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President Warren G. Harding’s dog sat in on cabinet meetings

It isn’t uncommon to see pets in Zoom meetings these days, as some cats and dogs can’t help being the center of attention while their humans attempt to check in with their co-workers. Even so, the fact that Warren G. Harding’s dog sat in on Cabinet meetings sounds especially distracting (albeit in an adorable way) for such important positions as, say, the secretary of state. Laddie Boy, who’s been called the White House’s first celebrity dog, was an Airedale terrier whom the 29th president of the United States deeply adored. In addition to fetching the newspaper and joining the First Lady at fundraisers, he had his own seat at Cabinet meetings and was written about in the press on a near-daily basis.

Sometimes, Laddie Boy even “wrote” back. “So many people express a wish to see me, and I shake hands with so many callers at the Executive Mansion,” read one such letter, “that I fear there are some people who will suspect me of political inclinations. From what I see of politics, I am sure I have no such aspirations.” The presidential pup remained popular even as Harding did not (he’s routinely ranked among the worst heads of state in American history). Following Harding’s untimely death in 1923, a poem by Edna Bell Seward titled “Laddie Boy, He’s Gone” was set to music by composer George M. Seward in order to console the faithful dog.

Presidents have had bobcats, tigers, and other exotic pets at the White House.

Having your pet in Cabinet meetings is a bold choice, but at least the animal itself was tame. The same can’t be said of all White House pets through history. There was Calvin Coolidge’s bobcat, Andrew Jackson’s foul-mouthed parrot Poll (who had to be removed from Jackson’s own funeral because it kept swearing), the sheep Woodrow Wilson kept on the White House lawn during World War I, and John F. Kennedy’s pony, Macaroni. When it comes to sheer quantity, however, no one tops Theodore Roosevelt. The 26th president had nearly 40 pets, including 11 horses, a badger, flying squirrels, five guinea pigs, six dogs, a hyena, and a bear, among others.

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