My Turn: Digging up lost diaries of first dogs

President Bill Clinton and his pet Buddy share a moment in August 1998.

President Bill Clinton and his pet Buddy share a moment in August 1998. AP

Feller, a 5-week-old cocker spaniel sent to President Harry Truman as a gift, poses by his crate in a White House corridor in December 1947.

Feller, a 5-week-old cocker spaniel sent to President Harry Truman as a gift, poses by his crate in a White House corridor in December 1947. AP

By GENE STAMMEL

Published: 06-01-2024 11:24 PM

Note: These excerpts from recently unearthed diaries offer unique perspectives on the lives of important historical figures in American history.

Sweet Lips (March 26, 1785)

When I was a little pup, I kept sniffing around for Aunt Vernon. That is what I thought everyone was saying — “Aunt Vernon! Aunt Vernon! Marvelous Aunt Vernon!” It is a humorous memory tonight, as I ponder (and pray I never discover) the origin of my gross name ... Nothing pleasant could come of such knowledge, especially considering the General’s wooden teeth and offensive breath. For a dog-lover, Master George has certainly given us all strange names: Drunkard, Tipler, Tasty, Scentwell! Or perhaps it was Martha who named us? Hmm. I have always suspected a dark side to my all-too-pleasant First Lady Master.

Laddie Boy (Aug. 3, 1923)

I know what killed him: Pee-Pot Dome (a meager attempt at humor on this saddest of days.) Shocked, devastated, sad from head to tail, that’s how I’m really feeling. And he did nothing wrong but pick corrupt people to work for him. Master was humiliated and stressed; I could tell from the unusually rough, wild way he’d been stroking me. And now he’s gone forever.

Dear God! Will I still be allowed to sit in the hand-carved chair he reserved for me at Cabinet meetings? Will Master Calvin let me fetch the morning paper and search for lost golf balls like Master Warren did? I fear not, for he already has so many dogs of his own. Will my new master adopt me? Will others accept me? One thing is for certain: The spotlight will never shine on this terrier again.

Feller (September 1948)

Everybody thinks Master Harry is a down-to-Earth, good-hearted fellow, a true Midwestener. He’s a fella’ alright, but no fan of me, his little white Feller. The White House was a thrill while it lasted, that is, until he kicked me! Not a pet lover, to say the least. I was the perfect cocker back in good ol’ Missouri — maybe that’s why they gifted me to the state’s No. 1 Son. “The Buck Stops Here.” Well, hooray for the buck!

Obviously, the same can’t be said of me. Mean old bugger.

Pushinka (Dec. 16, 1961)

My dear Mother fly in Sputnik, headline in all paper: “Strelka, First Space Dog!” So how I become pet for U.S. President? This reward for bravery of Mother — give away child to enemy? Thank God he good-looking man. Wife pretty, other girls pretty, too. Especial the big blond Marilyn. He like her much.

So maybe I try look at bright side. It never boring here: girl come, girl go. Girl come, girl go — like big secret. Like fun, how you say? — hide and peek game. He always complain about bad back. No big surprise. Too much exercise. Ha, ha! But tonight I miss brave Mother, most big hero of all Soviet dog.

Pasha (Aug. 8, 1974)

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They say Checkers never got over being remembered for a speech. Who can blame him? I’m sure it was a rough time, but nothing compared to what I went through tonight, sitting on Master’s lap as he begged Pat for forgiveness. Tomorrow he will let the country know he is calling it quits, just gave the kids and me the heads-up.

I would love to say something like: “You think my whimpering is all about you, Master Richard? Can’t you tell I’m a wreck? What will happen to me when you leave? Where will I go?” I must admit I still love the man, lies, scratchy beard, paranoia and all. He’s a softy at heart, though no one would believe it. It’s an American tragedy, really. But what about me?

Buddy (Jan. 8, 1998)

Finally settling down for the night after another round with Master Billy Boy and his damn mirror. I mean, how much time can the man spend rehearsing the same lines:

“I did not have sex … I did not have … with that girl, no, with her, no maybe with that young woman!” Then he turns to me for — for what? Feedback? Reassurance? Love? That’s what it’s always been about with poor Master Billy: the hole that can’t be filled. OK, tough upbringing and all that, I get it. But c’mon! I don’t own a shovel ... I can’t fill up his hole.

And does he forget? I was there!! His best Buddy, curled up under the big desk and forced to endure it all! I remember how I almost started barking when … no, no, no! I can’t go there, ever again. Ever! Go figure: an IQ of 137 and not a brain in his head when it comes to s–e–x.

Gene Stamell lives with his wife and cat in Leverett. He enjoys and always responds to feedback, preferably positive. He can be reached at gstamell@gmail.com.