Kennedy AND his dogs … Grieving all the way around

I got to meet two of Senator Kennedy’s dogs three years ago during a second tour at the White House with my Senate pal, Patty Kennedy.
I had originally visited the US Senate in 2000, helping Patty with the publicity of her incredible book, Bailey Bymyside: Golden Lessons for Life (to see some of the lessons from the book, click here).

Senator Kennedy’s dogs were being walked by staff members as he was, of course, busy doing the people’s work. I was told that the Senator brought his dog to work about once a week. And, he brought a tennis racket as well so that he could hit balls for his dog to retrieve and bring back to him.

In the May 2006 Boston Globe Interview, Making a Splash, reporter Susan Milligan speaks to folks not really knowing Ted Kennedy, despite 40 years in the Senate and speeches galore. For, it was when you could catch him playing fetch with his dogs that one could really see him come alive. How disappointing it was that I was not able to see him do just that with his dogs.

Follow the senior senator from Massachusetts, known for beating up tobacco lobbyists and conservative Supreme Court nominees, into his Capitol Hill office – the inner office, the one decorated with a framed, handwritten note from John F. Kennedy as a child, with pictures of Edward M. Kennedy standing alongside Martin Luther King and past presidents – and he quickly morphs into 8-year-old Teddy Kennedy. “Do you know how much I missed you? Do you KNOW how much I missed you?” Kennedy coos at Splash, his Portuguese water dog who has been awaiting his owner’s return from a Senate committee hearing. Kennedy bounces a tennis ball, sending the large, curly-haired canine running around the bustling office before settling comfortably next to the senator.

It was endearing to hear him interrupt the interview to ask Susan if she wanted to see a trick. But, as we all know, our dogs do not always perform on command.

Splash, Susan would like to see the ball, if you would show it to her. Can you show me the ball? Will you show me the ball? Splash. Please. SPLASH. Will you show me the ball? Come on, come on, show me the ball. Thank you. You know I want that ball, and you know I want that ball now. SPLASH. Please. Now you know I want that ball, and you’re not going to give the ball to me? Come on, come on. Look. Show it to ME. Where are you going with that ball? Why are you teasing me? You know I want that ball more than anything in the world. Well, I guess you won’t let me see it.

I was happy to know that the good Senator was enjoying his last months by immersing himself in what he loved best — being by or on the water . . . with his beloved dogs by his side.

I only worry about how Splash, Sunny, and new puppy Cappy will handle his absence, as dog lovers do understand that dogs go through a grieving process as well, as expressed here by behaviorist Jean Donaldson.

It seems implausible that dogs, who bond so strongly, would not feel really bad when someone they’re close to disappears. Now, whether they have the accompanying cognitions that so complicate human grief is something I’m less convinced of. I know people whose dogs have struggled with the loss of a family member (people and dogs), becoming depressed, anxious, lost and rudderless. And I can see how this could be compounded by changes in routine brought on by the grieving process of remaining family members.

And, I am sure that Kennedy’s dogs will be missed on the hill, as he was never hesitant to utilize his furry companions in every aspect of his working life.

Now, lobbyists, staffers and other Hill dwellers say they mourn not only the passing of Kennedy but also he end of a unique chapter in Capitol Hill’s canine history. With their black curly hair, floppy ears and bouncy gait, Kennedy’s dogs became a part of the lawmaker’s nearly 47-year Hill tenure.

Kennedy’s Senate office always had water bowls and tennis balls on hand. Major legislation was hammered out as White House officials patted fuzzy heads and threw balls during meetings. The dogs were known to snooze under committee room tables.

“It’s like the end of an era,” said Kennedy’s former judiciary committee general council David Sutphen. “I find it hard to believe you’ll have another senator with a dog who comes to meetings all over the Capitol. It’s kind of the closing of a chapter.”

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A very sad day . . . Dog Loving Senator Ted Kennedy has died.

I hear that the Obama family fell in love with Senator Kennedy’s Porties, so inspiring their bringing Bo into the family. I got to meet two of Senator Kennedy’s dogs three years ago during a second tour at the White House with my Senate pal, Patty Kennedy. I had originally visited the US Senate in 2000, helping Patty with the publicity of her incredible book, Bailey Bymyside: Golden Lessons for Life (to see some of the lessons from the book, click here).

Senator Kennedy’s dogs were being walked by staff members as he was, of course, busy doing the people’s work. I was told that the Senator brought his dog to work about once a week. And, he brought a tennis racket as well so that he could hit balls for his dog to retrieve and bring back to him.

In the May 2006 Boston Globe Interview, Making a Splash, reporter Susan Milligan speaks to folks not really knowing Ted Kennedy, despite 40 years in the Senate and speeches galore. For, it was when you could catch him playing fetch with his dogs that one could really see him come alive. How disappointing it was that I was not able to see him do just that with his dogs.

Follow the senior senator from Massachusetts, known for beating up tobacco lobbyists and conservative Supreme Court nominees, into his Capitol Hill office – the inner office, the one decorated with a framed, handwritten note from John F. Kennedy as a child, with pictures of Edward M. Kennedy standing alongside Martin Luther King and past presidents – and he quickly morphs into 8-year-old Teddy Kennedy. “Do you know how much I missed you? Do you KNOW how much I missed you?” Kennedy coos at Splash, his Portuguese water dog who has been awaiting his owner’s return from a Senate committee hearing. Kennedy bounces a tennis ball, sending the large, curly-haired canine running around the bustling office before settling comfortably next to the senator.

It was endearing to hear him interrupt the interview to ask Susan if she wanted to see a trick. But, as we all know, our dogs do not always perform on command.

Splash, Susan would like to see the ball, if you would show it to her. Can you show me the ball? Will you show me the ball? Splash. Please. SPLASH. Will you show me the ball? Come on, come on, show me the ball. Thank you. You know I want that ball, and you know I want that ball now. SPLASH. Please. Now you know I want that ball, and you’re not going to give the ball to me? Come on, come on. Look. Show it to ME. Where are you going with that ball? Why are you teasing me? You know I want that ball more than anything in the world. Well, I guess you won’t let me see it.

In the February 2006 Washingtonian article, Love Your Pet: A Senator’s Dogs, you can see how lucky the Senator’s dogs, Sunny and Splash, are.

Senator Ted Kennedy’s dogs, Sunny and Splash, have quite a life. They wander the halls of Congress most days, spend summers on Cape Cod, and play ball with one of the country’s most powerful senators.

The Portuguese water dogs each have their own talents: Splash is the faster runner, while Sunny, pictured here, is a stronger swimmer. “She can stay in the water longer than you can walk,” the senator says.

The dogs often can be found under the senator’s desk. Sunny mainly sleeps, although both dogs have been present at many important meetings. “Splash sat through the markup for the No Child Left Behind bill,” Kennedy says.

Splash, the older of the two, has achieved some fame of his own. He won Best in Show at a Virginia dog show.

The 2006 book, My Senator And Me: A Dog’s Eye View Of Washington, D.C., is a lovely children’s book that highlights his guy, Ch. Amigo’s Seventh Wave (nicknamed Splash). One gets to follow Senator Kennedy and Splash through a busy day in D.C., from press conferences to meetings with school groups to committee discussions to a floor vote.

Kennedy’s introduction to the political process is clear, informative, and loaded with child appeal, in part due to his choice of Splash as the fun and furry narrator.

The Whole Furry Family

The Whole Furry Family

I was happy to know that the good Senator was enjoying his last months by immersing himself in what he loved best — being by or on the water . . . with his beloved dogs by his side.

I only worry about how Splash and Sunny will handle his absence, as us dog lovers do understand that dogs go through a grieving process as well.

Honestly, it is hard to believe that we will no longer hear that recognizable New England voice, speaking out for one and all. . . . “the work goes on, the cause endures, the hope still lives, and the dream shall never die”

The Kennedy-Obama Canine Connection

August 26, 2009 update here.

I hear that the Obama family fell in love with Senator Kennedy’s Porties, so inspiring their bringing Bo into the family. I got to meet two of Senator Kennedy’s dogs three years ago during a second tour at the White House with my Senate pal, Patty Kennedy. I had originally visited the US Senate in 2000, helping Patty with the publicity of her incredible book, Bailey Bymyside: Golden Lessons for Life (to see some of the lessons from the book, click here).

Senator Kennedy dogs were being walked by staff members as he was, of course, busy doing the people’s work. I was told that the Senator brought his dog to work about once a week. And, he brought a tennis racket as well so that he could hit balls for his dog to retrieve and bring back to him.

The 2006 book, My Senator And Me: A Dog’s Eye View Of Washington, D.C., is a lovely children’s book that highlights his guy, Ch. Amigo’s Seventh Wave (nicknamed Splash). One gets to follow Senator Kennedy and Splash through a busy day in D.C., from press conferences to meetings with school groups to committee discussions to a floor vote. Kennedy’s introduction to the political process is clear, informative, and loaded with child appeal, in part due to his choice of a furry narrator.

Bo, America’s Commander in Leash was written by Naren Aryal and illustrated by Danny Moore (Mascot Books). The book begins with Bo stealing the president’s letter opener, and he’s off and running for the next 25 pages.

Bo flies off the Obama girls’ swing, runs from bees near the first lady’s organic garden, puts green dye in the fountain for St. Patrick’s Day, and even serves up a summer hamburger for VP Biden. And, he is definitely enjoying the view and breeze from the window of Dad’s presidential helicopter, a major perk I’d say.

It looks like a great book for kids from age 4 to 10, as so many are now so interested in this special guy.

Click here to see a sample page from the book.

Art and Martha Stern, who bred the new White House dog, Bo, at their Amigo Portuguese Water Dog Kennels in Texas, were interviewed by PEOPLE Pets. And, they revealed some cool info (in the 5 facts below).

Spokesdog Bo

5 Things You May Not Know About First Dog Bo

1. It wasn’t Bo’s fault his first family didn’t work out. Bo, who spent time with another family before heading to Washington, was originally acquired to give an older female some company, but he ended up giving her a headache – by trying to nurse on her. “Most of our puppies, when [they] are six or seven weeks of age, I let them out with the big dogs,” Stern says. “The big dogs usually educate them to the fact that not all big dogs are their mother. But apparently he didn’t learn that.”

2. Bo comes from sturdy stock. His mom Penny is “kinda pushy,” Stern says. “She tries to run things, but we’ve got an older female that’s actually the alpha.” The Sterns give all their dogs a puppy test that rates degrees of social attraction, the ability to follow and sensitivity to touch. Bo scored mostly in the middle.

3. Bo has been a presidential dog-in-training for weeks. After Bo left his first home, he a top-secret trip to the White House for a summit with the Obamas in mid-March. Then he was whisked off for schooling by the Kennedy’s dog trainer.

4. He has a talented older brother. The Sterns tried to mate Bo’s mom and dad through artificial insemination, and a pup named Solo was born. Solo now competes in a sport called Water Work that mimics the challenges of fishing, which Porties were originally bred to do. Then Bo’s parents got together again and had Bo and his nine litter mates (including one owned by the Kennedys).

5. Bo will be big and lanky. Stern says that his other dogs that were neutered young – like Bo – have become especially tall. Which means he’ll be right at home with the First Family: The President is just over 6 feet tall, while Michelle Obama while Michelle Obama reaches 5’11”.

Check out Bo’s first day in the video below, along with some of our favorite photos of this cutie with his new forever family.

Presidential Puppy Watch … Senator Kennedy’s Portuguese Water Dog influence

August 26, 2009 update here.

APRIL 16 UPDATE HERE

Well, it seems like Senator Kennedy has made a huge influence on the Obama family. The number one pick these days is a Portuguese Water Dog.

Speaking to PEOPLE at the White House recently, Michelle Obama leaned in and confided: “You’re getting some scoops here.”  So, when? In April, Mrs. Obama says – after she and the President take daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, on a vacation for spring break.

Here’s a sample of a typical family conversation on the matter: “So Sasha says, ‘April 1st.’ I said, ‘April.’ She says, ‘April 1st.’ It’s, like, April!,” Mrs. Obama recalls. “Got to do it after spring break. You can’t get a new dog and then go away for a week.”

And what kind of dog will soon be frolicking on the South Lawn? Mrs. Obama says the family is looking for a rescue Portuguese Water dog who is “old enough” and a “match” for the family dynamic. Temperamentally they’re supposed to be pretty good,” she says of the breed that Sen. Ted Kennedy has also lobbied for (he has two Water dogs of his own). “From the size perspective, they’re sort of middle of the road – it’s not small, but it’s not a huge dog. And the folks that we know who own them have raved about them. So that’s where we’re leaning.”

The only thing still up in the air is the name. And Mom’s not feeling it with some of the names her girls have come up with. “Oh, the names are really bad. I don’t even want to mention it, because there are names floating around and they’re bad,” Mrs. Obama says with a laugh. “You listen and you go – like, I think, Frank was one of them. Frank! Moose was another one of them. Moose. I said, well, what if the dog isn’t a moose? Moose. I’m like, no, come on, let’s work with the names a little bit.”

I got to meet two of Senator Kennedy’s dogs three years ago during a second tour at the White House with my Senate pal, Patty Kennedy. I had originally visited the US Senate in 2000, helping Patty with the publicity of her incredible book, Bailey Bymyside: Golden Lessons for Life (to see some of the lessons from the book, click here).

Senator Kennedy dogs were being walked by staff members as he was, of course, busy doing the people’s work. I was told that the Senator brought his dog to work about once a week. And, he brought a tennis racket as well so that he could hit balls for his dog to retrieve and bring back to him.

I hear that the Senator is currently convalescing in Florida, spending wonderful, warm days by the water with his beloved dogs by his side. But, he remains very busy communicating with staff by phone so that he can still guide his much desired health reforms to eventual passage.

The 2006 book, My Senator And Me: A Dog’s Eye View Of Washington, D.C., is a lovely children’s book that highlights his guy, Ch. Amigo’s Seventh Wave (nicknamed Splash). One gets to follow Senator Kennedy and Splash through a busy day in D.C., from press conferences to meetings with school groups to committee discussions to a floor vote.

Kennedy’s introduction to the political process is clear, informative, and loaded with child appeal, in part due to his choice of a furry narrator.

I went looking for some fun Portuguese Water Dog images and came up with this great one of Docker,  the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America’s 2007 Superdog Winner.

Am/Intl CH Floodtide's Meet Me At Dockside CD AX AXJ RE CWD GROM CGC "Docker"

Am/Intl CH Floodtide's Meet Me At Dockside CD AX AXJ RE CWD GROM CGC "Docker"

It actually reminded me of this 2006 photo of President Obama following his 50th town hall meeting in Massac County.

A true comic book lover and collector I hear, he had posed in front of the Superman Statue in downtown Metropolis, IL, known as the home of the DC Comics super hero.

And, in October 2008 Obama joked at the Al Smith dinner that was actually sent here from the planet Krypton by his father Jor-El to “save the planet Earth.

Eerily, given the current economic crisis and the need to manage two wars, I’d say that statement was pretty much on the mark.