During John F. Kennedy’s presidency, he received a gift from Soviet Premier Khrushchev: the dog Pushinka. Pushinka, after being checked out by the Secret Service to make sure she wasn’t bugged, soon settled into the White House with the Kennedy family.
Pushinka was very welcome by one member of the family in particular: the Kennedy’s Welsh terrier, Charlie.
Pushinka and Charlie had a litter of puppies together in June 1963, and JFK called them the “pupniks.”
According to presidential dog wrangler Traphes Bryant, writing in Dog Days at the White House, President Kennedy also asked about the puppies regularly, things like “How long would the pups keep their eyes closed?” and “When could they go out on the lawn to play?”
4 Puppies in the White House
The puppies — Butterfly, White Tips, Blackie, and Streaker — spent a great deal of time with the Kennedy family in the two months before they were adopted by other families. In fact, it was Carolyn and John-John who gave the puppies their names.
Bryant even brought them to the Kennedy home on Cape Cod so that Caroline and John Jr. could see the puppies.
And Mrs. Kennedy told me…that while they were at the Cape, that would be the only time that the children would be able to enjoy the pups because when they came back to the White House, so many social things were going on that they wouldn’t actually have time to…. The four pups were given away before they returned to the White House.”
When JFK visited the family compound on the Cape, he even enjoyed playing with the “pupniks” on the lawn.
Kids Selected to Receive Puppies
When the puppies were born, around 5,000 people wrote in to the White House asking if they could have a puppy.
When the puppies were 2 months old, First Lady Jackie Kennedy asked White House staff to choose 10 finalist letters. From those letters, Jackie herself selected two children to receive puppies:
- Ten-year-old Karen House of Westchester, Illinois, was thrilled to adopt Butterfly.
- Nine-year-old Mark Bruce of Columbia, Missouri, won the First Lady’s heart with his letter detailing the accidental death of his former dog, and so acquired Streaker.
The First Family didn’t just send the puppies off; they paid for the expense of sending the puppies to their new homes and even included a dossier explaining Butterfly’s and Streaker’s preferences and habits.
The other two puppies were later given away to family friends.
Descendants of these famous pups can still be found today.