It’s official: President Barack Obama and his family have been given a 6-month-old Portuguese Water Dog puppy by Senator Edward M. Kennedy. The dog, who will be named “Bo Diddley,” was purchased from a Texas kennel and then returned because he was too energetic for his first family. Malia Obama, 10, and Sasha Obama, 7, chose the black and white puppy and named him in honor of their maternal grandfather, whose nickname was “Diddley.”
Malia and Sasha have been waiting a long time for their puppy. Barack Obama announced in his acceptance speech after winning the US presidency that a puppy would be “coming with us to the White House,” but when the Obamas moved in, there was no puppy in tow. Quite sensibly, the family decided to settle in at their new home and allow the girls to adjust to their new school and busy schedules before adding a pet.
Not A Shelter Dog After All?
The First Family’s choice of Bo has disappointed some advocates for pet adoption. Previously, Barack Obama had stated he’d like to adopt “a mutt like me.” Michelle Obama also had said the family hoped to adopt a shelter dog.
While a lucky pup going from death row at an animal shelter to a cushy spot in the White House would make a great rags-to-riches story, or maybe a Disney family movie, it’s probable that the Obama family chose Bo for solid reasons. Firstly and most importantly, Malia’s allergies require the First Dog to come from a hypoallergenic breed. Secondly, the media frenzy surrounding the Obamas’ choice of a dog makes it clear that Bo will be in the spotlight continually throughout his life. Former President George W. Bush was embarrassed when his Scottish Terrier bit a White House reporter. Choosing a dog of known heritage gives the Obamas a better chance of predicting Bo’s temperament as an adult and avoiding similar problems.
While it’s absolutely, positively, 100% possible to adopt from a shelter a purebred dog that is hypoallergenic and has a temperament suited to both a hectic schedule and a constant stream of strangers to meet, I somehow suspect that the President has a few other things on his plate besides visiting rescues in several states to pick out the perfect Portuguese Water Dog. A months-long search for the perfect rescue pup might further frustrate the First Daughters, who’ve been remarkably patient so far.
I’d have loved to see Barack Obama and his family choose a shelter dog, but by picking an older puppy needing to be “rehomed” after a return to the breeder they’ve done the next-best thing and saved themselves a great deal of time and effort. I hope the First Family continues to advocate for pet adoption, despite their own choice to accept the gift of a puppy from a breeder. Michelle Obama in particular could do a great deal of good by speaking out about their choice, and encouraging families who want a dog like Bo to try shelters first.