Tuesday, April 13, 2010
President Jefferson's Dogs
People say that Mr. Jefferson was a very smart man. He started studying Latin and Greek and French when he was 9 years old. Then when he was only 16, he went to the College of William and Mary, and he graduated two years later. After that, he studied law and became a lawyer.
Mr. Jefferson did not like dogs when he was a young man, which makes me think that he was not nearly as smart as people say he was. The reason he didn't like dogs was because dogs kept bothering his sheep and sometimes they killed and ate his sheep, which would be a perfectly natural thing for a dog to do, in my opinion.
But Mr. Jefferson was very unreasonable about this, and here's what he wrote in a letter to a friend: "I participate in all your hostility to dogs and would readily join in any plan of exterminating the whole race. I consider them the most afflicting of all follies for which men tax themselves." Mr. Jefferson also thought that dogs should wear collars with their owners' names on them, so everyone would know who to blame if a dog didn't behave himself. This may be how the idea of license tags for dogs got started.
When the War was over, George Washington got to be the president, and he picked Thomas Jefferson to be the United States' minister to France. So Mr. Jefferson was in France from 1785 to 1789, and while he was there he probably started messing around with one of his slaves, whose name was Sally Heming. And more importantly, he discovered a kind of dog that he liked!
Mr. Jefferson gave pairs of briards to some of his friends so that they could breed them, too. But he warned everybody that if they neglected their dogs or let them go hungry, they would go out and kill sheep and ducks and turkeys and pigs. So in this way, Mr. Jefferson was teaching people to be responsible dog owners.
I don't know if President Jefferson had any dogs with him in the White House or not, but I do know that President Jefferson's secretary, Captain Merriwether Lewis, was chosen to go explore the new Louisiana Purchase land that the U.S. bought from France. And Captain Lewis was smart enough to buy a good dog, the Newfoundland Seaman, to take on the trip with him. But of course, I told you all about Seaman in a previous blog entry.