Why Doesn’t Donald Trump Own Any Sheep?

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Mother Jones illustration; Getty, SAUL LOEB/Getty

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Donald Trump has caught a lot of flak for disliking dogs. The president made his anti-canine sentiment known when he told an El Paso, Texas, crowd that getting a dog would feel “a little phony,” and he has repeatedly called people “dogs” as an insult. Stephen Colbert even listed Trump’s refusal to get a dog as one of the “reasons Trump is a bad president,” right up there with “tried to ban Muslims” and “puts kids in cages.” Trump’s lack of a pet certainly doesn’t make him look caring and tender. But why does his companion have to be a dog?

Sure, it makes sense for politicians to have dogs. Everyone, regardless of political leaning, seems to love them, and every president since William McKinley has had one at one time or another. Dogs are more likely than cats to be comfortable with public appearances, and they make their owners come off as playful and nurturing. Some say dog owners tend to be happier than cat owners, but correlation doesn’t imply causation. Regardless, dogs have become such a fundamental part of the presidential package that several Democratic candidates are already publicizing their pups online. Elizabeth Warren’s golden retriever Bailey owns the Twitter handle @firstdogbailey, and Beto O’Rourke’s Artemis runs @First_Dog_USA.

However, the White House has hosted a number of non-canine animals that could potentially replace the First Dog as American traditions. Benjamin Harrison named his two pet opossums Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection, after the 1896 Republican Party’s trade policies, which aren’t too far off from Trump’s own. Several presidents have had birds, and Woodrow Wilson kept a flock of sheep. Theodore Roosevelt, an unparalleled animal-lover, welcomed a bear, a lizard, guinea pigs, a badger, a pig, a macaw, a hen, a rooster, a hyena, a barn owl, a rabbit, a pony, snakes, and several dogs. Surely, of all the kinds of animals that have lived at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Trump could find one he could get along with.

(Original Caption) 5/4/1918-Washington, DC: Sheep Grazing on the Whit House Lawn.

Bettmann/Getty

If all else fails, he could join the ranks of Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy by adopting a cat. If Trump is too busy to take care of a dog, a cat would be a relatively low-maintenance solution. Maybe he could get a siamese cat, like Jimmy Carter’s Misty Malarky Ying Yang, or he could carry it on his shoulder, like Bill Clinton did with Socks. To be fair, Trump doesn’t strike me as a cat person.

President Bill Clinton with the First Pet, Socks the Cat, on December 20, 1993. Courtesy National Archives.

Photo via Smith Collection/Gado/Getty Images

To have no pets at all, though, is almost unheard of for a president. The otherwise petless Andrew Johnson fed white mice in the White House, which counts as animal companionship in my book. And Harry Truman briefly owned a cocker spaniel, which he gave to his physician because, according to the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library and Museum, “they preferred to be a pet-free family.” But if Trump steers clear of even mice, he’ll be the first president since James K. Polk to have truly had no animal companionship at all.

But really, Trump’s aversion to animals comes as no surprise. As Purdue University animal ecology professor and director of the Center for the Human-Animal Bond, Alan M. Beck, commented to the New York Times, “His sons are trophy hunters.”

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And the truth is, going into the final 4 days of the year we still needed to raise $TK to hit our $350,000 goal and start 2021 on track. It's nerve-wracking, wondering if the big spike we normally see at the end of December is going to be another thing that doesn't go as planned in 2020, or worse, if, now that Donald Trump is set to leave the White House (for longer than a taxpayer-funded golf trip to a property he owns), folks might be pulling back from fighting for the truth and a democracy and think the hard work is done.

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