America’s First Dog!
Veterinarian Reviewed on April 14, 2009 by Dr. Janice Huntingford
It certainly seems that the cat is out of the bag, although in this case it is the dog that is out of the proverbial bag! First Family Obama now has a First Dog: Bo, a Portuguese water dog, a gift from Senator Ted Kennedy.
As everyone remembers, President Obama promised his daughters, seven year old Sasha and ten year old Malia, a puppy as a gift for standing by their father during his race for the Presidency. As part of his speech on election night President Obama told his daughters: “I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.”
Since then, there has been much speculation as to what breed of dog the Obama children would get. During President Obama’s first press conference on 7 November, 2008, he spoke about his family’s decision regarding a dog:
“With respect to the dog, this is a major issue. I think it’s generated more interest on our Web site than just about anything. We have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic. On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me. So whether we’re going to be able to balance those two things I think is a pressing issue on the Obama household.”
Earlier this year President Obama announced that the First Family had narrowed their breed choices down to either a Labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound. However, the First Lady was quoted in People Magazine in February as saying that the family had decided on a Portuguese water hound and that the new dog would arrive after the children’s school holidays in April.
The Portuguese Water dog is described by the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America as a breed that ‘do(es) not shed very much but they do shed’ and are therefore considered a hypoallergenic breed because they are single coated and have a ‘decreased tendency to cause allergies’.
The new First Dog was scheduled to make his first official appearance on Tuesday, 14 April 2009, but word leaked out about his imminent arrival and newspapers and TV stations greedily picked up the scoop.
Although the arrival of the new First Dog was supposed to be a great secret, it was not a greatly kept secret at all! On Saturday morning a website called FirstDogCharlie.com was set up anonymously and included a photograph of a Portuguese water dog wearing a lei. According to the website, Charlie was the dog’s original name and wore the lei during a secret meeting with the First Family at the White House a few weeks ago.
The 6 month old puppy was a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.) to Malia and Sasha. He was a litter mate of Senator Kennedy’s new puppy, Cappy.
A spokesperson for the First Lady, Catherine McCormick-Lelyveld, was quoted in the Chicago Sun-Times as saying: “Yes this dog is the litter mate of (the Kennedy) newest dog Cappy. It was previously owned but did not get along with the other dogs in its last house. The Kennedys learned of its availability and got it for the Obama girls. Although the Obama family was originally looking to acquire a Portuguese water dog from a shelter, they happily accepted the puppy as a gift from Senator Kennedy.
“They were looking at shelters but in the end the Kennedys learned of this litter mate of their dog who needed a home, and they wanted to give the girls a gift – and here we are!” explained Ms. McCormick-Lelyveld.
The Obama girls have decided to call their new puppy Bo because they have cousins who own a cat called Bo and because Mrs. Obama’s late father, Fraser Robinson, was nicknamed Diddley.
Just like the FirstDogCharlie.com website mentioned, there was indeed a meeting between the First Family and Bo a few weeks ago as a surprise for the girls.
According to a White House source who was a witness to such a meeting, Bo did his best to impress the First Family. Apparently Bo sat when the children sat down and then stood when the children stood. He also followed the President around quite obediently.
This is no surprise really, when you consider the fact that Bo had been receiving private lessons in good behavior from Senator Kennedys’ own dog trainers.
The source also said that whilst Sasha was quite excited, Malia was focusing more on the responsible issues of to properly care for Bo. “Malia has done extensive research,” the source had also said.
However, there are still quite a few decisions that need to be made. For example it has yet to be agreed upon as to where Bo will sleep!
Owning a dog is not only a new experience for Sasha and Malia, but also for their parents as well. Neither the First Lady nor the President had any dogs as pets whilst they were growing up.
Since the First Family had initially decided to adopt a dog from a shelter, they are now going to be making a donation to a Humane Society instead.
Photo Credit: WhiteHouse.gov
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Janice Huntingford, DVM, has been in veterinary practice for over 30 years and has founded two veterinary clinics since receiving her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at the Ontario Veterinary College, University of Guelph. She has studied extensively in both conventional and holistic modalities. Ask Dr. Jan