The dog house at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue

By Francis Battista

Congratulations, once again, to the Obama family! They’ve welcomed a second pup into the White House. Here’s a tweet from Mrs. Obama showing a picture of the Portuguese water hound pair.

Bo, the first Obama First Dog, was a gift from the late Senator Ted Kennedy. The Obama girls, Sasha and Malia, had been asking for a dog back in 2008. Then candidate Obama said the family would bring home a dog following the election. He kept his promise and home happened to be the White House. There was much wailing and gnashing of teeth at the time because the rescue world had hoped that the nation’s canine bully pulpit might be available to an actual bully, and an adopted one at that, or at least to an adopted dog of some description. Alas, Bo was from the same breeder as Senator Kennedy’s Portuguese water dog – the same litter in fact.

Just as with Bo, the Obamas looked to a breeder to source Sunny. Disappointing, but hey, chastising the Obamas for not adopting their pets is getting kind of old. We’ve done it before, and clearly it didn’t get us anywhere. I think we all agree that the preference would have been for the Obamas to adopt their second pup from a rescue group or shelter. Of course, the benefit to the leader of the free world for adopting would be immeasurable, but at least Sunny came from a hobby breeder rather than a puppy mill operation, a pet store or via the Internet. And given the history of presidential pets – Herbert Hoover had two crocodiles that he liked to frighten selected guests with, Calvin Coolidge had a pygmy hippo, Lyndon Johnson famously lifted his beagle by the ears to get Him (that was the dog’s name) to howl, George H.W. Bush’s dog Millie actually had pups while in office, and the junior George W’s Barney pooped on camera – the Obamas aren't doing too badly.

Apparently, the Obama girls felt that Bo was not getting enough canine socialization behind the White House gates and had been pitching President Dad for another dog last year. The president said, following his win last November, that one dog was probably enough for now, but when the girls and Mrs. Obama started organizing play dates on the White House lawn for Bo with dogs of friends and family, the writing was on the wall. That’s the way most households work – mom and kids put their collective foot down, and dad doesn’t really have much choice.

Maybe it’s the mood I’m in, maybe it’s just too hot here in mid-August to work up a rant, but rather than bash the First Family for not taking the opportunity to be role models when acquiring a new dog by adopting from a rescue or shelter, I’d like to thank President Obama today for a few different, but related reasons.

Number one: The Obama family made a donation to the Washington Humane Society as part of the Sunny transaction. If I were in a more cynical mood, I may call that hush money, but today I am going to call it a step in the right direction. The publicity around such a donation can only stand to show the country the value rescue plays. So, Mr. President, thank you.

Number two: The White House has officially come out against any form of breed-discriminatory legislation (BDL). A petition posted to the We the People site asked for the federal government to ban BDL. While this isn’t really a federal government issue, the White House has officially responded. Their response is right on target, highlighting research that shows how ineffective and costly BDL is. So again, thank you, Mr. President.

And, three: Thank you in advance for having Sunny spayed. I don’t know if she was fixed before she arrived at the White House as Bo was, but I’m just going to assume that the Obamas will do the right thing. We certainly don’t need an “oops” litter at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The nation has enough drama without trying to explain how neutered Bo’s girlfriend had an out-of-wedlock litter!


Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society