On November 4, 2008, in Chicago’s Grant Park, President-elect Barack Obama made a campaign promise to his daughters, Sasha and Malia: “I love you both so much,” he stated. “And you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.” Since this statement, rumors have been circulating as to what kind of dog the Obamas will get. Reports out of Chicago say that the family is thinking of a Labradoodle-a cross between a Labrador retriever and a poodle. But word is that Malia would prefer a Goldendoodle-a blend of poodle and golden retriever.

The decision of what kind of dog to get won’t be an easy one. Malia is allergic, so the dog must be hypoallergenic. Hypoallergenic dog breeds have a decreased tendency to cause allergies. They will still produce allergens, but because of their coat type, they will typically produce less than others. Some breeds include: poodles, bichon frises, West Highland terriers, and cairn terriers. It should be noted that there is no such thing as a non-allergenic dog.

Whichever breed of dog the Obamas decide to get, one thing they should keep in mind is that a dog’s temperament should play a role in their decision-making process. A puppy, for example, may be cute but its personality doesn’t always show through at such a young age. Whereas with an adult dog, what you see is what you get. The Obama family should also sit down and discuss the care of the new dog. They will want to determine who will be in charge of feeding, walking, and training the new dog.

President-elect Obama has stated that their preference is to get a shelter dog, but commented that most shelter dogs are mutts like him and is afraid they won’t find a hypoallergenic dog at a shelter. While it is true that a good percentage of shelter dogs are mutts, 20-30 percent are purebred. Hopefully our President-elect will be made aware of petfinder.com, where thousands of purebreds from rescue groups and shelters are available for adoption, and many of them hypoallergenic dogs. Of the 147,936 adoptable dogs currently on Petfinder, there are many hypo-allergenic breeds: 2,558 poodles/poodle mixes (including Goldendoodles), 657 bichon frises, 247 West Highland terriers, and 434 cairn terriers.

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that 6 million-8 million dogs and cats enter shelters each year. Of those pets, 3 million-4 million are euthanized. If the Obamas decide to choose a shelter dog, it will send the right message to the country. It is a message of hope for all the dogs in shelters waiting for a loving home.

The History of Pets and Presidents

Presidential pets date all the way back to George Washington, who owned a horse named Nelson. Bill Clinton had Socks the cat and Buddy the chocolate lab. John F. Kennedy had several dogs, a cat, a canary, parakeets, ponies, hamsters, a rabbit, and a horse. Martin Van Buren was given a pair of tiger cubs by the Sultan of Oman, which Congress bade him to send to the zoo.

Other Commander-in-Chief pets have included goats, donkeys, horses, guinea pigs, birds, alligators, lizards, and snakes. President George H.W. Bush had a springer spaniel named Millie who was the only presidential pet to have written a book. Only three of the 43 presidents, have not had a pet: Millard Fillmore, Franklin Pierce, and Chester Alan Arthur. For a photo gallery of presidential pets, visit Presidential Pets.

Last week, our current president’s dog, Barney, had a misfortunate incident biting a reporter who reached down to pet him. It is my belief that the reporter approached the dog incorrectly. Look for an upcoming Pet Chat column on how to greet a dog.

Have Your Say

What type of pet do you think President-elect Obama should adopt for his family? You can go to petfinder.com to search for pets and post your selection online at the end of this column. I will try to get this column with your thoughts to our President-elect Obama’s staff. Who knows, your thoughts could help choose the next First Dog!


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