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Liberty Dog

How Did Former President Gerald Ford’s Dog Help End Meetings in the Oval Office?

Most presidents of the United States have kept pets while in office. Or in other words, pets have been a part of the first families. Only James K. Polk, Andrew Johnson, and Donald Trump had no presidential pets during their term. On the other hand, Johnson took care of some mice he discovered in his bedroom, feeding them, among other things. But did you know how former president Gerald Ford’s dog helps end meetings? 

When President Gerald Ford wanted to end a conversation in the Oval Office, he would signal Liberty, his golden retriever, to enter. She would wag her tail and approach the guest, creating a natural break.

Liberty, the Celebrity Dog

When Gerald Ford assumed the presidency following Richard Nixon’s resignation, he stated that his main goal was to heal the nation’s wounds. Liberty, his dog, stole many people’s hearts across the country.

Ford and his wife, Betty, loved golden retrievers, and one of them died not long before they moved into the White House. Susan, their daughter, enlisted the assistance of Ford family friend and White House photographer David Hume Kennerly to find them a new dog.

Kennerly inquired about an 8-month-old puppy from a reputable breeder in Minneapolis. On the other hand, the breeder wanted to ensure the puppy was going to a good home and inquired about the prospective owner.

Because Kennerly did not want to reveal that he was getting the dog for the president of the United States, he tried to avoid answering questions by saying the puppy would live with a middle-aged couple who had four children and had previously owned golden retrievers. The breeder refused to sell the dog until more information was provided.

The questions kept coming, and when the breeder asked if the father had a steady job that would allow him to buy enough food for a large dog, Kennerly decided to let the cat out of the bag. The breeder was undoubtedly overjoyed that his prized pet would be going to President Ford.

When the Fords decided to breed Liberty with a champion golden retriever from a breeder in Medford, Oregon, she became a national celebrity. When Liberty gave birth to nine puppies, four females and five males, at the White House, the press went crazy. (Source: Presidential Pet Museum)

What was Liberty’s Original Name Before Being a Presidential Dog? 

Susan Ford surprised her father by allowing the puppy, whose name she changed from Streaker to Liberty, into the Oval Office for the first time. Ford described how he got down on all fours to play with the puppy in his memoir. The two hit it off right away, and Ford was often the one who took Liberty for walks.

One notable incident occurred when Liberty awoke the president early one morning and indicated that she needed to go outside. Ford escorted the dog down the elevator and outside, dressed in his bathrobe and slippers.

The elevator, however, would not work for the return trip. Because the stairwell doors were locked as a security precaution, Ford had to pound on the walls, accompanied by the golden retriever’s barking, until Secret Service agents came running to help. (Source: Presidential Pet Museum)

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