From her earliest childhood days on Long Island, through her youth in New York, Newport, Rhode Island and McLean, Virginia, to her public period as the wife of a U.S. Senator in Washington and in the White House as First Lady of the United States, to her life afterwards as the world’s most famous woman on Fifth Avenue in New York, Avenue Foch in Paris and on Skorpios Island, Greece, there was one element to her life which remained as consistent as her highly individualistic approach to living.
Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy Onassis loved her dogs.
And she didn’t discriminate based on breed or size, her menageries over the years including spaniel to daschund to poodle to shepherd to mixed-breed.
Although much has been written about how the radical differences in personality between her father, John “Black Jack” Bouvier and her mother Janet Norton Lee, is what essentially led to their acrimonious separation in 1936 and divorce in 1940 when their eldest child “Jackie” was eleven years old, Jack and Janet shared one bond which they jointly passed on to her – that love of dogs.
In fact, as a very young child, Jackie Bouvier often expressed her views by assigning human emotions, thoughts and feelings to dogs. The very first “book” she wrote was The Adventures of George Woofty, Esquire, a star-crossed love story between two dogs who couldn’t marry because they were of different breeds.
Dogs were also the subject which compelled her determination to publicly express her opinion on a trending social issue. When her father read to her a newspaper story on the subject of vivisection on dogs, Jackie Bouvier became enraged. She directed her anger by dictating her feelings to her father, who composed it all in a telegram, registering her protest against the practice of medical experimentation on dogs, which he then sent to the New York Journal-American.
It is difficult to precisely chronicle just which dogs she shared her life with on a permanent basis as a child and which were “borrowed.” It is known that the first dog to which she became extremely attached was Hootchie, a Scottish Terrier. When she was only two years old, she posed with him for a family snapshot in an informal setting. Other dogs she was snapped hugging and wrapping her arm around may well have been entered as contestants in the annual East Hampton Dog Show.
When she was seven years old and began to spend weekend time with her father, he often “rented” a dog from a local pet shop for Jackie and her younger sister Lee to enjoy and foster-care, including walks in Central Park and, during summers, along the country roads at his family’s seasonal home in East Hampton. One of the regulars was the massive King Phar, a Harlequin Great Dane, which frightened most adults – but not little Jackie.
Following the separation of her parents, Jackie Bouvier lived with her mother and sister in a posh Park Avenue apartment building built and owned by her grandfather, James Thomas Lee. While there, she seemed to develop an affection for dogs of a far larger breed.
The family, recalled a niece of Janet Lee I interviewed for my 1997 oral history biography of Mrs. Onassis, especially recalled a very large dog of the Bouvier de Flandres breed.
The dog was likely acquired because his breed name was the same as his human family’s, rather than as the ideal dog to make a home in a relatively small Park Avenue apartment.
One Sunday, when Mrs. Bouvier and her daughter returned from church, they found their Continue reading →
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