President George H.W. Bush Had a Sense of Humor and He Loved Dogs

George H.W. Bush went from being a war hero to a President and much more; he also had a sense of humor. Here’s a 1989 Bush dog story that involved the Washingtonian.


By Jack Limpert

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One morning, before going to work, I was walking Lindy, our Golden Retriever.  I stopped to talk with a neighbor who was walking her Springer Spaniel. When I said something nice about her dog, she began to talk about the virtues of Springer Spaniels and she mentioned that her dog was a lot better looking than Millie, President George H.W. Bush’s dog. I’m not sure she called Millie ugly but she didn’t think the President’s dog was a good representative of the breed.

When I got to the office, our art director showed me her idea for that July’s Best & Worst cover—it was mostly type with the cover art a picture of a gold crown.

Best and worst, a generic gold crown, boring. How about Millie as Washington’s worst dog? No, the art director said, the gold crown would be classier. No, the editor said, we’re putting Millie on the cover and we’re calling her Washington’s ugliest dog.

About ten days later, the July 1989 issue hit the newsstands:

President Doggedly Defends Millie
June 29, 1989
By David Lauter
Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — You can criticize his arms control plans, oppose his flag burning amendment or even argue in favor of higher taxes, but don’t mess with the President’s dog.

“I know you guys don’t write the editorials, but our dog was named ugliest dog in Washington by the Washingtonian magazine,” President Bush told three reporters from The Times at the end of an Oval Office interview Wednesday, referring to Millie, the family’s Springer Spaniel. “I’d like some defense on the West Coast. Imagine picking on a guy’s dog.”

A few minutes later, the telephone rang at the offices of Washingtonian.

“I’d like to know who did the ‘Best and Worst’ ” article, the caller asked. “I’d like to know how you picked the ugliest dog.” Receptionist Felicia Stovall said that the editor who had prepared the piece was tied up and asked the caller’s name. “President George Bush,” the caller responded.
President Bush was asked about the Washingtonian cover  at a televised news conference, and Millie and the story got big play all over the world.

The lesson is that you just never know where a really good story will come from. Keep your eyes open and listen to what people are talking about.
In 1990, Barbara Bush published Millie’s Book, a best-seller written in the voice of her beloved Springer Spaniel. From a review:

Millie’s Book also gave he First Dog a chance to respond to some negative publicity. The July 1989 issue of the Washingtonian called Millie the “Ugliest Dog.” President Bush found the incident amusing and protested to the editors of the Washingtonian. They apologized and sent Millie some dog biscuits. “Easy for the president to accept the apology,” Millie wrote. “I did not.”
And here’s more on Millie from an April 18, 2018 post:

Barbara Bush, to raise money for charity, created a book, Millie’s Book, with Millie listed as the author dictating the words to the First Lady. Profits from the book went to a non-profit literacy organization.

Millie wrote: “With absolutely no provocation, the July 1989 issue of The Washingtonian Magazine came out with their Best & Worst list. Guess whose picture was on the cover? Mine!  Guess which I was. . .best or worst? Worst!”

Millie went on to complain that the picture we ran of her to prove our point was taken the afternoon of her delivery of six puppies. She wrote: “Show me one woman who could pass that test, lying on her side absolutely “booney wild” [family expression for undressed] on the day she delivered six puppies.”

Millie said she accepted George Bush’s advice to shrug it off and follow his example of dealing with press criticism. She recalled the time the President was named first on a list of the “Most Overrated Men in New York.” Bush, then the US ambassador to the United Nations, invited the other nine men on the list and the author to a reception honoring the overrated. Wrote Millie: “It was a great party.”

Barbara Bush’s silence during the whole Millie affair? The reason, according to Millie’s Book: Mrs. Bush confesses that her first words to Millie after the dog was sent to her were: “You are so sweet, but you are so ugly. You have a pig’s nose, you are bowlegged, and your eyes are yellow.”

“I knew immediately that I was going to have to try harder,” Millie wrote. “She also told me that she really loved me. I believed her….I have since heard her tell others…that I am the best dog they ever lived with.”


  1. Now may not be the right time to critique the service dog lying in front of the casket.

    Good article cited in the comment above!

  2. Bush dogs are playing a rather prominent role in current newscasts. Not only the loyal Sully, but also Millie (and her book!) on the Tuesday ABC overnight news, as well as her puppies! Presidents’ dogs always win popularity contests, great assets to their sometimes not-so-popular masters. They have all left their footprints. Now Sully joins the historical pack as he mourns with his family.

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