Monday, April 27, 2009

Every Dog Has His Day

Look, I have enough things to worry about theses days.

Can I eat pistachio nuts? Are there Somali pirates in my neighborhood? What's going to happen to Phil Spector in prison? Do I have to learn to love Hugo Chavez?

Thankfully, there is one less furrow in my brow.

Bo, the Obama's new dog, has finally arrived.

This is particularly good news for those downtrodden Washington reporters who aspire to practice great and important journalism but instead have found themselves on the dog beat for the last several months.

Nobody ever won a Pulitzer covering dogs.

Nonetheless, speculation about the Top Dog has been rampant in the press since the Obamas announced after the election that their daughters would be rewarded with a pet.

Indeed, the identity of the dog was a story too big to contain.

White House aides told the AP that the office of the first lady arranged an exclusive deal on the dog story with the Washington Post. But celebrity Web sites and bloggers were abuzz with rumors of the first family's selection of a dog; one site even claimed it had pictures of the future first pet.

A Web site called broke the news, publishing a picture of Bo which it said was originally named Charlie, according to the Post. The celebrity gossip Web site linked to the picture.

So much for the big White House unveiling. For an Obama team that ran a tight-knit press operation during the residential campaign, it was a sign of how tough it can be to keep the lid on things in Washington.

And they think they're going to keep the bank stress test results secret? Not in this dog-eat-dog environment.

But I digress.

Bo is a Portuguese Water Dog, which is not a CIA interrogation technique but a poodle-like animal with boundless energy.

The name was selected by the kids because Michelle Obama's father was nicknamed "Diddley." Bo Diddley, get it?

He is said to be pre-trained: Bo already sits, shakes, rolls over and Twitters. Like all things in Washington, his selection has been, well, dogged by controversy.

The Obamas said their preference was to get a shelter dog, but daughter Malia has allergies so they had to be more selective in their choice. This, of course, put the Obamas smack in the dog house with angry animal lovers who were lobbying for a rescued animal.

But it turns out Bo had been shown the door by his previous owner. So in fact he is a second-chance dog.

"Clearly our best hope was that he (the president) would go to a shelter or a breed-rescue group," said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States. "He didn't do that, but he also didn't go to a pet store or puppy mill either..."

In fact, the Obamas didn't go anywhere. Bo was a gift from the Kennedy family.

If that's not enough, conservative icon Newt Gingrich, former House Speaker and possible Republican presidential candidate, told ABC news that he found all the hubbub over Bo "fairly stupid."

(Which is not as bad as Barney, the Bush Scottish terrier, who earned the wrath of Karl Rove and Russian President Vladimir Putin. Rove remarked that Barney was "a lump." Putin said he feels a world leader should own large robust dogs, not smaller breeds. Wait until he gets a load of Bo.)

As White House pets go, Bo is a benign character.

Calvin Coolidge, a taciturn man if there every was one, had six dogs, a bobcat, a goose, a donkey, a cat, two lion cubs, an antelope, and a wallaby. The main attraction in his personal zoo, though, was Billy, a pygmy hippopotamus.

Herbert Hoover's son, Allan Henry Hoover, owned a pair of gators that were occasionally allowed to wander around the White House grounds.

Mr. Reciprocity and Mr. Protection were Benjamin Harrison's two opossums.

To save cash during World War I, Woodrow Wilson brought in a flock of sheep to take care of the White House's groundskeeping duties. Old Ike, a ram, supposedly chewed tobacco.

The Bushes had a black cat named India. The name rankled citizens of the country of the same name to the point that many Indians named their dogs "Bush."

As for President Obama, now that the pet controversy is behind him, he can turn his attention to such mundane matters as a reeling economy, nuclear ambitions of rogue nations and terrorism.

And in the loneliness of the Oval Office when things get tough, he can recall the words of President Harry Truman:

"If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."

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