Obama on puppies, and daughters, growing up in the White House

August 23, 2013

NEW MILFORD, Pa. – A wistful President Obama said he is proud but a little sad at the growing independence of his daughters, adding that the arrival of a new puppy last week has provided a welcome distraction -- as well as a couple of potty-training accidents on the White House floors.

In an interview with CNN that aired Friday morning, Obama said first lady Michelle Obama is “in full parenting mode” trying to train Sunny, the family’s new Portuguese water dog, and teach her to sit and catch.

“We live in rental housing,” Obama joked. “We didn’t have to put down a deposit, but we are making sure that it gets cleaned up for the next occupant.”

The Obamas got the dog last weekend as a companion to Bo, the Portuguese water dog they got shortly after moving into the White House in 2009. The president told CNN anchor Chris Cuomo that Bo was getting “lonely” because the Obama daughters, Malia and Sasha, are growing older and have increasingly busy schedules outside the home. As he spoke, however, it became clear that the nation's commander in chief was getting a little lonely too.

“The two other puppies are grown up,” Obama said, referring to Malia, 15, and Sasha, 12. “And they still have some responsibilities for him, but they're not always around between school, sports practice, all that stuff. And so Bo was getting a little down in the dumps inside the house.”

Obama said he “couldn’t be prouder” of his daughters, calling them poised, smart, funny and respectful.

“What I’m discovering is that each year I get more excited about spending time with them; they get a little less excited,” Obama said. “But they love me, so they want to pretend like they want to spend time with me. So they’ll come into my office and they’ll pat me and say, ‘Hey, Daddy, I love you,’ and they’ll give me like a 10-minute conversation. Then they’ll say, ‘Okay, Daddy, I got to go. I’ll be gone all weekend, and I’ll see you on Sunday night.’”

Getting the new dog, Obama said, helps keep things lively inside the White House -- both for Bo and for the first couple, who most likely will send Malia off to college before the end of the president's second term.

"I think there is an element for Michelle and me of, you know, we see what’s coming,” Obama said. “We need to make sure that we got somebody who greets us at the door when we get home.”

Sunny, the ever-competitive Obama added, is "faster" than Bo, who is almost five years old. "She jumps higher, she's friskier," Obama said. "He is trying to keep up… He’s loving it and ultimately it's gonna be great for him over the long term.”

Philip Rucker is a national political correspondent for The Washington Post, where he has reported since 2005.
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