Published on December 30, 2022
Reviewed by Marybeth Ginsberg
“Thirty-one of the forty-six United States presidents (and counting) have been dog owners. And from George Washington’s hounds to Joe Biden’s three German shepherds, presidential dogs have always captured the attention (and adoration) of Americans” (All-American Dogs).
Both dog lovers and history enthusiasts will enjoy Andrew Hager’s 2022 book that chronicles the lives of presidential dogs beginning with George Washington’s presidency and continuing through President Biden’s current term in office. Complete with historical photographs and charming sketches of some notable presidential dogs, All-American Dogs is an inviting book, small (7 ½ x 7 ½) and square in shape. It features a bold red, white, and blue hard cover and has bright blue end papers. Its bright, red and blue page borders complete its cohesive design flow. While the book is not large enough to be labeled as a coffee table book, its clever design and entertaining content make it ideal for casual browsing.
All-American dogs offers something for everyone. The stories are based on research and many are filled with intrigue, joy, and heartbreak. The story of Pushinka, the Russian puppy that arrived at the White House during the Kennedy Administration, is a memorable example. Pushinka was one of the puppies of Strelka, one of the first two Soviet dogs to orbit the Earth and return safely. After a conversation between Jackie Kennedy and Soviet Premier Khrushchev at a state dinner in Vienna during which Mrs. Kennedy inquired about Strelka’s puppies, a puppy was sent to the White House. However, before the puppy could join the Kennedy family’s extensive assortment of pets, it was whisked away to Walter Reed Army Hospital so it could be examined for listening devices.
From a historical perspective, readers will learn how our relationship with dogs has evolved over the past two centuries. Hager explores the cultural history surrounding dogs as pets through stories about the presidents, their families, and their dogs. From post-Revolutionary dogs, to Civil War era dogs, to Cold War dogs, readers will gain insight into how our nation viewed man’s best friend.
Favorite Quote: Calvin Coolidge had a beloved collie named Rob Roy. In September of 1928, the dog became ill and then died. Coolidge would later write in his autobiography: “His special delight was to ride with me in the boats when I went fishing. So although I know he would bark for joy as the grim boatman ferried him across the dark waters of the Styx, yet his going left me lonely on the hither shore.”
Andrew Hager is a historian-in-residence at the Presidential Pet Museum. He is legally blind and travels with a black Labrador retriever named Sammy. He lives with his family outside of Washington, D.C. In addition to owning two cats, the family has another mixed-breed dog named Emmy.
Star Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐