Not since Knut, the polar bear, has an animal so captured the public’s imagination – and this one hasn’t even been found yet.
Speaking before the world at his victory rally in Chicago on Tuesday night, President-elect Barack Obama told daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7: “I love you more than you can imagine, and you have earned the new puppy that’s coming with us to the White House.”
It’s among many promises the candidate made during the campaign – and one he’ll be keeping, for sure. But what breed – or breeds – should the new First Puppy be?
For starters, says ASPCA president and CEO Ed Sayres, “We are thrilled at the prospect that the Obama Family will ‘make pet adoption their first option’ and head to their local animal shelter or rescue group [where] they could both find the perfect pet and help an animal in need, which would be an incredible opportunity.”
One of the pet’s mandates, besides being a rescue dog from a shelter, is to be hypoallergenic, the Obamas have said. These provisos could point, according to one expert, to the selection of a Bichon Frisé – or a poodle.
“For a family,” says handler Doug Becker, a captain (who trains volunteers) at a shelter in Manhattan, “a Bichon is the best dog you could own, because it does well with kids and with a lot of people in the household.”
A Bichon is also free from causing the allergy problem. “Like with a poodle, you can even pick one up while you’re wearing a dark sweater and there will be no dander whatsoever,” says Becker.
Further extolling the breed’s virtues as far as the Obamas would be concerned, Becker said, “Bichons are also loyal and intelligent. The only downside: They must be groomed weekly, because their hair just keeps growing.”
A poodle, while highly smart, would be slightly less desirable in the White House, however. “They tend to sway toward being loyal to only one person, as opposed to everyone in the household,” says Becker – adding that many pure breeds are often available at local animal shelters.
When the four-legged addition to the Obama family moves into 1600 Pennsylvania Ave., he or she will be joining a long roster of First Pets dating back to George Washington’s administration. (The Father of Our Country, in fact, owned several dogs.)
Currently, Scottish terriers Barney and Miss Beazley Bush occupy the manse, and, before them, Bill Clinton’s chocolate Lab Buddy. George HW Bush shared the halls with Millie, a Springer spaniel (and the only First Pet to pen a book) and one of Millie’s puppies, ranger.
In terms of young children and their companions in executive mansion, Amy Carter (who was 9 when she moved in with her parents in 1977) made room for her cat, Misty Malarky Ying Yang, while from 1961-63 the Kennedy menagerie included cats, dogs, a canary, rabbit and Caroline Kennedy’s pony, Macaroni.
• Growing up in the White House
• Malia & Sasha get $1 per week allowance!
• 2004: The Bush twins dish on their dad’s Scottish terrier Barney