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New first dog: The Obamas choose a Portuguese water dog

February 25, 2009 |  8:44 am

First Lady Michelle Obama opens White House kitchen to culinary students on eve of the Obamas' first state dinner


(UPDATE: Wednesday afternoon Michelle Obama's press secretary is throwing cold water on the water dog idea, saying the final choice is yet to be made and Mrs. Obama  has only one family vote. More over here.)

First Lady Michelle Obama -- seen here with White House chef Cris Comerford opening the White House kitchen to culinary students on the eve of the Obamas' first formal dinner -- has spilled the beans about the new first pooch.

In an interview with People magazine that hits the stands on Friday, Mrs. Obama said that the first family is looking for a rescue Portuguese water dog who is "old enough" and a "match" for the family dynamic.

"Temperamentally they're supposed to be pretty good," she says of the breed. "From the size perspective, they're sort of middle of the road -– it's not small, but it's not a huge dog. And the folks that we know who own them have raved about them. So that's where we're leaning."

That will be good news to the animal rights groups who have been lobbying the family to adopt a dog who might otherwise be euthanized. That campaign apparently resonated, at least with President Obama. At his first news conference after the election, Obama alluded to his daughter Malia's allergies and his own racial background -- a white mother and an African father -- and said:

With respect to the dog, this is a major issue. I think it's generated more interest on our website than just about anything. We have -- we have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic. On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me.

The choice is also likely to delight Massachusetts Sen. Ted Kennedy, an early Obama supporter who has two Portuguese water dogs himself and has never been shy about lobbying for his causes.

In the interview with People, Mrs. Obama -- who offered some inside views on her White House life in the video below -- said the first family will get the dog in April, after she and the president return with daughters Malia, 10, and Sasha, 7, from a spring break vacation.

As for the name, Michelle Obama isn't feeling the love for some of the choices her daughters have come up with so far.

Oh, the names are really bad. I don't even want to mention it, because there are names floating around and they're bad. You listen and you go -– like, I think, Frank was one of them. Frank! Moose was another one of them. Moose. I said, well, what if the dog isn't a moose? Moose. I'm like, no, come on, let's work with the names a little bit.

The Obamas promised their daughters a dog for their understanding about parental absences during the long presidential campaign. So, one family promise kept.

-- Johanna Neuman

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Photo Credit: Kevin Dietsch/EPA

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