Jill Biden poses with Major Biden (left) and Champ Biden. (Jill Biden)

Jill Biden poses with Major Biden (left) and Champ Biden. (Jill Biden)

Moving on up, to the White House: the First Shelter Dog

Major, Joe Biden’s German shepherd, was a rescue. Past presidents had lots of pets, including alligators.

He’s the first shelter dog to be a First Dog.

From his comfy digs at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., Major Biden, a 3-year-old German shepherd, will serve the nation by bringing hope to homeless dogs everywhere.

What’s up with that?

The new First Family adopted Major as a pup in 2018 from a litter at a Delaware shelter. Joining him in the White House is Champ, a German shepherd Joe and Jill Biden purchased from a breeder in 2008, when he was the veep.

The Delaware Humane Association had a virtual “indoguration” ceremony on Sunday for Major, complete with an “I’m adopting that doggie in the window” singalong by Josh Groban.

“We hope this means more people will adopt animal companions,” said Heidi Wills, CEO of PAWS in Lynnwood.

PAWS doesn’t do DNA tests, so it must rely on characteristics of the “Heinz 57” dogs to guess lineage. Wills said that three-quarters of all dogs in shelters are two or more breeds. Of the one-fourth that are single breeds, German shepherds are in the top five, along with poodles, pit bulls, boxers and chihuahuas.

Wills adopted a lab and German shepherd mix. “I often get questions about what breed she is, and I say, ‘She’s an American shelter dog,’” she said.

George, a young shepherd mix, is available for adoptions at PAWS in Lynnwood. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

George, a young shepherd mix, is available for adoptions at PAWS in Lynnwood. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

Rescue dogs are getting a boost from John Curley of KIRO radio’s “The Tom and Curley Show.” He’s also former host of KING-TV’s “Evening Magazine.”

Listen to the radio show and you’ll hear about the adventures of Luu, a shepherd mix Curley adopted a month ago from PAWS.

“There are great dogs that need families,” said Curley, who lives in a cabin without plumbing in the woods of Cle Elum.

He spoils Luu with big bones from the meat shop and belly rubs that hypnotize her into a state of joy. “As far as she’s concerned, that’s bigger than a peaceful transition of power,” he said.

Currently available at PAWS is George, a year-old shepherd mix with short legs. If you want long legs, Xena, an outdoorsy young female, is up for grabs at the Camano Animal Shelter Association. You can also check the Everett Animal Shelter and rescue groups for dogs and cats needing homes.

Major is not the first homeless pet to live in the presidential palace, but he’s the first to hail from a shelter.

Yuki, a terrier mix pup abandoned at a gas station in Texas, was found by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s daughter. Yuki became Lyndon’s BFF. The inseparable pair would sing together.

Socks was a stray cat before moving into the White House with Bill Clinton and family.

Almost all presidents have kept pets of some sort.

George Washington’s pack of hounds included Tipsy, Sweet Lips, Venus and Drunkard.

Martin Van Buren had a pair of tiger cubs, a gift from the Sultan of Oman, until Congress made him send them to the zoo. You can buy Van Buren “Tiger King” shirts and mugs at presidentialpetmuseum.com. There are also hoodies with John Quincy Adams and the legendary alligator he kept in the East Room bathtub.

George, a young shepherd mix with short legs, is available for adoption at PAWS in Lynnwood. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

George, a young shepherd mix with short legs, is available for adoption at PAWS in Lynnwood. (Kevin Clark/The Herald)

William McKinley had kittens, roosters and a parrot named Washington Post. Theodore Roosevelt’s menagerie included rats, snakes, birds, ponies and a bear. The Teddy Roosevelt terrier was named after one of his dogs.

Calvin Coolidge had a raccoon named Rebecca that walked on a leash.

As a goodwill gesture, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev gave First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy a dog named Pushinka, which means “fluffy” in Russian. She was the daughter of Strelka, the first dog to survive a trip to space. Rumor has it that some Americans were suspicious that the dog might be wearing a listening device. Charlie, the Kennedy’s Welsh terrier, became the father of her “pupniks.”

During George W. Bush’s terms, he had Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley, and Spot Fetcher, an English springer spaniel offspring of his parents’ famous dog Millie.

KIRO radio host John Curley of “The Tom and Curley Show” with Luu, a shepherd mix he adopted from PAWS in Lynnwood. (John Curley)

KIRO radio host John Curley of “The Tom and Curley Show” with Luu, a shepherd mix he adopted from PAWS in Lynnwood. (John Curley)

I saw two of G.W. Bush’s dogs bound off Air Force One when he visited Colorado Springs in the early 2000s. I was the lowly reporter assigned to the “death watch,” named so if the plane goes down there is someone to write about it. Or dog watch, in case the dogs do something. In this case, all they did was their business.

Barack and Michelle Obama fulfilled a promise to their daughters by getting two Portuguese water dogs, Bo and Sunny, while in the White House.

Donald Trump is the first president since James K. Polk (1845-49) not to have a pet while in office.

Trump was recorded saying: “I wouldn’t mind having one, honestly, but I don’t have any time. How would I look walking a dog on the White House lawn?”

Andrea Brown: abrown@heraldnet.com; 425-339-3443. Twitter @reporterbrown.

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