Alongside the politicians and dignitaries, some crazy pets have lived in the White House. From John Quincy Adams' pet alligator all the way to Bo Obama, first families have always been open to four legged friends. The Kennedy Center is creating these stories in conjuction with an educational presidential initiative they are creating which also includes plays and displays at their headquarters in Washington DC.
Look, I admit it’s not much. But it’s mine. My name is Tipp. I’m a dog, okay? Not a Doberman or a German Shepherd or a Great Dane. I’m a Chihuahua.
Go ahead, laugh. They all do. They think of a Chihuahua and picture my aunt Mildred, who rides around in a purse. Or my cousin Tiny, who wears a pink sweater and a baby bonnet. Poor guy.
If that’s what you’re thinking, forget it. I’m not like that. I’m different. At least that’s what my owner tells me.
Her name is Alastair Lodge. She’s beautiful. She’s intelligent. She’s gigantic. Hey, when you weigh three pounds just about everything looks big!
Alastair gives me dog bones and doggie treats. When I’m scared, she hugs me. When I talk, she listens.
That’s right, I talk. Dogs talk. Get used to it. Kids have known it for years. It’s grown-ups who don’t listen. You know who you are.
Alastair listens, and I talk. A lot. Here’s the thing: I’m just the tiniest bit nervous. My stomach bothers me. I have a problem with reflux. Mysterious rashes break out all over my body. Alastair tells me not to worry, which is like telling a hyena not to laugh. I cower. I quiver. I shake. It’s just me, okay? It’s what I do.
I was feeling nervous that day when Alastair and I arrived at the White House. Huh? Oh, I forgot. In all the talk about me, I didn’t mention one small detail. Alastair’s father, Aubrey Lodge, was just elected president of the United States.
Anyway, Alastair walked inside that first day, carrying her suitcase and a history book. I stayed outside on the porch. The porch was big and white—after all, it was the White House—and the lawn, surrounded by trees and bushes, stretched off into the distance.
“So, this is it,” I heard Alastair say from inside. “Will you look at this place? It’s huge . . . and beautiful . . . and ours! I’m the First Daughter. Do you believe it? It actually happened, just like Dad said it would. This is our moment in history, Tipp. Tipp? Where are you? Tipp!”
She spotted me on the porch. That’s right, I was quivering.
“Come on, boy,” she said. “You’ve got to look at this place. Every president since John Adams has lived here—and now us!”
“Do we get Secret Service protection?” I asked.
“Honestly, Tipp. You’ve got to see this. Come!”
Alastair and I took a dog obedience course a few years back. They taught her some commands. Sit! Heel! Come! If you ask me, it was a waste of time. But I obeyed because I didn’t want Alastair to feel bad.
Gathering up my courage, I looked through the door, then crept inside. The place was just like Alastair had said. It was huge. It was beautiful. But she was wrong about one thing. It wasn’t ours and it never would be.
Alastair grinned when she saw me. “Just think, Tipp, I’m the First Daughter! You know, that’s quite an honor.”
Setting down her suitcase, she opened her history book. “Look at this. It says that President Teddy Roosevelt’s daughter Alice even had a color named after her: Alice Blue! What do you think my color would be? Alastair Orange? Lilac de Lodge?”
I tried to answer, but it came out more like a squeak.
Alastair closed the book and knelt down beside me. “Come on, Tipp. It won’t be that different from the Governor’s Mansion. We’ll still have Mom and Dad and each other.”
“Aren’t you nervous?” I asked.
“Not at all! The White House is so cool. I’ve been reading about it. There’s a pool and a pastry kitchen and a bomb shelter with gas masks . . .”
She giggled. “You might as well learn to have fun with this. It’s official: We’ve been elected!”
“No,” I said, “your Dad was elected. Nobody asked me if he could run for president. I won’t be able to take the pressure of the spotlight. I can’t help it—it’s my fine breeding.”
“You came from the pound, Tipp.”
“We’ll be under a microscope. They’ll be watching every move we make. What if they find out about”—I checked to see if anyone was listening—“you know, my seamy side. The untold story.”
“Stop it,” said Alastair.
“You know what I mean. The time I chewed through that extension cord? Bit that campaign manager? Peed on the carpet?”
“Relax,” she told me. “No one’s going to be talking about the presidential dog. It’s always about the presidential kid!”
“That’s not true,” I said. “The American people love White House pets! They’re obsessed with them. I won’t have a minute to myself !”
“Oh, for Pete’s sake, Tipp. I love you. You’re my best friend in the world. But you’ve got to pull yourself together.”
Ard Hoyt has illustrated a number of books, including the New York Times bestsellers I’m a Manatee by John Lithgow and The Hair of Zoe Fleefenbacher Goes to School by Laurie Halse Anderson. Ard lives with his wife and five daughters in Bentonville, Arkansas.