The story of Pushinka, the puppy given to the Kennedy family by the Soviet Union during the Cold War.
The white, mixed-breed dog was a puppy of Strelka, one of two famous cosmonaut dogs that orbited the planet aboard Sputnik 2 in 1960. Strelka and her space dog colleague Belka became the first living creatures to successfully travel to space and back.
Named Pushinka, the Russian word for “Fluffy,” the six months old dog arrived to the States with her own Russian passport. A Soviet-American delegation secretly took the dog from the lab she had been living in and transferred her to the American embassy in Washington DC.
In June 1961, John Kennedy wrote to Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev, “Dear Mr. Chairman…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.”
According to Caroline Kennedy, the dog came to the White House due to her mother.
“She was sitting next to Khrushchev at a state dinner in Vienna…running out of things to talk about, my mother asked about Strelka's puppies,” said Caroline Kennedy.
Pushinka joined the four other dogs in the Kennedy family - Wolf, Clipper, Charlie and Shannon.
In his book "American Legacy: The Story of John and Caroline Kennedy, David Heymann" relates a story told by Caroline’s nanny. When four-year-old Caroline reached to pet the dog for the first time, Pushinka growled.
“Instead of recoiling, Caroline stepped behind the dog and gave it a swift kick to the rear end,” Heymann wrote.
When told of the incident, JFK laughed and said, “That’s giving it to those damn Russians”