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The First Puppy's Journey to the White House

Take a stroll down memory lane and reminisce about White House pets from the past.

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By Manuel Roig-Franzia
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, April 13, 2009

Let's follow the trail.

The Obama puppy trail.

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Why? Because it is our duty.

It starts at a doggie love shack on the bank of a creek in far western Pennsylvania and ends at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Along the way, the world's suddenly most famous puppy has had ups and downs. He has known rejection and the joy of newfound affection.

The White House tried hard, oh so hard, to keep 6-month-old Bo a secret. But the Obama girls' new pet, that cuter-than-cute Portuguese water dog with the lei around his neck, is a celeb now. And this is his story.

One day last August, a pretty Portie named Penny was led into the boudoir -- also known as the grooming room -- at Julie Parker's kennel in Millcreek Township, outside Erie, Pa.

Watson, a studly Portie with a history of siring champion dogs, took to her immediately.

"There was a little kissy kissy, huggy huggy, licking of the ears," Parker recalled in an interview yesterday.

While Parker sipped a Budweiser and held Penny's leash, Watson did what stud dogs do. Was it love? Apparently not.

"I don't think Watson cares," said Parker, who hadn't heard that her dog sired the First Puppy until we called her yesterday.

After her one-night stand, Penny went home to Texas, where she lives with Art and Martha Stern on a 10-acre ranchette in the town of Boyd, outside Dallas. The Sterns are big dogs in the Portie world because they are the breeders of the previously most famous Porties in the universe, Sen. Edward M. Kennedy's.

Until a few years ago, the Sterns lived in Fairfax County and Martha worked in facilities management at the Justice Department. But puppy love sent them, in retirement, to more wide-open spaces.


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