Why Sasha And Malia Obama Named Their White House Pup Bo

What's in a name? There are a lot of places you could find inspiration when naming a pet, and Sasha Obama and Malia Obama used a familial connection and musical artist to name their late dog Bo. The Portuguese water dog was given to the Obamas by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy in 2009 because former president Barack Obama promised his girls he'd get them a dog after his 2008 presidential campaign. According to the Presidential Pet Museum, in a great coincidence, the breeders that had raised Bo before he was given to the Obamas named him after Barack's campaign slogan and called him New Hope.

The Obamas renamed him, and Bo's moniker came about in part because of Sasha and Malia's grandfather and Michelle Obama's father. He went by Diddley, and that name's connection to musician Bo Diddley is how the Obama family's first White House dog earned his name (via CBS News).

After the dog had lived with the Obamas for 100 days, writer Ben Greenman wrote an op-ed for The New York Times in the voice of Bo, sharing facts about his breed and comparing Bo to former pets of the White House. Bo was not an only child — in 2013, he earned a little sister in Sunny Obama. She was named after her friendly disposition and temperament.

Bo loved walking with the White House's chief groundskeeper

Presidential pups Bo and Sunny were busy when they were living in the White House. They had schedules and meet-and-greets. "Everybody wants to see them and take pictures," former First Lady Michelle Obama told the Associated Press in May 2016. "I get a memo at the beginning of the month with a request for their schedules, and I have to approve their appearances."

She also said that Bo would walk the grounds with Dale Haney, chief groundskeeper of the White House. Michelle claimed that Bo wouldn't pay her any attention when he was with Haney and the other National Park Service employees that care for the grounds of the White House, as if Bo was part of the team and on the job himself.

Former President Barack Obama opened up about the death of his beloved dog Bo when the Portuguese water dog passed away in 2021. On an Instagram post honoring the furry friend, he said, "Bo was a constant, gentle presence in our lives — happy to see us on our good days, our bad days, and every day in between. ... We will miss him dearly."

Many unusual animals have called the White House home

Many presidents have had pets join them during their terms in office. As of 2023, President Joe Biden has a German Shepherd named Commander and a cat named Willow living with him in the White House. Like Bo Obama, Willow's name has a personal connection to her owners — First Lady Dr. Jill Biden is from Willow Grove, Pennsylvania.

In addition to dogs and cats, unconventional creatures such as badgers, snakes, sheep, and more were residents of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Calvin Coolidge and Grace Coolidge had a raccoon named Rebecca that was sent to them from a fan who thought she could be eaten for Thanksgiving. Instead, she became an iconic member of the Coolidge family and well-known in the press much like Bo and Sunny were. She even had a collar that said "White House Raccoon" on it. Some presidents were reptile lovers as well. For example, both John Quincy Adams and Herbert Hoover kept alligators in the White House.

However, not all presidents were pet people. Former President Donald Trump was the first president in over 100 years not to have a dog (or any pet).