Arts and Leisure

The Pet Names of Famous New Englanders

pet-names-mark-twain-facebook
'Love me, love my dog.' Abigail Adams, detail from painting by Gilbert Stuart

'Love me, love my dog.' Abigail Adams, detail from painting by Gilbert Stuart

When the Pilgrims came to America on the Mayflower, they brought with them two dogs described as a spaniel and a mastiff. Though their names are unknown, the pet names of many famous four-legged New Englanders have not been lost to history.

John Adams and his wife Abigail were the first inhabitants of the White House, and their dogs were the first to romp on the White House lawn. The Adamses had two mutts named Juno and Satan. “If you love me … you must love my dog,” Abigail wrote in a letter to her granddaughter, Caroline Smith. As president, John Adams had the White House stables built, presumably to house his horse Cleopatra.

pet-names-mark-twain-with-cat-on-his-shoulderMark Twain loved cats and loved to play pool. Whenever he played, he put a kitten into the corner pocket. His pet names for his cats included Sour Mash, Appollinaris, Zoraster, Blatherkite and Beelzebub.

He had a black cat named Satan and a tortoise-shell cat named Sin. They got along well.

“When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction,” he once wrote.

“I simply can’t resist a cat, particularly a purring one,” he said. “They are the cleanest, cunningest, and most intelligent things I know, outside of the girl you love, of course.”

Henry David Thoreau had a pet cat named Sylvia. Ralph Waldo Emerson apparently didn’t much like animals and had no pets.  Nathaniel Hawthorne’s daughter Una had a Newfoundland named Leo.

Smart Setter?

Author Thomas Bailey Aldrich had an Irish setter named Grip, who he believed was smarter than some men he knew. The dog loved to bring Aldrich's slippers from the bedroom to the parlor. Poet John Greenleaf Whittier had a dog named Robin Adair.

Daniel Webster wasn’t terribly fond of dogs or cats, but he loved his oxen. When the great statesman returned to his Marshfield farm to die, one of his last pleasures was to sit in his window and admire his oxen. He was said to know them all by name, but alas, those pet names are lost to us.

Richard Henry Dana, Jr., during his two-year voyage aboard the Pilgrim, adopted a dog he named Bravo in San Diego.  Frederick Law Olmsted took a bull terrier named Judy along when he traveled the South to write about slavery.

Grace Coolidge, official White House portrait

Grace Coolidge, official White House portrait

Abolitionist John Brown loved animals. As a boy he had a pet squirrel named Bobtail. He raised sheep and had two shepherd dogs named Toss and Jack.

Louisa May Alcott joked her vices included an inordinate love of cats. She had a black cat named Cuddle Bunch who “had a fit,” and fell out of a window to her death.

Harriet Beecher Stowe loved her cat named Calvin who, according to Charles Dudley Warner, ‘walked into her house one day out of the great unknown and became at once at home.’ Stowe named Calvin after her husband and let him sit on her shoulder while she wrote.

Marian Anderson owned two Kerry Blue terriers. One was named Falla, after President Roosevelt's dog. The other was named Fenon.

 

Presidential Pet Names

Calvin Coolidge and his wife Grace brought a menagerie to the White House. Their pets included white collies named Rob Roy and Prudence Prim, terriers named Peter Pan and Paul Pry, a Shetland sheepdog named Calamity Jane, chow chows named Tiny Tim and Blackberry, a bulldog named Boston Beans, a German shepherd named King Cole.

The Kennedy family on vacation with their dogs. Photo courtesy John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

The Kennedy family on vacation with their dogs. Photo courtesy John F. Kennedy Library and Museum.

The John F. Kennedy White House was filled with pets, including a mutt named Pushinka, a gift from Soviet Premier Nikita Khruschev; a German shepherd named Clipper, a cocker spaniel named Shannon, an Irish wolfhouse named Shannon, and the president's favorite dog, a Welsh terrier named Charlie.

Leonard Bernstein, family and Honey. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

Leonard Bernstein, family and Honey. Photo courtesy Library of Congress.

The First Couple often took one or two of the family dogs out for a walk under the cover of darkness. Traphes Bryant, the White House dog handler, said the people didn’t recognize them as Secret Service agents followed discreetly in a car. Sometimes, Bryant said, they “looked like two young college kids taking the dogs for a walk. They looked so happy.”

Leonard Bernstein, who grew up in Lawrence and later lived in Redding, Conn., owned a series of dachsunds all named Henry. As an adult he owned a sheltie named Honey. The Library of Congress’s collection of his music manuscripts includes a trumpet score in Bernstein’s writing called Rondo (for Lifey). He sent it to actress Judy Holliday, whose dog was named Lifey. The music and lyric sketches for Bernstein’s orchestral composition Slava! Have an alternate title on the title page: Puk – named for Rostropovich’s dog.

T.S.  Eliot, though he grew up in St. Louis, was a member of the Boston Brahmin Eliots and summered in Gloucester, Mass. Eliot wrote “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” which became the Broadway musical Cats.

 

 

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Tib

    December 8, 2016 at 2:09 pm

    I was excited about learning the pet names of famous New Englanders, but see here only the names of their pets.
    Still a good article, even if I was hoping to learn if Abigail called John lovekins or honeybun or my sweet cabbage when no one else was around.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

To Top