Some people attribute the quote “If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog” to our 33rd President Harry S. Truman. However, he probably didn’t really say that — and if so, Truman certainly wasn’t very good at following his own advice.
President Truman, who took over the Oval Office in 1945 after the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt during FDR’s fourth term, came to Washington, D.C., from Missouri dogless.
The Truman Library puts it matter-of-factly: “They preferred to be a pet-free family.”
“Whatever Happened to Feller?”
Almost three years later, Truman angered dog lovers all across the country when he gave away a dog that a supporter had sent him. A woman from his home state of Missouri sent him a cocker spaniel puppy named Feller, but Truman gave Feller away to his personal physician.
“Thousands [of angry Americans] wrote letters to the president,” according to a Newseum exhibit on presidential pets.
A few months later, a reporter asked, “Mr. President, whatever happened to Feller?” — to which the president responded, “To what?”
“Feller, the puppy,” said the reporter.
“Oh, he’s around,” Truman replied.
Feller eventually wound up at a farm in Ohio, where he lived happily for many years until he died of old age.
Simply Not a Fan of Dogs
As we note in our article about another dog the Trumans gave away, this particular president was many things, but clearly he wasn’t a dog lover. Researcher and dog expert Stanley Coren goes so far as to say President Truman was downright angry about having any dog in the White House, calling Feller a “dumb dog” that Truman just needed to “get rid of.”
“I didn’t ask for him, and I don’t need him,” Truman said, according to Coren.
The reader should note that every U.S. president since Truman has had — and quite enjoyed having — a dog at the White House.