The Washington Post

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

Sunny, a Portuguese water dog, is the newest addition to the Obama family. Nia-Malika Henderson reminisces about the previous four-legged residents of the White House and warns Sunny about the bunny-eared photo ops in her future. (The Washington Post)

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.

The Freddie Gray case

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Campaign 2016 Email Updates

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!

Get Zika news by email

Please provide a valid email address.

You’re all set!
Show Comments
The Democrats debated Thursday night. Get caught up on the race.
The Post's Chris Cillizza on the Democratic debate...
On Clinton: She poked a series of holes in Sanders's health-care proposal and broadly cast him as someone who talks a big game but simply can't hope to achieve his goals.

On Sanders: If the challenge was to show that he could be a candidate for people other than those who already love him, he didn't make much progress toward that goal. But he did come across as more well-versed on foreign policy than in debates past.
The PBS debate in 3 minutes
We are in vigorous agreement here.
Hillary Clinton, during the PBS Democratic debate, a night in which she and Sanders shared many of the same positions on issues
South Carolina polling averages
Donald Trump leads in the polls as he faces rivals Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz heading into the S.C. GOP primary on Feb. 20.
South Carolina polling averages
The S.C. Democratic primary is Feb. 27. Clinton has a significant lead in the state, whose primary falls one week after the party's Nevada caucuses.
62% 33%
Fact Checker
Trump’s claim that his border wall would cost $8 billion
The billionaire's claim is highly dubious. Based on the costs of the Israeli security barrier (which is mostly fence) and the cost of the relatively simple fence already along the U.S.-Mexico border, an $8 billion price tag is simply not credible.
Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio Pinocchio
Upcoming debates
Feb 13: GOP debate

on CBS News, in South Carolina

Feb. 25: GOP debate

on CNN, in Houston, Texas

March 3: GOP debate

on Fox News, in Detroit, Mich.

Campaign 2016
Where the race stands
Most Read



Success! Check your inbox for details.

See all newsletters

Close video player
Now Playing

To keep reading, please enter your email address.

You’ll also receive from The Washington Post:
  • A free 6-week digital subscription
  • Our daily newsletter in your inbox

Please enter a valid email address

I have read and agree to the Terms of Service and Privacy Policy.

Please indicate agreement.

Thank you.

Check your inbox. We’ve sent an email explaining how to set up an account and activate your free digital subscription.