Gerald R. Ford
Biography (text)
Biography (video)
Facts & Favorites
Tributes & Honors
Books About
Burial Site

Betty Ford
Books About
Betty Ford Center

White House Pets
Printed Autographs
Digital Library

Two Stories About the Fords' Dog Liberty

How the Fords Got Liberty

President Ford and Liberty Get Locked Out of the White House

President Ford and his golden retriever Liberty
A1813-5. President Ford and Liberty in the Oval Office. November 7, 1974

How the Fords Got Liberty

(from President Ford's memoir A Time to Heal (Harper & Row, 1979), pp. 192-193)

… our family didn't have a dog when we moved into the White House. Susan [the Fords' daughter] and David [David Kennerly, the White House photographer] thought that situation should be rectified before Betty [Mrs. Ford] came home from the hospital.

Without telling me his intention, David did some research and discovered that a fine retriever had recently given birth to a litter in Minneapolis. David called the kennel's owner and said he wanted to buy a puppy for a friend of his.

That was fine, the owner said, but what was the name of David's friend?

David said it was a surprise; he wanted to keep the name secret.

"We don't sell dogs that way," the owner replied. "We have to know if the dog is going to a good home. "

"The couple is friendly," David said. "They're middle-aged, and they live in a white house with a big yard and a fence around it. It's a lovely place."

"Do they own or rent?" the owner asked.

David thought for a minutes "I guess you might call it public housing," he said.

The owner said the dog was healthy; she was going to eat a lot. Did his friend have a steady job? David could play the game no longer. He hinted that his friend was a very important person and finally the owner agreed to fly the dog to Washington. I was in the Oval Office the day before Betty came back from the hospital when Susan walked in. "Daddy," she asked, "if we ever get another dog, what kind are we going to get?"

"A female golden retriever about six months old," I said.

At that moment, David entered with a copper-colored pup who raced around the Oval Office yelping excitedly. "Whose dog is that?" I asked.

"It's yours." Susan and David laughed. "Her name was Streaker, but we've changed it to Liberty."

Delighted, I grabbed the pup, put her on my lap, then got down on my hands and knees and played with her on the rug. That was a joyous experience, and I knew that Betty would be just as thrilled as I was to welcome the new addition to our family.

President Ford and Liberty Get Locked Out of the White House

(from Mrs. Ford's memoir The Times of My Life (Harper & Row, 1978), pp. 241-242)

But, with motherhood imminent, we were afraid she'd [Liberty] deliver at night, so we moved her inside, and for a short while she slept on the third floor with a trainer. One night the trainer had to be away, and he left Liberty with us. "If she wants to go out," he said, "she'll come and lick your face."

About three o'clock in the morning, she came and licked Jerry's [President Ford] face. Like a good daddy, he got up, pulled on a robe and slippers, took the dog downstairs and out onto the south lawn. When they were ready to come back, Jerry rang for the elevator. But at night the elevator goes off - You have to get it charged up or something. Secret Service agents are in a room in the basement (they have a mirror and closed-circuit TV and there are lights all over the grounds), and usually they notice anything that moves, so I still don't understand how they missed the scene with the odd couple. Maybe somebody dozed off.

Anyway, Jerry decided to try the stairs. He opened the door to the stairwell, said, "Come on, Liberty," and up they climbed to the second floor, Liberty waddling from side to side, her stomach with nine puppies in it practically hanging on the ground. They got to the second floor, and the door to the hall was locked. You can get out, but you can't get back in. They went up again, to the third floor. Also locked. And there they were, a President and his dog, wandering around in a stairwell in the wee small hours of the morning, not able to get back to bed. Finally they came all the way down again, and by that time the Secret Service had been alerted, and somebody got the elevator started.

Main Ford Pets Page

Liberty's Paw-tographs

Additional photographs of Liberty