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Finland’s First Dogs and other presidential pets

Jenni Haukio pitää Lennu-koiraa sylissä.
Jenni Haukio pitää Lennu-koiraa sylissä. Lennu,Jenni Haukio,koira

Though Lennu the Boston Terrier is probably Finland’s most-beloved First Dog, Finnish heads of state have been known animal lovers since Marshal Mannerheim, whose trusty steed Käthy even attended the marshal’s funeral at his request.

A Finnish-language version of this article can be found here.

Dogs and cats have played a visible role in the Finnish presidency since Urho Kekkonen. But does a busy presidential couple have enough time for pets? Probably not if you ask the dogs, Mrs. Sylvi Kekkonen says in the following interview.

Large, active dogs reinforced the president’s athletic image, though one of his dogs, Isabella, was also insatiably hungry and greedy. The black Münsterländer even considered the premises of Mäntyniemi, the president's official residence, as her domain. She has bitten a stranger, Mrs. Kekkonen admits.

President Kekkonen, who was gifted two Russian wolfhounds (borzoi) by the Soviet government in the 1970s, praises the breed’s calm, sympathetic and obedient nature. But Isabella is another story. “We’re terribly ashamed of the Münsterländer," Mr. Kekkonen bemoans. “She is such a glutton.” The couple haven’t the heart to deny the plump pooch her favorite pleasure.

Isabella fattened up during the construction of a swimming pool at Mäntyniemi. The workmen could not resist feeding the voracious Pointer who was diligently present at every lunch break. “We haven’t bothered to change her appearance back into that of a dog," Mr. Kekkonen says.

President Koivisto favored small companion dogs. His pugs punched well above their weight, though: these hounds of Helsinki presided over both Mäntyniemi and the Presidential Palace.

The list of presidential pets isn’t an all-canine panel. The streak was broken when President Halonen introduced two cats, Miska and Rontti, into Mäntyniemi. In the summers, they were responsible for watching over Kultaranta, the president’s summer residence.

After two terms of feline dominance, a dog again reigned over Mäntyniemi. In the spring of 2012, Boston Terrier Lennu moved in along with his personal assistants, President Sauli Niinistö and First Lady Jenni Haukio. During his first term, Lennu became something of a celebrity, as his distinctive grin attracted the attention of Twitter, Instagram, Jimmy Fallon and the New York Times. At the height of Lennu's fame, Helsinki-based Café Esplanad even created a dog-faced pastry bearing his name.