Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis “was a wonderful colleague at Doubleday, where I landed an editorial job after grad school,” said Howard Kaplan, a friend of The Georgetowner and a former co-worker of the glamorous former First Lady. “We worked together on the memoir of Judith Jamison, the star of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater 30 years ago.
Kaplan went on to praise the woman we’ve all come to know as Jackie O., calling her smart, insightful, gracious, and generous, and mentioning her wonderful sense of humor.
All those qualities are vital when it comes to dog ownership. When we set out to create our August issue, we wanted to write about the “dog days” of summer, the hottest part of the year where all you want to do is sprawl out like a dog lying in the sunshine, without a care in the world.
Of course, we had to have a Georgetown tie-in, so we began thinking and realized, what better person to feature than one of the neighborhood’s best-known animal lovers, Jackie O. herself?
In 1961, when Jacqueline Kennedy became the nation’s First Lady at 31 years-old, the Kennedy family entered the White House with a true pet menagerie (including a beer-drinking rabbit named Zsa Zsa who could play the trumpet).
But, their pet dogs held a particularly special place for the Kennedy’s. When John and Jackie married in 1953, a feisty golden retriever named Tippy came on board. He unfortunately was just too spirited for Georgetown and ended up going to live with Jackie’s mother, Janet Lee Bouvier.
Out of the whole pack, the dog that ended up taking to Jackie was Clipper, a German Shepherd. Often by the First Lady’s side, Clipper was a gift from Joseph P. Kennedy, patriarch of the Kennedy family, and Jackie’s Father-in-Law.
According to the website presidentialpetmuseum.com, an article in the January 27, 1963 edition of The Pittsburgh Press recalled how Jackie once tried to walk Clipper outside The White House grounds. The reporter, Merriman Smith, recounted seeing a woman in dark sunglasses during a day that was “anything but bright.” Smith made a sound to get Clipper’s attention and another man quickly popped on scene, positioning himself between the First Lady and the reporter.
During a separate incident, a reporter visiting The White House asked Jackie what Clipper liked to eat and she responded: “Reporters.” The response, while humorous, was perhaps an indirect way Jackie displayed feeling protected by Clipper and how she valued the privacy he could provide. Clipper often spent time in the family’s quarters in The White House, especially when the president was traveling. Formally trained through an obedience school, Clipper held credentials many rowdier Kennedy family dogs never attained.
Sadly, a cocker spaniel named Shannon, who was gifted to Caroline (5 years-old at the time) and loved by John Jr. (then 2 years-old), was the only dog to stay with the family after President Kennedy was assassinated on November 22, 1963.
Shannon most likely spent time at 3017 N St. NW, part of three historic houses currently up for sale in Georgetown for $19.5 million. 3017 N St. was occupied by Jackie and her children from December 1963 through September 1964. Ultimately, they left the home after less than a year because their privacy was lost to prying tourists.
The Kennedys were said to have loved dogs because of the “smart, resilient, determined and optimistic” qualities of canines as well as their hopeful spirit – canine qualities to match Camelot, indeed.
According to the American Kennel Club, dog ownership is great for humans. Owning a dog can help alleviate stress, is good for your heart, makes us less lonely, and even helps seniors with cognitive function and social interaction.
Like Jackie, I was lucky to have not one but three Clippers in my life. My first dog, owned by my husband and me, was named Moe, an English Bulldog rescue who taught me patience. We’re always so on-the-go these days and Moe, he moved when he wanted to, and oh, how he wanted to! He also inspired me to write my first children’s book based on the thousands of photos I took of him over the five-and-a-half years we were lucky to have him.
Then there was our first French Bulldog Tito. We got him at age one, and unfortunately, he didn’t live long, but he lived hard and fast the three years we were lucky to have him. Like the John Belushis, Janis Joplins, Chris Farleys (and JFK and RFK, for that matter) of the world, he taught us to live life to the fullest because life is indeed short.
Our latest Clipper is another Frenchie named Thor. He was our first true puppy, having taken him home at just eight weeks old. Thor helped my husband and me be a better team and lead us to better understand each other as we navigated the crazy world of puppydom.
If you want to read more about the Kennedy dogs, check out the book “The Dogs of Camelot: Stories of the Kennedy Canines,” by Margaret Reed and Joan Lownds with a forward by Clint Hill. If you’d like to read my children’s book “Today I Feel…” about my bulldog Moe, you can find it on Amazon.
“The world would be a nice place if everyone had the ability to love as unconditionally as a dog.” ~ M.K. Clinton