Friday, August 28, 2009

Senator Ted Kennedy - A Dog Lover and Animal Advocate

Photo: Kennedy with wife Victoria Reggie Kennedy, walking with their dogs in 2008, shortly after Kennedy was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Credit: Steven Senne / Associated Press

As the media and individuals remember and pay tribute to “The Lion of the Senate,” Senator Ted Kennedy much focus is on his dedication to healthcare reform, yet it is important to also remember that he was a true advocate for animals and a dog lover. Though known for spearheading many liberal issues, Kennedy was able to cross the partisan line when it came to issues he believed in. Kennedy connected with conservatives on one issue – his love of animals – particularly his love of his Portuguese Water Dogs – four-legged and free of part affiliation.

Wayne Pacelle, CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, recently spoke about Senator Kennedy’s dedication to animals and promoting animal welfare. Pacelle referred to Kennedy as, “a stalwart ally over the years on a wide range of legislation to protect companion animals, farm animals, animals in research and wildlife,” and The Lion of the Senate was a key player in the passage of animal welfare legislation including laws that cracked down on dog fighting and cockfighting, protected horses and other farm animals, and sent chimpanzees once used in medical research to sanctuaries, Pacelle also noted. Senator Kennedy received a score of an 83 from the Humane Society Legislative Fund in their latest scorecard, which is an annual report on the voting records of lawmakers on animal protection issues.

Of course, while some did not agree with all of the animal issues Kennedy supported, it is hard not to smile when you think of his love and devotion to Sunny and Splash his two Portuguese Water Dogs – that is an issue even the most conservatives are sure to support. If Kennedy was “The Lion of the Senate” than Splash is surely “The Dog of the Senate,” Senator Kennedy noted in an interview with the Boston Globe some of Splash’s many accomplishments including, meeting Elton John, a visit to the Oval Office, and a Presidential Bone – a rawhide given to Splash from President Bush, inscribed with the message, “From Barney to Splash.’ Senator Kennedy confided in the Boston Globe that Splash accompanied him to all of the hearings, where he would sit under the table. It wasn’t just Senate hearings where Splash was present, but press conferences, too. When not being a Legislative Lassie, and faithful companion to Senator Kennedy, Splash could be found at the Cape, often enjoying long trips on the boat, he was a dog that could sail all day, Kennedy told the Boston Globe.

Splash was not only Kennedy’s dog, but Kennedy was also faithfully devoted to his canine companion. The Lion of the Senate was so devoted that Splash was the inspiration for Kennedy to pen a children’s book with Splash as its “narrator” or “woofator.” The story, "My Senator and Me: A Dog's Eye View of Washington, D.C.," is aimed at elementary-aged children, and gives them an introduction to the political process through the words of Splash. The School Library Journal praised the book by saying, "This canine bundle of friendly, panting fun takes readers on a tour of monuments and then describes a typical day: staff discussion of an education bill, a ride in the underground tram between the Senate and the Capitol, a press conference, a committee meeting, and a floor vote. Children will appreciate Splash's joy at the snacks and time for outdoor catch along the way, as well as the strategic Woof when the committee reaches an impasse on the bill."

As I blogged about in the past, recently Kennedy helped the Obama’s with the acquisition of their Portuguese Water Dog, Bo – and now America can thank the now-departed Lion of the Senate for the friendly, panting, fetching, tuxedo-clad bundle of joy that is the First Dog.

Whether or not you supported Senator Ted Kennedy – like all humans he had his share of faults, and his image was tainted by past indiscretions – he truly loved and cared about animals. He did not just leave behind his human family with his passing, but also his beloved dogs Sunny and Splash, who surely are faced with an incomprehensible amount of grief as they wonder where their master has gone.

Sources: LA Times, Lindsay Barnett


  1. Thank you for sharing. He will be missed...


  2. Thank you so much for this post. He truly will be missed for many things...

  3. Awww from Barney to Splash, AWWWWW!

    BTW, I hope your nose is better


  4. Love this post- back in the world of blogging today!! Sen. Kennedy had many admirable traits but this post summed it all up.

  5. Excellent post.Thanks for sharing this message.Really,Your blog is not only instructive but useful too.

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