Theodore Roosevelt and his family had a plethora of pets during their time in the White House, including one little rat terrier named Skip. Skip was partnered with Roosevelt as early as 1905, where he is pictured with the President on a hunting trip.
Skip is special for his family tree – but not just because he was a Roosevelt. It is rumored that Skip played a large part in laying the foundation for what is today known as the ‘Teddy Roosevelt Terrier,’ which was added to the Foundation Stock Service in August 2016. According to the AKC: “The breed was named in honor of President Theodore Roosevelt to recognize his use of terriers to combat a rat infestation in the White House. While he owned and loved many Terriers himself…” However, as Skip himself was a mix of two types of terrier, it is unlikely that he actually fathered any dogs in the current Teddy Roosevelt line. Skip was likely part of the inspiration for the naming of the line – but still, not too shabby.
In 1905, President Roosevelt went on a hunting trip, where he was first acquainted with Skip, who quickly won the President’s admiration. Near the end of the trip, on May 5, 1905, he wrote his daughter Alice that he was “going to bring home a most absurd little dog called Skip as a present to Archie. He is half fox terrier and half bull terrier, and he is as cunning as possible. He likes to ride on the horses with us when we will let him, and bounces in to do his share of the worry whenever a bear or bobcat is shot. At night, he has insisted on sleeping with me. He is as hard as nails and if we do not let him ride will travel thirty miles over the mountains with entire indifference; and has spasms of shrill woe when he has run off after something and thinks he has lost us.”
On May 14th, 1905, Roosevelt wrote to his son Kermit. In his letter, he mentions that he has brought Skip back to the White House and describes how Skip is adjusting: “Skip accompanied me to Washington. He is not as yet entirely at home in the White House and rather clings to my companionship. I think he will soon be fond of Archie, who loves him dearly.” Roosevelt goes on to say that his wife is fond of Skip but “does not think he is an aristocrat as Jack is,” but that Roosevelt believes Skip to be quite cunning all the same.
Skip appears to have enjoyed the transition to the White House, however. In another letter to Kermit written on the same day, Roosevelt goes on to say that Skip was tough out in the wilderness, but that now that Skip is in the White House he seems to prefer the life of a lap dog instead. Roosevelt plans to take Skip to Oyster Harbor to get him out riding with them. It is also mentioned that Skip and Jack were a bit jealous of one another.
Jack wasn’t the only adversary Skip faced when he moved in with the First Family. First Lady Edith did not take to Skip right away. Despite Archie’s love of his new dog, Edith preferred Jack and saw Skip’s entrance into the White House as a slight against him. She said of Skip that he was “a cunning little fellow, and friendly of course. In fact, he is friendly with everyone. Personally, I never cared for a cur; but then it is a mere matter of taste.” Ouch.
Skip grew to love his young friend, Archie. Archie and Skip would play games and race together and Archie was often seen carrying a complacent Skip around with him. On one night, when his brother Pete had engaged in another one of his infamous tussles, Skip went wandering and set the family into a tizzy. “…Skip disappeared and had not turned up when we went to bed. Poor Archie was very uneasy lest Skip should have gone the way of Jack; and Mother and I shared his uneasiness,” Roosevelt wrote in a letter to Kermit on May 12th, 1907. “But about 2 in the morning we both of us heard a sharp little bark downstairs and knew it was Skip anxious to be let in.” Skip, worn out from adventuring, headed straight for Archie’s room and fell asleep with his young friend.
Skip was described as being intelligent, affectionate, brave and strong at various times by the President. Skip is sometimes credited with being a proficient hunter of rats at the White House. This may be true, but his new sibling, Jack, was also a terrier and likely played as large a part in rat control as Skip, if not a larger one.
There is no information about what happened to Skip during the post-Presidency years. As the Roosevelts so clearly loved their four-footed family members, it is likely that he happily lived out the remainder of his days with the family.