Wednesday, April 15, 2009

A Puppy On Pennsylvania Avenue!

An AP photo showing President Obama running down the White House halls with new pup, Bo.

It is official; the First Dog has been selected, and moved to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue yesterday! Bo, a Portuguese Water Dog, will be added to the long list of Presidential Pets.

During Barack Obama’s presidential campaign he and his wife Michelle promised their two daughters, Sasha and Malia, a dog after the election. While campaigning, the Obama’s pledged to adopt a dog from a shelter or similar situation, bringing much needed positive publicity on the animal front to the campaign following Joe Biden’s own puppy purchase from a high volume breeder.

The number of dogs to choose from was greatly diminished as the Obama’s needed a dog suitable for Malia’s allergies. They publically announced they had narrowed the search to a Labradoodle (some reports state Goldendoodle) or Portuguese Water Dog. The announcement of possibly bringing in a “doodle” outraged much of the dog world, because there are no guarantees that an F1 breeding (first generation) will pass on the low shedding coat of a poodle, the breeding of mixed dogs for profit is often viewed as irresponsible, and the selection of a less popular breed like the Portuguese Water Dog had citizens and media claiming they would never find such a dog in a rescue or shelter. I am not exactly sure why the Obama’s chose the Portuguese Water Dog, while an excellent breed, they are not the ideal dog for first time owners, and they do shed and are not hypoallergenic (no dog is). I do hope Malia’s allergies are not triggered by their new family member.

Associated Press Writer, Sharon Theimer, articulated the questions racing through many Americans minds in her words,

Is Bo a rescued dog or not? Did President Obama keep or break a campaign promise in picking the purebred as the family's new pet?

The twists and turns of the Portuguese water dog's route to the White House make for the kind of intrigue that political junkies and the highly opinionated dog world delight in.”

Bo, a 6-month-old puppy, was given back to his breeder after his first owner (who called the puppy Charlie) found him to be a poor fit. Bo was then matched with the Obamas by his breeder, also the breeder of Senator Edward Kennedy’s dogs, and given to the Obama’s.

Technically, the Obama’s new addition is not a rescue, but is a rehoming. He never spent time in a shelter or rescue, but he is now with his second owners, The Obama’s. Wayne Pacelle, chief executive of The Humane Society of the United States says Bo is a “quasi-rescue dog.” However, Bo’s own breeder, Martha Stern, of Boyd Texas, says she does not consider Bo a rescue dog.

The rest of this post are excerpts from an AP article by Sharon Theimer that perfectly explain where the intrigue comes in:

  • Bo's breeders happen to have bred Sen. Edward Kennedy's Portuguese water dogs. The Massachusetts Democrat, an Obama friend and political ally, also acquired a pup from Bo's litter. Bo's breeders are fans of Obama and named Bo's litter the Hope and Change litter.

  • Bo's first owner lives in Washington

  • Bo was returned to the breeder in early March, fitting the spring timeline the Obama’s had given for their dog adoption.

  • Kennedy and his wife Victoria helped line Bo up with the Obama’s. Before moving into the White House, the pup spent nearly a month with the Kennedys' dog trainer in Virginia.

  • In fact, Bo is a gift to the Obama’s' daughters, Malia and Sasha, from the Kennedys, said Katie McCormick Lelyveld, a spokeswoman for Michelle Obama.

"They were starting their search with shelter dogs, but when the Kennedys learned of this dog and offered it as a gift to the girls, they met the dog, it was a perfect fit for their lifestyle and for Malia's health concerns," she said, adding that the Obama’s are making a donation to the Washington Humane Society. "Because this gift came before their pound search sort of was completed, they made a gift to some of the places they were looking."

Still, conspiracy buffs might speculate that Bo was meant for the Obama’s all along. Was his adoption engineered to look like a rescue—or at least blur the line to head off criticism that the Obama’s had picked a purebred from a breeder?

The Humane Society's Pacelle acknowledged that the Obama’s never flat-out promised to get a dog from a pound or rescue group. And the society has kind words for Obama on its Web site: "Thanks, Mr. President, for giving a second-chance dog a forever home," it says.

"He's in a gray area," Pacelle said of Bo. "But I will say that many animal advocates are disappointed that he (Obama) didn't go to a shelter or breed rescue group, partly because he set that expectation and because so many activists are focused on trying to reduce the number of animals euthanized at shelters, and there's no better person to make the case to the American public that you can get a great dog from a shelter than the president."

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