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Obamas get a cute black-and-white puppy, but he's no rescue dog -- or is he?

April 13, 2009 |  7:28 am

The official announcement comes Tuesday, but no one could keep a leash on this hot news -- President Obama is getting a new best friend -- a la Harry Truman's advice that anyone who wants a friend in Washington had best get a dog.

The first daughters -- 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha -- have named their new Portuguese waterdog "Bo" in honor of First Lady Michelle Obama's late father, Frasier Robinson, whose nickname was "Diddley," after blues musician Bo Diddley.

No doubt the 6-month-old puppy, a gift from Massachusetts Sen. Edward Kennedy, is adorable. But what about those promises from both the president and the first lady to rescue a dog in a shelter?


President Obama once referred to his own biracial heritage by saying that maybe the first family would get "a mutt like me." Bo's no mutt and he's no shelter dog, but he was kind of rescued.

As the Christian Science Monitor reports this morning, the White House isn’t Bo’s first home. He originally lived with another family but didn’t get along with their other dogs, so he almost went to a shelter.

"They were looking at shelters, but in the end the Kennedys learned of this litter mate of their dog who needed a home and they wanted to give the girls a gift — and here we are,” explained an Obama spokeswoman.

So, technically, he’s a second-chance dog. This could be why the Humane Society of the United States, the nation's largest animal advocacy group, didn't bark too loudly.

“Clearly our best hope was that he [the president] would go to a shelter or a breed-rescue group,” said President and CEO Wayne Pacelle. “He didn’t do that, but he also didn’t go to a pet store or puppy mill either. It’s a gray area.”

But Abbie Moore of Adopt-a-Pet.com, which in January launched a campaign urging the Obamas to adopt, let the First Family have it.

“This is truly a missed opportunity to set a pet-adoption trend among Americans," she said. “If Obama had adopted a pet from a shelter, it could have been the turning point for the pet-overpopulation problem in this country. With pet relinquishment up 20% to 30% due to the poor economy, pets in shelters can use all the help they can get.”

Bo, oblivious to the uproar, arrives Tuesday.

-- Johanna Neuman

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