A House for Bo? Howl Nice!

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By Amy Argetsinger and Roxanne Roberts
Monday, April 13, 2009; 12:00 AM

Is this the new royal court? The minute Barack Obama was elected, the courtiers lined up bearing gifts -- to pay homage to the future First Dog.

There were breeders from across the country hoping to hand-deliver a puppy from one of their precious litters. Milk-Bone promised a lifetime supply of doggie biscuits. And now, with the announcement that a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog is joining the Obama family, the Ritz-Carlton is offering Bo a doghouse.

But not just any doghouse! The luxury hotel commissioned interior decorator Skip Sroka to create a presidential puppy pad. The result: A mini-White House, made of thick white muslin on a wooden frame, with a facsimile of the executive mansion's exterior hand-sketched in black ink. Inside: a pillowy floor covering in cobalt-blue silk embroidered with gold eagles. You know, just what every dog wants.

"It's like fabric you'd probably see in the Blue Room," said hotel spokeswoman Colleen Evans. Luxurious, but maybe not practical -- though "the thick muslin can take the wear and tear of a puppy."

The house was on display at the downtown Ritz-Carlton during inaugural weekend, and Evans said the hotel has kept it while waiting for the Obamas to pick out their dog. Now the hotel will offer it to Bo because "the Ritz-Carlton is a pet-friendly hotel. You can bring your dogs here, your cat, your ferret, your guinea pig. . . . "

Oh, wait -- so this is just a publicity stunt? Hey! How'd that get past us? "We were going to offer it up for anyone who brought their dog in during the inauguration, but no one did," she said.

If the first family turns down the gift (because of ethics rules, because it's not their style, or because polls suggest Americans don't want such a froufrou doghouse in the White House), the Ritz will auction it off and donate the proceeds to the Washington Animal Rescue League.

UPDATE

No bald Miss Virginia -- for now. Crownholder Tara Wheeler failed to reach her fundraising goal of $500,000 before this past Saturday's deadline and was not one of the volunteers who shaved their heads for St. Baldrick's Foundation, a charity for children's cancer research. Pageant officials set a huge fundraising amount for Wheeler, who got plenty of ink but not enough cash to be the Miss America Organization's first bald beauty queen.

"I was waiting for Oprah to come in with a big cardboard check," Wheeler joked with us yesterday. Didn't happen, although Miss America President Art McMaster showed up at Crystal City Sports Pub in Arlington to support her effort. Wheeler pulled in about $30,000 and plans to keep asking for donations until this summer, when she turns over her crown and will then make good on her promise to go bald. "We planted a lot of seeds, and we now we have time for them to grow," she said.

THIS JUST IN

-- This morning's White House Easter Egg Roll is shaping up to be quite an eggtravaganza. To emphasize the health-and-fitness theme, celebrity chefs Art Smith, Spike Mendelsohn and José Andrés will demonstrate healthy cooking; also, Fergie and Ziggy Marley will perform on the music stage; James Cromwell, Josh Duhamel and Derrick Dockery will read aloud; and Marissa Coleman, Etan Thomas and Abby Wambach will be on the sports courts. First lady Michelle Obama and the Easter Bunny will preside, and more than 30,000 visitors are expected to attend the daylong party. If you didn't snag a ticket, the event will be broadcast live on the White House Web site starting at 8 a.m.


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