Pushinka: JFK's Soviet Dog
President Kennedy and his family were all avid animal lovers and during his term the White House was filled with pets. One notable dog, Pushinka, became famous in history when given to the family as a gift by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev during the Cold War era.
Pushinka, Russian for Fluffy, was a mixed-breed puppy of Strelka - one of the two Soviet space dogs who made history by being the first living creatures to orbit the Earth and return home safely aboard Sputnik 2 on August 19, 1960.
Despite the hostility between the US and the USSR during the Cold War, President John F Kennedy and Soviet Leader Nikita Khrushchev wrote to each other regularly and even exchanged presents. Shortly after Strelka's return to Earth, she gave birth to six puppies, one being Pushinka. At six months old, Pushinka was sent to the White House, with her own Russian passport, as a gift to the Kennedy family.
Just to be safe, President Kennedy had the dog examined to make sure she was not bugged with any hidden listening devices before settling her into the White House.
On June 21, 1961, the President wrote Khrushchev thanking him for the dog. "Mrs. Kennedy and I were particularly pleased to receive Pushinka. Her flight from the Soviet Union to the United States was not as dramatic as the flight of her mother, nevertheless, it was a long voyage and she stood it well. We both appreciate your remembering these matters in your busy life."
Pushinka was welcomed into the family and loved by all. According to Traphes Bryant, one of the staff who looked after the dog, "Pushinka could climb a ladder up to Caroline's playhouse. She'd get up to the top of this little platform and then she would slide down the metal chute." In a television interview with Larry King in 1995, the late John F Kennedy Jr. shared "Sending the dog down that slide is probably my first memory."
Soon after coming to the White House, Pushinka also won the heart of Charlie, the family's Welsh terrier. In June 1963, Pushinka and Charlie had a litter of four puppies named Butterfly, White Tips, Blackie and Streaker. JFK called them the pupniks.
About 5,000 people wrote the White House asking if they could have a puppy. Jackie Kennedy asked the White House staff to choose ten finalist letters and from those letters she selected two children. Ten year old Karen House of Illinois received Butterfly and nine year old Mark Bruce of Missouri received Streaker. The other two puppies were given away to family friends.
The famous space dog's descendants are still living today.