The Kennedy’s Canine Cabinet

“In the private residence at the Kennedy White House, family life bustled with a collection of pets that included as many as nine dogs at one time, a cat, parakeets, hamsters, rabbits, deer and seven horses.” 

– “The Dogs of Camelot”

Through firsthand accounts, rarely seen photographs and documents from the archives of the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, authors Margaret Reed of Wilton and Joan Lownds present a fascinating look at life with the Kennedys and their canine companions in the new book “The Dogs of Camelot: Stories of the Kennedy Canines” (Lyons Press, $19.95, 208 pages). Because Jacqueline Kennedy fiercely protected her family’s privacy and home life, the public rarely caught a glimpse of the menagerie that also called 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. home. You may have seen photos of Caroline’s horse Macaroni, but do you know about Charlie, Pushinka or Clipper? 

Charlie, the “First Dog,” was President Kennedy’s most beloved pet, a spirited Welsh Terrier who routinely could be found chasing the ducks in the fountain on the White House front lawn or swimming alongside the president in the pool.  His love for “sticks and balls” was legendary. He could not be persuaded to leave the president’s golf clubs alone (the ultimate big silver stick).  Charlie was so adored he often flew first class, sitting in the seat right beside JFK.

A gift to Jackie from Soviet Union Premier Nikita Khrushchev, Pushinka was the fluffy white offspring of the canine cosmonaut Strelka who had been sent on an orbital flight by the Soviets in 1960. Charming Charlie liked Pushinka very much. A “scandalous” Cold War romance developed when he sired an adorable litter of four puppies with her.

Clipper, Jackie’s loyal and devoted German Shepherd companion, was a gift from her father-in-law, Joseph P. Kennedy Sr. Dark and regal in manner, he almost caused an “international incident” by stealing a stuffed toy meant for John Jr. from Italian Prime Minister Amintore Fanfani. Luckily, Jackie was able to wrestle it away from him quickly, much to the delight of the prime minister.

Pet lovers and history enthusiasts alike will be captivated by this book, filled with charming anecdotes and stories of the enthusiasm and unselfish love these animals gave to the Kennedy family and the deep affection they were showered with in return.

“The Dogs of Camelot: Stories of the Kennedy Canines” (Lyons Press, $19.95, 208 pages) by Margaret Reed and Joan Lownds is available online and at booksellers everywhere. 

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