The Love Between the Obamas and Their Portuguese Water Dog, Bo

By Colbert I. King
Saturday, April 18, 2009

Within his first 100 days in the White House, President Obama has made several critical decisions that will live with him for some time to come: an unprecedented economic stimulus package, the bailout of the nation's financial industry, a surge of 21,000 troops into Afghanistan.

But none of his decisions comes closer to being a life-changing experience than the choice that he and his wife, Michelle, made to bring a dog into the White House.

Much has been made of the breed they chose: a Portuguese water dog. The pedigree doesn't matter. Even the mini-fuss over whether their choice is a "rescue dog" is less important.

Getting a dog was the critical step. The delight on the faces of their daughters tells the story.

As a kid, I wanted a dog. Most of my childhood friends owned dogs.

We three King kids got one, too, while we were in grade school. We named him Rex for no special reason except that it sounded cool.

When he was taken to the vet for his puppy shots, I asked about his breed -- since it wasn't readily apparent.

The vet studied Rex, smiled, and told us that our dog's breed was "all American." My father said that meant Rex had a little of everything in him.

That being the case, I told my friends that our short-haired dog with droopy ears, brown and white spots and a thin tail was part German shepherd.

Breed doesn't really matter. We loved him just the same. My wife and children also love dogs. We've had a host over the years: a German shepherd, a beagle (with an advanced case of wanderlust), two English springer spaniels and our current companions: an 8-year-old, 90-pound chocolate Labrador retriever who thinks he's a 6-month-old lap dog, and a 4-year-old, 15-pound Lhasa apso who throws her weight around as if she were a 120-pound bull mastiff.

Don't get hung up on breeds -- or names.

The Obamas' 6-month-old puppy is called Bo. We've had an array of dogs with names of absolutely no significance: Toby; Boris; Prince Maximilian von Galena Road, a.k.a. Maxie; a second Toby; the chocolate Lab, Raja (purchased as a puppy from a litter owned by Washingtonian magazine's Harry Jaffe); and the Lhasa apso, Candi (my wife's preference) or Sweetums (mine).

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