Heidi


President Dwight D. Eisenhower walks by Heidi, his Weimaraner, as he returns to the White House after a press conference on March 11, 1959, at the Executive Office Building, which today is named the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in memory of the 34th president. Photo courtesy Dwight D. Eisenhower Library Center.

Dwight Eisenhower’s dog, Heidi, has the dubious distinction of being possibly the only presidential dog banned from the White House.

(We will set aside, for now, the fact that Jimmy Carter’s daughter’s dog Grits and Harry Truman’s dog Feller — both unsolicited gifts — were rehomed.)

The story goes that Heidi, a beautiful female Weimaraner born May 9, 1955, had an accident on an expensive rug in the diplomatic reception room.

And when we say expensive, we don’t just mean by late-1950s standards. The rug was worth $20,000 at the time! (With inflation, that’s something like $160K in 2013 dollars.)

Heidi’s weak bladder had gotten her into trouble before with the World War II general and his wife, so after the rug incident, the Eisenhowers decided to send the dog permanently to their farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

Mamie Eisenhower, right, tires to restrain Heidi as the dog jumps up on the director of the Tailwaggers Club of Washington, center. At left is Charles Hamilton of the Animal Rescue League. May 1958 photo by AP wire service.

Mamie Eisenhower, right, tires to restrain Heidi as the dog jumps up on the director of the Tailwaggers Club of Washington, center. At left is Charles Hamilton of the Animal Rescue League. May 7, 1958, photo by AP wire service.

Wary of Photographers

True to her breed, Heidi was protective of her owners.

She was especially wary of White House photographers and would often try to prevent Mamie Eisenhower from having her picture taken by jumping between the First Lady and the camera. Or Heidi would just jump up on people!

Although the breed has since become more recognized through the whimsical photographs of William Wegman, the Weimaraner was relatively unknown to Americans when Ike and Mamie moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue in 1953.

In fact, until the late 19th century, German breeders required that any Weimaraners sold for a trip to America be sterilized so that the breed standards would not be compromised.

Known for its hunting abilities, the Weimaraner is an excellent family dog and serves well as both a loyal guard dog and a lively playmate. (Read Pets Adviser’s Weimaraner breed profile here.)

“She Tends Toward Stubbornness”

heidi-eisenhower-dogThe Eisenhower Library website quotes a 1958 letter from the president to Arthur Summerfield, who served as postmaster general for Eisenhower and gave him Heidi in 1955:

Heidi is definitely an asset to life in the White House. She cavorts on the South Lawn at a great rate, with such important projects as chasing squirrels and investigating what might be under bushes. She is beautiful and well-behaved (occasionally she tends toward stubbornness but is then immediately apologetic about it). And she is extremely affectionate and seemingly happy. I am constantly indebted to you [and your son Bud] both for giving her to me.”

Heidi reportedly enjoyed life on the farm (where there were not as many photographers!) and had at least four puppies after she left Washington.

Quick Facts About Eisenhower’s Dog Heidi

Mamie Eisenhower and Heidi, 1958

Mamie Eisenhower and Heidi, 1958

  • For nearly a year, much of the press didn’t realize the president had the dog — even though Heidi had been “running all over” the White House lawn, according to Eisenhower’s press secretary.
  • At first Mamie Eisenhower didn’t like the idea of having a dog. But the two were said to become great friends.
  • On at least one occasion, Heidi had the presidential limo all to herself, with just the driver and a valet sitting up front during a drive from the White House to the Gettysburg farm.
  • The Associated Press described Heidi as “mole-colored.” The Boston Globe preferred to call her “taupe-gray.” Yet another newspaper pegged the color as “ginger.”
  • One day Heidi startled one of Eisenhower’s secretaries by pushing the buzzer underneath the president’s desk. The secretary came bounding in, notepad in hand, ready to follow orders.
  • Back then, as today, reporters tended to go gaga over presidential pets. One newspaper claimed Heidi was fed a breakfast of two poached eggs on toast and two strips of bacon every day — which the White House laughed off and called “ridiculous.” However, one of her two meals a day was cooked ground beef mixed with dry dog food.
  • Heidi slept in a comfy basket on the third floor, and had full run of the White House and grounds. During the day, she often napped in the president’s private office, where he gave her head scratches and belly rubs.
  • For at least three years, Heidi still wore a tag that said “To President Eisenhower,” which came with the dog when she was gifted to the president by Bud Summerfield.
PRESIDENTIAL PETS: 1789-1850 | 1850-1889 | 1889-1953 | 1953-present
About Presidential Pet Museum

The Presidential Pet Museum was founded in 1999 to preserve information, artifacts and items related to the presidential pets, from George Washington to the present. WE NEED YOUR HELP! Won't you consider making a small donation — even $5 — to keep us going strong?

Leave Us a Comment

Presidential Pet Museum in the News

PresidentialPetMuseum.com is managed by: SUPER COPY EDITORS LLC