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Still petless President Obama sets First Dog's arrival for April

March 21, 2009 |  1:17 am

New Democratic president Barack Obama returns to the White House aboard Marine One with no family dog to greet him

Most of the attention over President Obama's appearance on "The Tonight Show with Jay Leno" focused on his Special Olympics gaffe and apology or on his economics explanations or the show's impressive ratings.

But right at the end in a largely-overlooked exchange with Jay, the president revealed that the dog he'd promised his daughters Sasha and Malia is in the works. Two out of three American homes have pets, an impressive 163 million dogs and cats, not counting turtles, hamsters, fish, et al. That's more pets than Leno has classic cars and motorcycles put together.

During the presidential campaign one poll showed Republican Sen. John McCain with his menagerie of three dogs, one cat, two turtles, three parakeets and a ferret, leading the petless Obama among pet owners.

As The Ticket suggested then, just try to think of a president without a First Pet of some kind. TheseSocks Clinton RIP pampered animals even write books and get their own obituaries written when they pass on with headlines like: "Socks Clinton dies; Ex-First Cat known for sleeping was 20."

Strangely, on NBC the urban president, who got elected anyway but still has no First Dog to greet him at the White House (see to photo), at first said jokingly the dog was just a campaign promise.

Then, he added they're "laying the groundwork" for the new animal. More like laying the papers down, you mean, for him/her/it.

Anyway, we're publishing the entire canine exchange on the jump below, including Jay's intentionally humorous misnaming of the reported exotic breed the family favors.

For reasons of obvious national security, the president did not reveal whether he's going to alienate abandoned pet lovers with a store-bought purebred dog or, lose the breeders' vote by doing what many shelters across the country have publicly urged, choose one very lucky Cinderella-style rags-to-White House-riches rescue dog.

Now, how could political strategist David Axelrod possibly resist staging a tale like that?

But Obama did explain that the nation's newest First Dog should be in place when he and Michelle return from their European trip in early April. Read the full exchange below.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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The following is an excerpt of the interview of President Obama by Jay Leno on NBC's The Tonight Show, March 19, 2009. The complete interview transcript is available by clicking here.

Leno:All right, one last question. Now, when is the dog coming?  I keep hearing about the dog.  It seems to me –- when was the dog supposed to be there by?  I thought it was, like, as soon as --

THE PRESIDENT: Listen, this is Washington –- (laughter) –- that was a campaign promise.  (Laughter.)

Leno: Oh, wow. Wow. MaDemocratic president Barack Obama on NBC's Tonight Show with Jay Leno March 19 2009n. (Laughter and applause.)

THE PRESIDENT: I'm teasing. The dog will be there shortly. (Laughter.)

Leno: How soon?

THE PRESIDENT:  We have actually sort of been laying the groundwork here. We’ve got a trip, I've got to go to the NATO summit. When we get back, the dog will be in place.

Leno: Wow. And it's, what, a Portuguese water head?  (Laughter.)  What is it, what kind of dog is it?

THE PRESIDENT: It's not that. (Laughter.)

Leno: It's not that.

THE PRESIDENT: It's not a "water head."  (Laughter.)

Leno:  Whatever they are, I don't know what they are.

THE PRESIDENT: That sounds like a scary dog.  (Laughter.) Sort of dripping around the house.  (Laughter.)

Leno: I don't know what it is.

THE PRESIDENT:  No, no. We're going to get a dog that is –- that I think the girls will have a great time –- I think I'm going to have a lot of fun with it.  You know, they say if you want a friend in Washington, get a dog.  (Laughter.)   ###

Photo credits: Associated Press (Obama returns to the White House with no First Dog to greet him); Marcy Nightwander / Associated Press (Socks Clinton, now deceased, not addressing anyone at a White House podium); Gerald Herbert / Associated Press.