For the first time in four years, and in a move that restores a centuries-old tradition, the White House is set to gain a First Pet. Actually, more than one!
President-elect Joe Biden, who was inaugurated as the 46th President of the United States on Wednesday, Jan. 20, and wife Dr. Jill Biden have two German Shepherds, Champ and Major. The latter is the first dog rescued from an animal shelter to live at the White House.
After being elected Vice President in the 2008 U.S. presidential election, Joe kept his promise to Jill to get a puppy if President Barack Obama won, gifting his wife with Champ, a three-month-old pooch purchased from a Pennsylvania breeder. Obama made the same promise to his daughters and fulfilled it, bringing home their first dog, Bo.
The Bidens’ granddaughters were the ones who named Champ. The name also has sentimental significance for the President-elect. In his 2008 vice presidential campaign speeches, he recalled how his father would tell him, “Any time you get knocked down, champ, get up!”
Joe later said his family planned on getting another dog, this time from an animal shelter. In November 2018, the Bidens adopted Major from the Delaware Humane Association.
“Today is Major’s lucky day!” read a post on the group’s 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.”
The group said, “Major was 1 of 6 puppies who were brought to DHA after coming in contact with something toxic in their home. Their original owner was unable to afford veterinary care so they surrendered them. With the help of our friends at VSCD, together we provided lifesaving care, shared their story here and that we were looking for fosters for them. Once we posted about them for your help, Joe Biden caught wind of them and reached out immediately. The rest is history!”
With the addition of Champ and Major to the White House, the Bidens will revive a tradition that dates back to the days of the Founding Fathers. Donald Trump was the first president to not have a pet at the White House in more than 120 years.
The first president to have a pet while in office was the first-ever president, George Washington, although he did not live at the White House, as construction on it was not completed until 1800, three years after he ended his final term. His successor, John Adams, owner of two dogs, was technically the first president to have a domestic pet call 1600 Pennsylvania home.
Since President William McKinley‘s administration, which began in 1897, every single president except Trump has had a dog at some point, according to the Washington Post.
Yuki, a mixed breed pup abandoned by his owner at a gas station in Texas and rescued by President Lyndon B. Johnson‘s daughter Luci, became the first rescue dog to live at the White House in 1967. President Bill Clinton‘s cat Socks was also a rescue pet.
And speaking of cats, the Bidens told CBS Sunday Morning last November, weeks after the 2020 presidential election, that that plan on adding one to their family.
See photos of Presidential First Dogs and other pets in the White House over the years: