In the wake of a formal announcement on April 15 that Barbara Bush would no longer seek medical treatment despite her “failing health,” a long lost image of the former first lady began to bubble up on Twitter.
Upon learning of Bush’s death, the internet has come together to mourn and celebrate the American icon for many reasons — her love and devotion for her dogs being one of them.
The photo below, in particular, is making the rounds. It showcases a U.S. first lady in an atypical stance and unusual attire: Yes, she is on her knees, signaling to her two Springer Spaniels, who are, incredibly, wearing gray sweat suits identical to her own.
Clearly, Mrs. Bush was passionate about animals. The proud pup parent even wrote two children’s books, both from the perspective of the family dog. Millie’s Book, published in 1992, describes a day in the life of George H.W. Bush and family, including his daily morning briefings, time spent in the Oval Office, as well as short breaks to stalk squirrels.
The book shot straight to no. 1 on the New York Times best-seller list.
Her editor, Lisa Drew, told NPR she remembers the first lady fondly. “She was exactly as she seemed. She was obviously a very famous woman, a very accomplished woman, a very important woman in the country. But she was a very natural person. She was fun to be with. There was no pretense about her whatsoever. She was very funny, very smart,” said Drew.
Bush’s other book, C. Fred’s Story, published in 1984, detailed the Cocker Spaniel’s life as the furry sidekick of then-Vice President Bush and his family, plus his travels, meetings with celebrities, royalty, and heads of state. Both dog books raised money towards Bush’s human passion: literacy. In fact, Millie’s Book raised over $1.1 million towards the cause.
Jean Becker, the former President’s chief of staff told PEOPLE in 1997 that neither the first pooch — nor her mom — ever lost touch with the common canine. “She didn’t eat gourmet meals, just regular dog food,” said Becker. “And anyone in the world could come up and pet her.”
At that time, Bush’s son and future President George W. Bush, told PEOPLE, “I remember whenever we were up visiting, wherever Mom was, Millie was always right there behind her.”
Millie, a single mom, gave birth to six puppies in 1989. The then-governor of Texas and his family adopted Spot, one of Millie’s daughters.
Like any true celebrity, Millie sometimes got into a little trouble. In 1989, it was reported she had killed six squirrels, two pigeons and a rat on the White House grounds. She also once had “an accident” in front of guests in the Old Executive Office Building.
“Millie got scolded, but not much,” Anna Perez, the First Lady’s former press secretary, told PEOPLE, but the Spaniel didn’t stay in the doghouse for long.
“Mrs. Bush had a rule about not giving Millie food at the table — which the President would often break,” said Becker. “Millie would look at him with those eyes, and he couldn’t resist.”
Millie died in Kennebunkport, Maine, on May 19, 1997 at the age of 11 (or 12, depending on reports) due to either a stomach ailment, pneumonia or both. She’s often regarded as the most famous dog in White House history.
In 2003, Mrs. Bush opened a dog park in Houston in honor of her late pup, called Millie Bush Park, naturally. According to a New York Times report, Houston locals remember her as “a kind of straight-talking grandmother to the city, an approachable first lady out for a stroll in the sunshine, so genuinely earthbound that she herself picked up after her dogs at the park.”
We hope there’s no dog poop in heaven, but can lovingly imagine the Bush matriarch, finally reunited with her pups, walking them on by the pearly gates. Rest — and ruff — in peace, Barbara Bush.