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December 27, 2006

Gerald Ford's Presidential Pets

Als036_ford_0000000 Many people found many reasons to like President Gerald Ford, who died Tuesday at 93. Here's another: He and his family kept pets in the White House. They had a miniature sealpoint Siamese cat named Shan, and a golden retriever named Liberty who produced a litter of puppies in the First Family's residence.

A fascinating source for great stuff about the nation's FIrst Critters is the website of the Presidential Pet Museum in Lothian, MD (who knew such a thing existed)? Turns out that all  have kept pets but three: Millard Fillmore, Chester A. Arthur and Franklin Pierce.

Obit_gerald_ford_ny163 Assemble the rest of the White House menagerie and you've got a virtual Noah's Ark. In addition to the cats, dogs, birds and barnyard animals you'd expect through history, there was wildlife like Teddy Roosevelt's badger, jungle beasts like James Buchanan's elephants, and oddities like John Qunicy Adams's silkworms.

Among the most prolific keepers of creatures: George Washington, who had a huge pack of hounds, and JKF, who had lambs, ponies, parakeets and Pushinka, the offspring of a Soviet "space dog," given to daughter Caroline by Soviet Premier Nikita Kruschchev "as a peace offering after the Cuban Missile Crisis," according to the museum site.

So whatever your politics, remember Gerald Ford kindly. He was kind to animals. Obit_gerald_ford_ny162

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