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by Carie Broeckerportrait

Leon Panetta has held some of the most demanding jobs imaginable. Most recently as Secretary of Defense of the United States, and previously as Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. Luckily, he’s had a special someone by his side for the last 12 years making life just a little easier. No, I’m not talking about his lovely wife Sylvia. I’m referring to Bravo, who he affectionately refers to as their fourth son.

Bravo is a dark red, 12-year-old Golden Retriever.  And he does what dogs do best. He makes people smile! Bravo has had the privilege of sitting in on some of the most top-secret meetings of the United States government. Being a canine, his loyalty and discretion is trusted to the utmost degree. So far, he has not leaked a word about anything he may have overheard. No tell-all tales coming from this pooch.

He was even in on the briefings during the U.S. Military-led operation that ended with the death of Osama Bin Laden.

What did Panetta’s colleagues at the CIA and the Department of Defense think of Bravo’s presence? It took a little getting used to. These highly professional, serious individuals, involved with volatile world affairs were not comfortable loosening up to pet a dog. Bravo won them over though. One by one. During briefings, Bravo would make his rounds. With a little nudge of the nose against a hand, Bravo would insist until they couldn’t resist. He would get his petting and make them smile.


Panetta says Bravo brought humanity into the room when some of the world’s most serious issues were on the table. Bravo was a touchstone—a reminder of unconditional love and innocence.

Bravo never did get to meet President Obama’s dog, Bo, but he’s happy to have received praise and pets from the president himself.

Bravo is enjoying life on the Panetta’s Carmel Valley ranch. He still goes just about everywhere with his family, including accompanying the Panettas to work at the Panetta Institute. At the end of a long day, Bravo absolutely must find his favorite toy duck, which he carries in his mouth up to bed. Sleep tight, Bravo!


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