seemed like forever, at least to a fourth- and first-grader.

Multiple presidents had birds in the White House. Here are three:

President Calvin Coolidge and his family loved animals. Their personal White House menagerie included dogs, cats, wildlife and birds.

Nip and Tuck, olive

A wheelchair-bound President Franklin Roosevelt holds his black Scottie Fala while talking to Ruthie Bie, granddaugh­ter of the caretakers of the Hill Top Cottage at his Hyde Park, N.Y. home in Feb. 1941.

green canaries, were favorites. Before becoming president, Coolidge and his wife, Grace, moved to Washington and stayed at a hotel until they could find a home. Because the

hotel did not allow large animals, Grace’s friend gave them the canaries.

Nip, Tuck and other feathered friends often traveled with the Coolidges. In July 1926, they took Nip, Tuck and two other birds, Prudence Prim and Rob Roy, with them on their summer vacation.

After Coolidge’s term, Nip, Tuck and the other birds were kept in window cages in the former president’s office at his home in Northampto­n, Massachuse­tts.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower kept Gabby, a parakeet, at the White House for his grandchild­ren.

Gabby died in 1957.

The grave, at the southwest corner of the White House, was marked with its name on an asbestos shingle.

According to the

White House Historical Associatio­n, a newspaper reported that 9- or 10-year-old David Eisenhower, the president’s grandson, “made two or three trips to see the grave” and “even thanked the gardener who buried the bird.”

In the next administra­tion, another pet bird was buried in the White House’s garden, a yellow canary belonging to President John F. Kennedy’s daughter, Caroline. The canary’s name was Robin because Caroline liked robins.

A pair of parakeets, Bluebell and Marybelle, belonging to John Jr., also lived in the Kennedy White House.

First Lady Jackie Kennedy played with John Jr. and Caroline in the nursery with the parakeets. After the assassinat­ion of JFK, the parakeets went with the Kennedy children to their new home in Georgetown.

My bird was buried in my mom’s flower garden. Not the White House garden but I would argue just as beautiful.

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