Wednesday, August 26, 2009

US Senator Edward Kennedy Dies ~ He l♥ved his dogs, yes, he did.

Senator Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts, a son of one of the most storied families in American politics, a man who knew triumph and tragedy in near-equal measure and who will be remembered as one of the most effective lawmakers in the history of the Senate, died Tuesday night. He was 77 .

Say what you will about Ted Kennedy or Democrats or politics, but that man loved his dogs. They were with him in the Senate and on his boat and in his home. Those Portuguese Water Dogs of Kennedy's were his constant companions. Dogs have lost a dear and loving friend. This man, often called the Lion of the Senate, was a pushover for those high energy, curly-haired companions of his. It was said that you would often see him outside the Senate hitting tennis balls for his beloved dogs in an effort to gain relief from the tense atmosphere often found in elective office. It wasn't often that you would see the Senator without 2-3 leashes and a water dog on the other end. (My words)

Making a Splash

You may think you know Ted Kennedy after 40 years in the Senate and enough speeches to fill the Library of Congress. But you haven't seen him play fetch with the inspiration for his new children's book.

Splash and his senator
Washington insiders know better than to get between Ted Kennedy and his Portuguese water dog, Splash, who tails the senator all around Capitol Hill. (Globe Photo / Chris Hartlove)
There's an old saying: "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog." A few years ago, Senator Ted Kennedy decided to do just that. Now his beloved Portuguese Water Dog Champion Amigo's Seventh Wave (nicknamed Splash) is the most famous canine on Capitol Hill. Here we 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. The result is an exciting, behind-the-scenes look at the life of one of the most energetic figures in American politics — and, of course, his equally famous owner. (Book can be purchased on

Susan Milligan, 2006
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. Kennedy (and Splash) sit down to discuss not the Iraq war, election politics, or health care initiatives, but rather his new 56-page children's book, My Senator and Me: A Dog's-Eye View Of Washington, D.C., due out this month from Scholastic.
I hope you weren't thinking this was going to be an easy interview because it's about your dog. So let's start with the tough question: Isn't it true you stole Splash from your wife?
That's unfair. But probably true.
He was, originally, a gift for Mrs. Vicki Kennedy. Where did you get him?
I had dogs all my life, but Patrick [Kennedy's son, now a congressman from Rhode Island] is a chronic asthmatic. He's allergic to everything. We looked at this kind of dog, because he's non-allergic. I looked at the small dogs, the puppies, and the breeder said, "Let me show you what the dog will look like when he grows up." I knew, once we went out to take a look at Splash [named by a previous owner], it was going to be all over. He said Splash wasn't for sale, but I agreed to take care of him when they weren't breeding him, so he said, "You've got a deal." Four months later, they decided they weren't going to breed him.
Then you started taking Splash to the office. How did you square that with Mrs. Kennedy?
Well, Vicki thought I was taking Splash away, and she wanted to have a dog, so we got Sunny, one of Splash's great-nieces. Then Vicki said, "We don't want them separated. They'll get lonely." So I bring both of them in. [Sunny was not in the office the day of this interview.]

What made you decide to write a children's book?
Do you want to see a trick?
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.
The idea for the book?
Oh, he came back. You're such a good dog. Thank you, Splash. I read over at the Robert Brent Museum Magnet Elementary School [in Washington, D.C.] once a week, and I noticed there were few books available to read to the children. I saw that the children love books about animals, and we had some funny stories about Splash, so I thought, let's do a book about it. To be honest about it, when I finished it, I thought that was the first chapter, but they said no, that's the whole book. Then I got the illustrator [Caldecott Medal winner David Small] and I read it to my grandchildren.
They thought it was ho-hum. They were interested, but not enormously excited about it. Then one of them said, "Why don't you have the story told by Splash?" Vicki stayed up until 11 o'clock at night and rewrote the whole story, from Splash's point of view. That's why I dedicated the book to her.
Is there anywhere Splash can't go?
The Senate floor. He is a little upset about it. [He opens a copy of the book.] "I know the rules, no dogs allowed on the Senate floor. But I don't like it. I see plenty of senators, and they don't behave any better than I do."
But he's seen some famous people and places.
He's met Elton John. He was in the Oval Office. He has a dog bone from President Bush. He gave me this rawhide dog bone and wrote on it, "From Barney to Splash." I take him to all the hearings; he always sits under the table. He goes to press conferences, to the Cape. He loves to take long trips in the boat. He could sail all day.
Doesn't he get to be something of a distraction?
Not really. [Splash barks and tries to retrieve a tennis ball from under the couch.] But one time [during a committee hearing] we had a roll call, and when we came back, Splash was sitting in the chairman's chair.
How does he behave around other senators?
One time, the caucus went on too long, and Joe Biden and Paul Wellstone were speaking louder and louder. Splash started to bark, so Paul Sarbanes made him an honorary member of our caucus.
What does Splash do when he sees the bomb-sniffing dogs?
 He waits until we pass. And then he barks.

I didn't always agree with Ted Kennedy's politics but I always agreed with him 100% about the value of dogs!


Khyra The Siberian Husky And Sometimes Her Mom said...

What a nice tribute to a special human!

Mom was both sad yet relieved when she saw he passed away whilst we slept -

Khyra and Her Mom

The Bumpass Hounds said...

A special relationship with a dog brings out the best in a person...Always.

C.l.o.v.e.r. said...

Hi Scout & Freyja,
Thanks for stopping by my blog! It is nice to meet you!
Sad news about Ted Kennedy - it sounds like he was a really nice guy. This is a nice tribute to him!

Martha Basset said...

Lovely tribute - we reckon if he loved dogs he must have been a good man!
Martha & Bailey xxx

The OP Pack said...

We knew this was coming soon when he did not attend his sister's funeral. Despite his shortcomings and struggles, he did a lot of good for a lot of people.

Thanks for the very nice tribute.

Woos, the OP Pack

Brownie said...

what a nice tribute to his love of doggies!

Dennis the Vizsla said...

I hadn't heard about this but knew it was coming. Such a tragic family. I didn't know about his dogs, but I'm glad I do now.

Anonymous said...

I think LOTS of people love their dogs.

JackDaddy said...

What a nice post! Thanks for sharing the interview!

Dory and the Mama said...

What a nice tribute!

Stella said...

My Mom has shed lots of tears today because she loved Sen. Kennedy and she said I should thank you for this good story.


The Thundering Herd said...

There are politics - and there are dog-lovers. I can agree and disagree with many humans about many things, but respecting our canine brethren is not debatable. For that alone, I salute a fallen American Patriot.

Great tribute.

Teddy Bear said...

Such a lovely tribute to a wonderful dog lover. Please send your email to my Mommy: ymsurf_monterey at yahoo dot com

Teddy Bear

Thor said...

Nice tribute for a man who loved his dogs!


Tracey and Huffle said...

I love a man who loves his dog.

Huffle Mawson

central bark designs said...

A lovely post to a man who loved his dogs...and his country. As VP Biden said today....(I'm paraphrasing here) He may have been ready...but we weren't. I have learned more about this great man today... one story that touched me... he went to EVERY military funeral for a constituent lost in Iraq and Afghanistan...he felt it was important to honor the family. He did it without press. Without pomp. He did it because it was the right thing to do.

Agatha and Archie said...

A lovely post for a wonderfull man and his pups. We here in Massachusetts are heart broken.He was our Senator and he was everyone's Uncle Ted. He will be sorely missed by us and by all A+A

KB said...

I missed this post back in August but it's a funny and wonderful view of Ted Kennedy. I hope that his dogs are healing after losing such a wonderful guardian.