Bearnaise Sauce Dogs, Cats, Children, Dogs

The White House Puppy

If you love dogs, as I do, a high moment in President-Elect Obama's speech had to be his words to his daughters, Malia and Sasha, promising that when they move into the White House, their long-held dream of a puppy will be fulfilled.

Here's a picture of the current occupant, Barney, referred to lovingly in remarks by our current President just this morning. (And apparently Barney is unhappy about leaving…)

Seven years ago, 11-year-old Snowman reminded me that I had promised our family would get a dog when I finished seminary. I pointed out that graduation was still six months away, but he pointed out that such matters deserve some study, and we invested in a book about dog breeds, which he perused exhaustively.

My real plan? To get a rescue dog, of course. Our cats came from the refuge league, surely our dog would, too. I believed in rescuing animals, not buying them. I certainly knew better than to go to the pet store in the mall, having some vague knowledge of puppy mills.

Daily puppy
There is no question that the
Obama's puppy search presents an opportunity to educate the public
about the right way to find a dog, whether a purebred or a mutt. If you
want a purebred, go through the national and/or regional breed club for
a list of breeders who meet the club's qualifications for ethical
breeding standards. In the case of a Bernese Mountain Dog, that
included doing certain kinds of testing for inherited health problems. If you want a rescued dog, check out the pups at your local shelter, and ask a lot of questions, including why certain dogs are not placed with certain families. (Chloe, pictured here, is a rescue pup featured on The Daily Puppy.)

In the late winter of 2002, I began visiting the Animal Refuge League, looking for a pup. But the refuge league had NO puppies (due to the
effectiveness of spay/neuter education in Maine) and would not place any of the
other dogs they had with a family that had cats and/or a child under 10. They
knew and liked us from cat adoptions, so it wasn't personal. I'm certain almost
any rescue group would love to place a dog with the new First Family, but
realistically, most rescue groups have standards for the families with whom
they place a dog, and those standards need to apply in this case,

Fall and Winter 02-03 035
We ended up seeking a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy, and Molly joined our family that spring. I still had not learned how to navigate the world of dog breeders; I did not use a referral program. We brought home a puppy with a long list of physical problems we would later discover, though no one could beat her for joyfulness in living. We couldn't possibly regret having Molly, but I learned a lot about the way to find a dog, the questions to ask, and the support available in the world of purebred dogs.

All over the web, well-meaning dog people have offered up opinions about what kind of dog the Obamas "should" adopt. I hope dog-loving groups and individuals will take into consideration the many
factors the Obama family will be considering as they choose a puppy to take to
the White House and not focus on making their choice for them. The last
thing the dog world needs is a bad match with a little girl's allergies and a
dog who has to be "returned" to rescue.

People are raising their "voices" to swear that there is no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, but I want to ask for some peace and space for the Obamas.

If a Bichon is the little girls' favorite, please don't accuse them of going Hollywood.


Labradoodle-picture-logcabin1bIf they really love a labradoodle, let's not have a purebred fit about the fact that they are deliberate mutts, neither labrador nor poodle, okay?

Chinese crested
If they go with a nearly hairless Chinese Crested, let's not berate them for having an elitist purebred, agreed? (And if anybody says they're ugly, send them over to talk to me.)

BrownStandardIf they bring home a Standard Poodle, don't call them effete, but meditate instead on the idea that the whole family will be tall, athletic and smarter than most of the rest of us.

(And there is no rule that says they have to be, as Light Princess said when younger, "cut into shapes.)

Headshot smallA White House dog must adjust to multiple staff
members, people coming and going, even Secret Service protection. Temperament
and training will be crucial to a happy placement.  Molly tells me she would willingly volunteer for this national service if only her coat would not make a child feel ill.

(Sam feels he can better serve at home, although should bad people try to get through the gates, he could certainly bark at them, fiercely. While wagging his tail.)

Finally, the Obama family will be fine on two of the touchiest issues with both breeders and rescuers. At the White House, *someone* is
always at home. And the yard? Definitely fenced-in.

16 thoughts on “The White House Puppy”

  1. all of the furrier members of our family are rescue/shelter “all-americans.” we strongly recommend that families test-drive potential pets at the shelter, to screen for positive personality and potential allergy problems. although, we have been known to fall in love anyway.
    i look forward to a poop-scoop report featuring the first daughters. because with great gifts comes responsibility.

  2. Very cute! 🙂
    Wow, I cannot IMAGINE having such an effective spay/neuter program that there are no rescue pups. Ah, to live in a blue state…
    I, too, am an initially reluctant mama of purebreds, who would never change now. Funny, that.

  3. We didn’t start to see an influx of puppies until after Hurricane Katrina, when rescue groups began working together to transport Southern puppies to the Northeast.

  4. everyone must know by now, california doesn’t live up to its reputation as totally far left and/or responsible. it is a huge and very diverse state, with way way way too many abandoned and feral animals. temperate climate; different dynamics than snowy places.
    we particularly support a no-kill shelter in berkeley, and used to be a foster family for rescued cats, until we ended up adopting some older foster kittens who are still working on their social skills. c’est la vie — i couldn’t let them be farmed out to feral colonies after they had become house cats.

  5. Thanks for sharing imporatant info and althlugh you did not know the health problems you would encounter, I still feel Miss Molly was a God thing kind of choice,
    I am sorry she has to suffer through the health issues that soemone else could have prevented, but happy she has such a great family.
    I love her baby pictures. Those feet!!!!

  6. I heard Ms. Obama say in interviews that Malia is allergic so they are looking for a hyper-allergenic dog.

  7. Well, if it’s any consolation, even thoroughly investigating a breeder doesn’t always eliminate health problems. We went with someone who’s been breeding 30 years, and I met multiple people with dogs from her. Smokey still has an incredible list of health problems that no one else I know with a “Penny” schnoodle has encountered. The funny thing is that in many ways his health issues mirror those that Michael and I have, particularly in terms of allergies, cholesterol, and digestion. We’ve decided we were meant to have this one.
    P.S. Schnoodles are using on the list of less allergenic dogs. Smokey thinks the Obamas should get a schnoodle.

  8. Well, maybe they are, Becky, but if those girls wanted one, I would be prepared to stand up for their choice! 🙂

  9. Josie and Boudreaux are pulling for the First Puppy to be a Maltese. WE are just saying.

  10. I’ve been hoping they would get a rescue puppy, for obvious reasons. But “The last thing the dog world needs is a bad match with a little girl’s allergies and a dog who has to be ‘returned’ to rescue.” So…everybody, including rescue partisans like me, needs to back off. But I can’t wait to see what they do get!
    (I’m not pushing for them to get an ACD. They are too hard-headed for young children, IMO, and boy do they shed…)

  11. I feel they should get a Black and White Goldendoodle! This dog would incorporate the elite mutt Obama identifies with and is low allergy triggering dog. These dogs are very difficult to find in the rescue organizations due to their ease in temperament, loving temperament, low shedding qualities and fewer breeders. This is obvious in AZ as only 2-4 litters are advertised for sell in the papers compared to the many many litters of poodles or Golden Retrievers.
    While you have many critics of the mix and their increasing popularity in homes as the family pet few criticize the original purpose for this breeding mix as assistant, service and therapy dogs.
    This critical decision may reflect Obamah’s popularity and approval in the first day’s of his presidency as the people at large can relate intimately with this seemingly mundane issue. That is an emotionally charge for many families across America as their dogs are their own stress relief in a very stressful political time.
    May your choice prove to be the perfect fit both for your family and your presidency.
    God bless America where freedom of choice is valued so greatly.

  12. Thats a very good post. Love the Chinese Hairless part, could you imagine late night comdians and their jokes about him sleeping in the Licoln bedroom. LOL

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