'The Dogs Of Camelot' Brings Readers Into The World Of The Kennedy Canines

Published: July 15, 2018 at 12:00 am


Dr Margaret "Peggy" Reed has been training dogs for decades, including here in Newtown, but now she is providing a learning experience to dog owners (or non-dog owners, for that matter) through her book The Dogs of Camelot: Stories of the Kennedy Canines, which was also written by Joan Lownds.

Clint Hill, a secret service agent who was there when President John F. Kennedy was killed, whom Dr Reed tracked down through a friend, wrote the forward for the book, which became available this spring.
Mr Hill was one of many sources Dr Reed utilized to make The Dogs of Camelot a reality. The book's infancy stage actually began months before the assassination of JFK, well before Dr Reed knew she would write her first book.

During a visit to Hyannis Port, Mass., when she was 4 years old, Dr Reed was approached by a friendly dog that turned out to be one of those owned by President Kennedy. Dr Reed got to meet the president and the experience had a tremendous impact on her.

"Although it was a brief encounter, it's just one of those moments you knew something terrific happened," Dr Reed said of the occurrence, which happened in the summer of 1963.

During a fundraising event for the Park and Bark dog park nearly 50 years later, about a decade ago, Dr Reed came across a German Shepherd that reminded her of one of Kennedy's pooches, Clipper.

Wondering what happened to Kennedy's dogs after his assassination, she did some research and began working on the book.

"I wanted to know: where did they go and what happened to them?" said Dr Reed, adding that eight of the nine dogs had to find new homes; Jacqueline Kennedy kept one of the them.

The John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum seemed like a logical place to go for information, but Jacqueline Kennedy's personal files were not released until 2016.

"The hardest part was the research because there really weren't many files on the dogs," Dr Reed said. "I wanted to get it right. There's so much bad information out there about the Kennedy dogs."

Research led Dr Reed to cabinet members from the administration, JFK's speech writer Ted Sorensen, and White House Social Secretary Nancy Tuckerman, who served as Jacqueline Kennedy's personal secretary after the president's death.

Dr Reed said what she learned from interviews with some 40 to 50 people was that, while there is a belief that it was Jacqueline Kennedy who was the dog lover, it was really JFK.

"He felt like he could trust them better than most people," she said. "He was very allergic to dogs, and yet they were a constant in his life."

Dr Reed notes that, regardless of political affiliation, this read is applicable to someone interested in the subjects.

"This is a book that applies to all people. It's not a Democratic book or a Republican book; it's a historic book about what happened to the dogs," Dr Reed said. "Animals and pets are very important to people. I think it's important to see there is a human side to presidents."

Dr Reed founded Canine Training and Behavior Services LLC, headquartered in Wilton, in 1984. She continues to train dogs in the area, including in Newtown.

"It's my passion. They are such a great equalizer. You get to meet people of all walks of like with dogs," said Dr Reed, who continues to make donations to Park and Bark.

"I look at this as my second home. I absolutely love Newtown," Dr Reed said.

The book, which is available through Amazon, is described on the Amazon website as follows: "Before that tragic day on November 22, 1963, the Kennedy years were filled with hope and promise. As the White House gardener put it, they were also filled with children and dogs. The Dogs of Camelot illuminates the inside story of the Kennedys' lifelong love of dogs and the unparalleled canine corps they brought to the White House. The American public only saw glimpses of the many Kennedy pets because of the zealous way Jackie Kennedy guarded her family's privacy. Through cooperation with the Kennedy Library, the authors have access to rare and previously unpublished photos and stories that present a fascinating angle about the Kennedys that is deeply revealing about their character and compassion."

Hardcover copies of the book are available for $17.99 through Amazon.

For information on Canine Training and Behavior Services LLC, visit caninetrainingctbs.com.

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