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Gifts with a Presidents Day Twist: White House pet project

February 21, 2011 |  8:30 am

Prada 02 277 
It’s one thing to have a First Dog and/or First Cat who signs paw-stamped autographs, makes an occasional television appearance and pens a book or two (a la Millie, President George H.W. Bush's springer spaniel). But it’s something else entirely to have a tobacco-chewing ram named Ike and a herd of sheep grazing the White House lawn (we’re talking about Woodrow Wilson); a pet alligator and a bevy of silkworms (step right up, John Quincy Adams); or a herd of elephants from the King of Siam (don’t be shy, Mr. James Buchanan).

And then there is the out-and-out White House zoo that broke loose under both Calvin Coolidge and Theodore Roosevelt. Among Coolidge’s menagerie were a dozen dogs, a donkey, bobcat, lion cubs, bears, a pygmy hippo named Billy and the furry favorite — a leash-walking raccoon named Rebecca, picked up from the White House in a limousine during renovations.

TeddyFamous for his love of animals and the outdoors (not to mention his iconic bear association), Roosevelt may have had the biggest collection of all. It included a dozen horses, dogs, snakes, a pony that famously rode the White House elevator, a blue macaw, lion, hyena, coyote, zebra and bears. On a hunting trip in 1902, when the 26th president refused to shoot an old, injured bear and ordered that it be humanely put down, the pair were widely depicted in newspaper cartoons — inspiring a store owner to create a new toy, “Teddy’s bear.” The rest is history. And we think it would make Teddy proud to know that he’s kissed the fashion sky now, so to speak, by influencing fashion powerhouse Miuccia Prada (Prada fabric bear key chains with appliqué detailing and gold-plated hardware, $180 each at prada.com)

Happy Presidents Day!

--Ingrid Schmidt

Photos: Top, Prada's teddy bear key chains. Courtesy of Prada. Bottom, President Theodore Roosevelt. Credit: Conkwright and Winn.

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