Two years after John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane plunged into the sea, his cherished dog, Friday, has retired to the bucolic fields of Portugal.
The pure-bred Canaan dog – a breed known for his fierce loyalty and guarding instincts – has been placed in the custody of former Kennedy family aide Ephigenio Pinheiro. The exact site of Pinheiro's Portuguese home has been kept secret.
A Spunky Breed
It's not a surprising transition for the spunky breed – the kind of special animal Kennedy sought when he phoned a breeder Donna Dodson about five years ago.
"I think he was looking for something unique, and a healthy dog," said Dodson, an American Kennel Club member in Kingston, Ill. At nine weeks, the puppy was sent to Kennedy. He fretted like a new parent, calling with worries about his pet's diet. He was feeding it too much protein, and "we had to change the food," Dodson said.
The Canaan dates to the ancient Egyptians, who drew the dog's image on tombs, said Dodson. It was pure-bred in Israel during the 1950s, used to sniff out bombs during wars there, and arrived in the United States in 1965, she said. Although the animal was originally used by Bedouins to herd sheep, his easy-going, adaptable to city apartments and playful with children, Dodson said.
How Friday Got His Name
Although Kennedy named the pet for the one day each week he took the dog with him to his offices at "George" magazine, Friday was left behind in the city that fateful night. The Kennedy family grew so fond of the animal that Kennedy's cousin, Robert Shriver, ordered one for his family, an insider said.
But the notoriety surrounding the tragedy has also had a negative impact – shady operators of "puppy mills" who are cashing in by selling badly bred dogs that may be genetically damaged, said Cynthia Grupp, president of The Canaan Dog Club of America, and a registered breeder in Napa Valley, Calif.
Kennedy cared about protecting the Canaans from such exploitation, she said: "He never stated the breed. Many people thought he was a mutt."