Breed All About It: Obamas' Narrowed Choice of Dogs Elicits Many Opinions

Malia Obama's allergy to dogs will limit her family's selection of possible pooches. Thankfully, most hypoallergenic breeds, such as poodles, Maltese and schnauzers, happen to be on the incredibly cute end of the dog family.
By Philip Rucker
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 15, 2009

It is a decision of national concern, complicated by symbolism and the medical welfare of children, by irreconcilable demands and irrevocable choice. Pleas from the public pour into the Obama transition team. Lobbyists lobby, pressure groups press.

President-elect Barack Obama said recently that the decision has been more wrenching than choosing a commerce secretary.

After he narrowed the choice on Sunday to the Portuguese water dog and the Labradoodle, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass.) weighed in with a statement supporting his preference for the Portie, as it's called. Kennedy owns three of them. It is known however, that the son of Vice President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. has a Labradoodle named Brother, and pressure might be strong from that quarter.

Dog purists are pleased that the first family's tastes have veered away from the common mutt. But the animal welfare lobby wants Obama to live up to his promise to rescue a pup from a shelter.

"A lot of shelter dogs are mutts, like me," Obama joked at a news conference.

How to reconcile tastes with promises?

Shelters are filled with abandoned animals that are often euthanized if they are not adopted. At the Washington Humane Society, four available dogs are featured online: three pit bull terriers and a 2-year-old Chihuahua named Hammy.

But the two designer breeds the Obamas favor are hard, if not impossible, to find at shelters. "I don't remember having seen a lot of Labradoodles," Washington Humane Society President Lisa LaFontaine said.

Will the mutt lobbyists go so far as to put a child's health in danger? The family research has been handled by elder daughter Malia, 10, who is allergic to dogs that shed. She took the lead in narrowing the search to the two hypoallergenic breeds recently announced. Sasha, 7, is no doubt consulting.

Malia "disseminates information to the powers that be," an aide said. "She's been leading the way on this."

Wait. PetFinder.com, a Craigslist for pet seekers, has located about a dozen adoptable Portuguese water dogs and recently featured a photo of Suzy, a Labradoodle in an Iowa shelter awaiting a home.

The Obamas, who have not owned a dog before, plan to bring the puppy home in the spring, when things settle down and the weather is nicer for romps around the White House lawn, a transition aide said.


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