By Andrew Hager, Historian-in-residence
PPM Picks is a weekly feature offering film, book, or music recommendations from our staff. The links provided in the article go to product listings on Amazon. Purchases made using these links support the Presidential Pet Museum. That said, we were not paid to review or promote any of the items mentioned. We just legitimately like them.
It seems almost silly to write a lengthy review of The Dogs of Camelot. If you are visiting this website, particularly if you come here often, you need to read this book in the same way someone studying American novels needs to read The Great Gatsby or someone studying film needs to see The Wizard of Oz. This is essential presidential pet reading.
Filled with photos and anecdotes reaching back to John F. Kennedy’s childhood, Margaret Reed and Joan Lownds’ history is a warm portrait of a man who loved dogs (despite his allergies). Each White House-era canine is covered with his or her own chapter. We learn birth dates, breeders, how the Kennedy family acquired each pup, and everything important related to that dog’s life through the fall of 1963 and beyond.
The authors spent countless hours sifting through archives at the Kennedy library, reading oral histories and notes. They also make good use of Dog Days at the White House, the classic memoir of JFK’s dog wrangler, Traphes Bryant. This legwork pays dividends.
They take great care to place each animal in the history of the era. The book notes, for example, that during the height of the Cuban Missile Crisis, JFK took a quick break from high-level discussions to play with Charlie and center himself before making critical decisions. Even presidents sometimes need emotional support animals,
The Dogs of Camelot is, above all, a satisfying read. As Labor Day approaches and you try to squeeze in one more beach book, consider this page-turner. It overflows with history, good humor, and a strong love of dogs. If you’re here, you need it.