The big brown-and-white bear of a dog was a gift to the family of eight from a family friend and the dog’s namesake, Alfred S. Rollo.
Apparently, the president tried to decline the large gift. In a letter dated Dec. 22, 1902 to Mr. Rollo, he wrote in part:
I’m going to ask you not to think me churlish if I say we have three collies already, one of them a puppy, and four other dogs in addition, and that I really do not [have] house room or stable room for any more.
I dare not venture to tell your proposition to my children.
As happens to many parents, TR lost this battle. Rollo — all 200 or so pounds of him — did indeed arrive at the White House.
In fact, the friendly St. Bernard enjoyed bounding after the children on the White House lawn, sometimes accompanied by the president, as shown in the photo above.
Kids Loved Rollo — and He Loved Them
The Associated Press once described Rollo as Roosevelt’s “most interesting pet” — and that’s saying a lot, considering just how much of a zoo the White House was during his administration.
According to the AP, Rollo was “a massive St. Bernard with massive self-restraint. The Roosevelt kids virtually dismantled Rollo, but Rollo didn’t mind. After all, he was built to lead a dog’s life.”
A later article in a Canadian newspaper agreed, saying: “Visitors to the White House were often … pursued by the bounding Rollo. The astonished guests expected the big dog to pounce on the children and devour them. But Rollo was a childrens’ dog; he truly loved them. He never uttered a growl of protest or bared his teeth when the children played rough games with him.”
Rollo loved kids, but he was said to be happiest when the president lavished attention on him.