Picks and Pans Review: First Dogs: American Presidents and Their Best Friends

UPDATED 10/20/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT Originally published 10/20/1997 at 01:00 AM EDT

by Roy Rowan and Brooke Janis

Now it can be told: The Tet Offensive may have hurt Lyndon Johnson, but he really blew it with the Pet Offensive—when he was photographed holding up his beagles Him and Her by their ears. This and other moments that turned the White House into a doghouse are fetchingly chronicled in a compendium of canine stories familiar (Nixon's Checkers speech, the legend that FDR sent a destroyer to pick up his Scottie Fala) and strange: Did you know that President Lincoln's yellow mutt Fido was assassinated by a drunk mere months after his master, or that (conspiracy theorists take note) years ago Bill Clinton's cocker spaniel Zeke was run over by a car? (Socks the cat has remained suspiciously silent on the issue.) And then there are the excellently named pooches, like Prudence Prim (Hoover) or Grits (Carter). Despite occasional woofers in the prose ("These two Presidents," the authors write of Benjamin Harrison and Grover Cleveland, "did have one thing in common: dogs"), the book succeeds in keeping the tail of trivia" wagging the dog of American history. This one is fur keeps. (Algonquin Books, $17.95)

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