I’m not sure why it is that every president “needs” a pet. Nevertheless, it seems that it is expected, and the “first dog” seems to be the most common choice of pet. Dogs are the most commonly talked about pets in the White House…in recent years anyway. The fact is that ever since George Washington, there has been a myriad of different animals that earned the title of presidential pet or first pet. Some of the more manageable animals to come under the care of the president were cats, horses, donkeys, cows, goats, and hamsters. Oddly, there were also the more “unique” animals that lived in the White House too, including, and often only temporarily, bobcats, raccoons, lions, tigers, and bears, if you can believe it.

One of the more common kind of animals was the variety of birds that have worn the title pf presidential pet. Birds, such as turkeys, mockingbirds, parakeets, and several other species of parrot and songbird have been the companions of past presidents and their families. One of the presidents that had a bird was Andrew Jackson, the seventh president, who owned a variety of pets, among them, an African grey parrot named Poll that he had purchased for his wife, Rachel. Unfortunately, had very little influence on Poll, because she died of a heart attack not long after his election in 1828. Because of Rachel’s untimely death, and unlike other presidential parrots, Poll took on some of Jackson’s more unbecoming characteristics. To put it mildly, Andrew Jackson was an exceptionally volatile individual who often disregarded formality. On the one hand, Jackson’s character helped him to actually survive an assassination attempt and to win the Battle of New Orleans. Both of these made him quite popular, even though the treaty that followed the battle, was almost pointless, and so the battle was viewed much the same. On the other hand, as both a general and later president, Jackson used every tool at his disposal to crush indigenous sovereignty. He really had no use for the Native Americans, or at least not for their rights as a sovereign nation. In fact, his actions both directly and indirectly caused the deaths of thousands of Native Americans.

Nevertheless, where Poll was concerned, the loss of Rachel and Jacksons crude talk led to a number of problems later on. Poll was therefore almost constantly exposed to the already foul-mouthed and hot-tempered president. I don’t suppose all that matter very much to Jackson, who was obviously used to his own way of speaking, but on the day of Jackson’s funeral, it was decided by Jackson, that Poll was to be in attendance, along with the grieving spectators. I can only imagine the guests, especially of that era, Jackson passed away on June 8, 1845, when after possibly being unnerved by the number of people, Poll proceeded to shock all of the guests when he began to exclaim all sorts of profanity and otherwise inappropriate language. According to witnesses, Poll’s outbursts were so disruptive that the bird had to be escorted away from the proceedings. Even after his departure, I’m sure that the prim and proper ladies and gentlemen had to take a moment to compose themselves before the funeral could continue. I guess it just goes to show that sometimes, more than just our children are listening to every word we say.

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