By Margaret Reed and Joan Lownds
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. This unparalleled multitude of animals at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue came as no surprise to those who knew the president and Mrs. Jacqueline Kennedy. Ever since they were children, their love of animals had been one of the singular themes of their lives. The American public only saw glimpses of the many Kennedy pets, however, most likely because of the way Mrs. Kennedy zealously guarded her family’s privacy.
The beloved pets of Camelot played key roles in the Kennedy presidency. For example, in his book, Dog Days at the White House, the White House kennel keeper, Traphes Bryant, described a remarkable event that took place at the height of the Cuban missile crisis: “I was there in Jack Kennedy’s office that day. Everything was in an uproar... There was talk about the Russian fleet coming in and our fleet blocking them off. It looked like war. Out of the blue, Kennedy suddenly called for Charlie to be brought to his office.”
According to Bryant, “After petting his Welsh Terrier for a while, President Kennedy relaxed, returned Charlie to the kennel keeper, and calmly said, ‘I suppose that it’s time to make some decisions.’” Charlie was the president’s most beloved dog. He adorned magazine covers and appeared in countless news stories. He was born on November 30, 1959, at the Port Fortune Kennels in Osterville, Massachusetts, with a pedigree that was stellar among his breed and had descended from the famous Strathglass line of Welsh Terriers—among the best America had to offer. His registered name was Port Fortune’s Sarah’s Ben, but to all who knew him, he was simply Charlie.
AUTHOR’S NOTE FROM MARGARET REED: “I’ve remembered meeting President Kennedy and his dogs my entire life and in fact, my career has been somewhat influenced by that meeting. Several years ago, I wanted to find out what had happened to the Kennedy dogs following the family’s departure from the White House in 1963 so I set upon a quest to find out and ended up in the research room at the John F. Kennedy Library in Boston. My intent was not to write a book but to satisfy a personal interest. The Dogs of Camelot is the result.” Available on amazon.com.