Friday, November 26, 2010

President Johnson's Dogs

President Lyndon B. Johnson was a man who really liked dogs, so I'm sure that made him a very good president.  He first became president on November 22, 1963, after President Kennedy got killed.  Before that, Mr. Johnson had been the vice-president.  And before that, he was a congressman and then a senator.  In fact, President Johnson was one of only four presidents who got elected to all four of those offices.  I don't know who the other three were, so you will have to figure that out all by yourself!

Anyway, Mr. Johnson was born in 1908 in Texas, not too far from Johnson City.  This town got its name from Mr. Johnson's father's cousin, James Polk Johnson, who had moved there from Georgia.  The original Johnsons were Scots-Irish, and some were even English royalty.

Mr. Johnson went to Southwest Texas State Teachers College, and then he taught school for a few years.  After that, he decided he wanted to get into politics, so he did.

In 1934, he married Claudia Alta Taylor, who was mostly called "Lady Bird."  They had two daughters, Lynda Bird and Luci Baines.  Mr. Johnson, who was often called by his initials, LBJ, liked everybody in his family to have the same initials, so that is why he gave those names to his daughters.  And also he had a beagle called Little Beagle Johnson.  He told people that it was cheaper if everybody had the same monogram.

Mr. Johnson got elected to Congress in 1937, but then when World War II started, he joined the Naval Reserve.  He wanted to go into combat, but President Franklin Roosevelt asked him to inspect some shipyards and then go to the Pacific area as an observer to find out what the Navy needed.  So Mr. Johnson did that, and he came back to Congress and asked for more money for planes and ships and stuff like that to defeat the Japanese.

When Mr. Johnson got into the Senate in 1948, he worked his way up and became really important.  Then he ran for president, but John F. Kennedy got the nomination and asked LBJ to be his vice-president.  But then after President Kennedy got shot, Mr. Johnson became the president, like I already told you.

So at the time when the Johnsons moved into the White House, they had two beagles, and the names of these beagles were Him and Her.  President Johnson was really the first president to allow a photographer to follow him around all the time and take lots of pictures, so there are several photos of him with his beagles.

One time, the President thought he would help pose one of the dogs for a photo, and he lifted him up by the ears.  This photo made lots of dog lovers angry because they thought LBJ was abusing his dogs.  I wouldn't want anybody picking me up by the ears, but I also don't think this is the worst thing anybody could do to a dog.  Still, if President Johnson had it all to do over again, I hope he wouldn't pick up his beagles by the ears!

Him and Her pretty much got to run around everywhere in the White House, and the President always carried dog treats in his pockets.  Sometimes when there were lots of people outside, protesting against the Vietnam War, President Johnson felt better if he spent a little time with his dogs because, as he said, "They like me."

President Johnson also spoiled his beagles by letting them go swimming with him and ride in the presidential limo and fly to Camp David in his helicopter.  And sometimes they got to hang out when important leaders from other countries were visiting, even though one time Him made a puddle on a chair.

Him fathered a litter of puppies, and these puppies were named Freckles, Kim, Little Chap, Dumpling, and Crasher.  The President said that there was nothing he loved more than a "basket full of fresh, wiggly puppies."

Another dog that lived in the White House at this time was a white collie named Blanco.  I couldn't find any photos of Blanco, but I read that he was neurotic, so maybe he didn't like having his picture taken.  One time he peed on a sculpture by Alexander Calder that the Museum of Modern Art in New York had loaned to the White House.

Now I have to tell you a sad thing, which is that both Him and Her died in tragic ways at a young age.  Her died because she swallowed a rock, and Him got hit by a car.  Later on, the Johnsons got another beagle who was named Edgar because he was a gift from J. Edgar Hoover.  Mr. Hoover was the head of the FBI, and he was always looking for ways to make the president like him.  Blanco, the weird collie, bit Edgar on the nose, and Edgar had to get stitches.

But in the end, President Johnson's favorite dog turned out to be a little stray terrier that his daughter Luci found at a gas station in Texas.  This dog was named Yuki, and LBJ took him everywhere, like to cabinet meetings and to the East Room when he signed important laws like the Wholesome Meat Act.  He even danced with Yuki at his daughter Lynda's wedding, and he wanted to include Yuki in the family wedding photo, but Mrs. Johnson said that was not going to happen.

Best of all, President Johnson and Yuki liked to howl together, and they often did this for photographers and for guests.  I wish I could have heard them because I am sure it sounded very nice.

Anyway, because of the Vietnam War and some of his other foreign policies, President Johnson became less popular, so he decided not to run again in 1968.  He retired to his ranch in Texas.  Then in January of 1973, he had a heart attack, and Yuki was at his side when he died.


  1. My turn today....this is Dodi! WOW...I think LBJ was probably a good president like you said, since he liked dogs. I wonder why they didn't have any cats? I don't know but I'd like to think maybe they had some at their Texas ranch....we are really good at chasing mice! My mom said she was in the 6th grade when President Kennedy was assassinated and she remembers her mom and dad being very sad...and she was sad too. I'm just glad the replacement was an animal least a dog lover.
    Time to sign mom wants to use the computer.
    Love, AP

  2. Hi, Dodi,
    I don't know why LBJ didn't have any cats, but it seems like he was more of a dog person. And maybe he had some cats at his ranch, like you said. Cats are good to have in your barn because they eat the mice and rats and stuff like that.

    My mom also remembers when she was in the 6th grade, and her teacher came in the room and told everybody that President Kennedy got shot. And later on she remembers watching the funeral on TV, and it was all very sad. I don't remember it because I hadn't been born yet. In fact, some of my ancestors hadn't been born yet either!

    Love, Piper