John F. Kennedy, our 35th president, is back in the news with the endorsement of Barack Obama by daughter Caroline and brother Ted in terms that hark back to the 1960s. So perhaps my connection to Camelot is relevant again. My family had a relative in that White House. His name was Charlie, a Welsh terrier who came from the same breeder – indeed, the same mother – as our Skippy.
Perhaps the JFK mystique was part of Skippy's appeal when my parents bought him around 1960. I would have expected my father to copy his parents, who had bought generations of cocker spaniels, giving them names like Honey and Buffy. But perhaps the "y" ending on our dog's moniker kept that link alive.
Charlie was an aristocrat, at least by association. But Skippy was no snob. You might have thought that he was fiercely selective in his affections from his barking at every living being who passed by our snug suburban house. But once people entered our house, Skippy wagged his tail frenetically, then jumped up to kiss them. If the visitors would repeatedly throw a tennis ball for Skippy to retrieve, they'd be friends for life.
I wasn't much of a friend to Skippy. Sure, I'd toss that ball when it suited me. As a kid, I didn't care that the ball grew slimy with Skippy's saliva. But dogs must be walked. That conflicted with my desire to burrow in my room with a book to carry me away.
When Mom sent me out the back door with Skippy on a leather-handled leash, I was quick to misbehave. I smuggled a Pippi Longstocking book under my shirt, escorted Skippy around the corner of our house, then slipped back into my secret cave in the shadows between the house and its yew plantings around the foundation. Skippy slept at my feet while I read.
After Mom caught on, I had to hit the sidewalk. That didn't stop me from turning our time together to my own needs. I once tried getting Skippy to pull me on my bike. After that ended with my scraped knee, I simply read a book as I walked him. So engrossed was I in my reading that I'm not sure I looked both ways, or even looked up, before crossing the streets in my quiet neighborhood.
Skippy tolerated my antics with unfailing good nature, always ready to forgive me if I'd toss him a ball. Perhaps that made him a kind of royalty, after all.