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Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets

Dear Socks, Dear Buddy: Kids' Letters to the First Pets

by Hillary Rodham Clinton

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In a world dominated by video games, voicemail, and television, it's easy to overlook the importance of the written word. If one very important thing parents can do to help their children learn is read to them, then encouraging them to write must run a close second. What better — and more rewarding — way to teach a child these invaluable communication skills


In a world dominated by video games, voicemail, and television, it's easy to overlook the importance of the written word. If one very important thing parents can do to help their children learn is read to them, then encouraging them to write must run a close second. What better — and more rewarding — way to teach a child these invaluable communication skills than through letter writing? In her warm and engaging text, Mrs. Clinton suggests ways parents can help their children initiate and enjoy the experience of writing and receiving letters, sharing her family's (and pets') experience, and explains how letters to Socks and Buddy are received, sorted, and answered at the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home. Mrs. Clinton gives a brief "pet history" of the White House, from Dolley Madison's parrot and Teddy Roosevelt's children's menagerie to the Bushes' English springer spaniel Millie. She also talks about the ways Socks and Buddy participate in White House life, such as greeting guests and visiting hospitals and nursing homes. Fans of the First Pets will be delighted by a section on their vital statistics (Socks' tail length: 1 foot; Buddy's snout length: 5 inches) and answers to the questions most asked by correspondents ("Do you have room service?").

In Dear Socks, Dear Buddy, Mrs. Clinton also shares more than 50 letters children have sent the nation's First Pets, from a simple request for a "paw-tograph" to more exacting notes of good wishes ("I want to give you a big heart, as big as the whole world") and generous advice ("Just because they went on a trip and didn't take you doesn't mean they don't love you any more"). Illustrated with more than 80 photographs of Socks and Buddy on the job and at play in the White House, this book will inspire children to share their ideas and wishes through writing.

Editorial Reviews

U.S. News
. . .[A]ppropriate as a Christmas stocking stuffer, [the book] will be sprinkled with 75 pictures of the Clinton animals. . .some 50 letters and drawings from children, and a chapter by Socks and Buddy on pet care. Hillary Rodham Clinton pens a chapter on the importance of writing letters in these days of impersonal e-mail. . .

Product Details

Simon & Schuster
Publication date:
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
7.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.50(d)

Read an Excerpt


A few weeks after Bill, Chelsea and I moved into the White House, letters and postcards from across the country began arriving, first by the bundle, and then by the bin. Waist-high stacks spilled out from offices into the hallways. Most of the letters were for the President, who at every campaign stop encouraged the American people to keep in touch and let him know what was on their minds. But a lot of the mail was for our black-and-white cat, Socks — a spontaneous outpouring of affection for the first feline to live in the White House since Amy Carter's Siamese, Misty Malarky Ying Yang.

Over the years, Socks has heard from animal lovers of all ages, including admirers from England, Bangladesh, and nearly 50 other countries, who have written asking for celebrity shots and "pawtographs" (his paw print signature). And since our chocolate Labrador retriever, Buddy, bounded into our lives, he has acquired lots of pen pals of his own. Together, Socks and Buddy have received more than 300,000 letters and e-mails, as well as hundreds of handcrafted gifts (you will see several of them in the photographs included in this book). By comparison, Thomas Jefferson, one of the most prolific correspondents of his day, received an average of 137 letters a month while he was President. Who says the art of letter writing is dead?

One of my favorite stories about letter writing has to do with a predecessor of mine in the White House, Dolley Madison. And by coincidence, Mrs. Madison demonstrated what it means to be a devoted pet owner as well.

During the War of 1812, in the year 1814, President James Madison was out leading his troops against the advancement of the British forces. He sent word to his wife that the British had broken through the lines and were marching on to Washington and she had to flee. But instead of leaving when she was first ordered to do so, Mrs. Madison stayed behind to collect the most prized possessions in the house. The single most important object, she felt, was the fabulous Gilbert Stuart portrait of George Washington that hangs in the East Room of the White House. While the frame was being broken and the picture removed, she hastily finished a letter to her sister in which she described being within the sound of a cannon. "And now, dear sister, I must leave this house..." she concluded. "When I shall again write you, or where I shall be tomorrow, I cannot tell!!"

I think of Dolley Madison not only taking the time to gather the painting, her husband's cabinet papers, and other historic treasures, but to write to her sister! Her letter is so important because it illuminates a part of our history. One of the last valuables that Mrs. Madison managed to carry out of the executive mansion was her colorful pet parrot. It was moved to safety just before the British set fire to the White House.

The letters to the First Pets were written under vastly different circumstances from Dolley Madison's letter to her sister, of course. But they document our time as Mrs. Madison's letter did hers.

Establishing a connection with the First Pets is often a child's earliest encounter with the White House, the office of the President, or even the workings of government. Children of previous generations wrote to F.D.R.'s dog Fala or the Kennedys' dog, Pushinka. To celebrate today's young citizen-writers, I'd like to share some of their letters to Socks and Buddy and help them get to know our cat and dog better.

Children often ask Socks and Buddy: "How does it feel to have all the food you want?" "Do you have a Secret Service agent?" "Do you ever annoy the President?" "Are there any good mice in the White House?" "What do you do for a living?" The mail is so voluminous that our cat and dog cannot answer every question. We're fortunate that many of the retired servicemen and women who live at the U.S. Soldiers' and Airmen's Home in Washington, D.C., volunteered to pitch in, helping the animals send out greetings and photos. Each of them has a heroic, untold story. Many of the veterans served their country in World War II, Korea, or Vietnam. I would like to thank all of them, especially William Woods, Allan Gordon, Norman Godfrey, and Layne Whitman, for graciously taking on a new self-appointed tour of duty opening, sorting, and answering the letters.

Long before we got to the White House, Bill and I realized the importance of trying to reply to everyone who writes us — even those who send notes to our pets. When Chelsea was just five years old, she decided on her own that she wanted to write a letter to an elected official about an issue that concerned her. She was adamant, and so we sat down with her and talked about it and helped her with some of the spelling. She sent it off and every day she waited for a response. I still remember the disappointment I shared with her when one never came.

We don't want anyone who writes to the White House, especially a child who signs his message "Your Friend," to feel that it is just a one-way street. Back-and-forth communication helps youngsters understand that writing serves a real purpose in our evervday lives. Even more important, when a letter is reciprocated, it makes people feel that they've been heard and that they matter.

Writing a letter is also a wonderful way to express oneself. Letters are one of the most powerful forms of writing because they are so personal. I've been gratified by the pleasure that so many people have taken in Socks and Buddy, and at how imaginative their letters often are. Children and their animal friends have extended many invitations to our cat and dog to fetch sticks, chase squirrels, or simply to get away from the White House for what they perceive as some much-needed R & R. And Socks has received his share of marriage proposals. (I suspect that most people think Buddy is still too young for anything more than puppy love.)

Pictures are a frequent gift from pen pals. Socks and Buddy have a large collection of portraits of their feline and canine friends. Some children embellish their letters with wonderful drawings, stickers, or paw prints. One fifth-grade class imagined all of the activities in which Socks might participate and then sketched them — Socks in pajamas, Socks jogging with the President, Socks taking a catnap on Chelsea's bed. And when Buddy moved in, another group of students had a contest to see who could design the best newsmagazine cover announcing his arrival.

Encouraging girls and boys to write letters also helps them to learn that these gestures of kindness count. Soon after Buddy joined our family, Socks was deluged with messages from children who wanted to console him about having to share the White House with another pet — a dog, no less. "Maybe you need to teach that dog some cat manners," a young letter writer suggested. Others offered support to Buddy. "I got used to my brother," wrote one child, "so I'm sure you will get used to Socks."

What touches me most about the letters is how much the children give of themselves. Besides their desire to learn more about the animals, they want to let Socks and Buddy know who they are, too — describing other members of their families, what they like to do best on their birthdays, what their favorite food is (pizza ranks high on the list). Some of the questions they ask reflect what's going on in their own lives, like "Do you get in trouble sometimes?" or "Have you ever broken a window?" Buddy and Socks hear from many children who can't have a dog or cat of their own because of family circumstances — they live in a small apartment or their parents or siblings have allergies. Writing to our pets can be a good way for them to express their disappointment or to articulate the complex emotions of growing up....

....Assembling these letters from children to Socks and Buddy gives me the opportunity to share with you some of the many laughs and loving moments that Bill, Chelsea, and I have enjoyed with our pets. Of course, our cat and dog are much too busy greeting visitors, sitting in on Oval Office meetings, and catching up on sleep to do an "as told to" memoir. Instead, I've decided to tell you my favorite stories about our pets and show you some pictures from Socks and Buddy's personal photo album. I'd like to thank everyone in the White House who helps care for and play with the First Pets, and in particular my thanks to the White House photographers whose archival photographs fill these pages, especially Barbara Kinney.

I hope you have as much fun reading Dear Socks, Dear Buddy as I have had putting the book together.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

Copyright © 1998 by the National Park Foundation

from Kids' Letters to the First Pets

Dear buddy how are you doing in the white house? Is Bill taking care of you? Do you like tennis balls? Are you being nice to Socks?

We have a golden retriever named Samantha. She is a hound. She loves to eat. Her favorite foods are bagels and toast. When she was about 3 1/2, Sammy went down the slide of the playground! When we have friends sleeping over, Sam gets very excited and tries to steal some of their clothing — especially Socks! Would you Please send us a picture of buddy? thanks a lot.

Your friend Ben

and his mom

Copyright © 1998 by the National Park Foundation

from Kids' Letters to the First Pets

Dear Socks,

Your one cool cat, and I am pleased to be writing to you. Do you think I may have an autographed picture of you. I would keep it on my bookshelf with an alarm on it for all my life.

Thank you for reading my letter. Please write back. Hope to hear from you soon.

Your friend

Michael Carter

Copyright © 1998 by the National Park Foundation

from Kids' Letters to the First Pets

Dear Socks and Buddy,

My name is Susanna. I am 7 years old. I live with my dog Zoë She is a springer spaniel and is 14 in dog years. She loves to chase squirrels and chipmunks.

What do you like to do for fun?



P.S. I am writing this for Zoë because she is taking a nap.

Copyright © 1998 by the National Park Foundation

from Kids' Letters to the First Pets

Dear Socks,

I think you're cute. like you. I love you so much I want to give you a big heart, as big as the whole world. Please write back.



Copyright © 1998 by the National Park Foundation

Socks Stats

Type of Cat: Domestic short hair

Date of Birth: Unknown

Member of the Clinton family since: March 1991

Height (Head to Paw): 14 1/2 inches

Weight: 9 pounds

Tail length: 1 foot

Color: Black with white markings

Eyes: Yellow-green

Favorite activity: Taking a catnap

Favorite bugs to catch: Spiders

Least favorite color: Chocolate brown

Favorite hideout in White House: In a chair outside the Oval Office

Copyright © 1998 by the National Park Foundation

Buddy Bio

Type of dog: Labrador retriever

Date of birth: August 7, 1997

Member of the Clinton family since: December 1997

Height (head to paw): 31 inches

Weight: 68 pounds (and still growing)

Snout length: 5 inches

Color: Chocolate brown

Eyes: Hazel

Favorite activity: Chasing tennis balls and chewing on them

Favorite bugs to swat: Flies

Least favorite colors: Black and white

Favorite hideout: Behind the President's desk

Copyright © 1998 by the National Park Foundation

What People are Saying About This

Hillary Rodham Clinton
So I guess you could say they are living in a state of peaceful but uneasy coexistence... (Hillary Rodham Clinton on Socks and Buddy's relationship)

Meet the Author

Hillary Rodham Clinton became the first woman in US history to become the presidential nominee of a major political party in 2016. She served as the 67th Secretary of State—from January 21, 2009, until February 1, 2013—after nearly four decades in public service advocating on behalf of children and families as an attorney, First Lady, and Senator. She is a wife, mother, and grandmother.

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