Please, no elite First Dog for Obama

January 15, 2009|By TIM ROWLAND

So the Obama family is trying to decide on a dog.

At last, something I am highly qualified to comment on, and my comment is "Don't."

But it might be too late for that, since a puppy was promised to the president-elect's daughters, and while it may be permissible for a politician to break promises to the American people, it is not permissible to break promises to young girls.

So with that in mind, my comment would be to be very, very careful. In fact, this decision will, when all is said and done, be far more consequential than, say, where to distribute TARP funding.

And speaking of TARP, get one. Preferably, one that is large enough to cover the entire kitchen floor, or whatever area the First Beast in likely to inhabit. Newspapers are simply not big enough, trust me. And I'm thinking you will want to save crate-training for members of Congress.


The two finalists breeds the Obamas have in mind are a Portuguese water dog and a labradoodle.

Labradoodle. Just stop it, OK? I don't want to hear of any of these designer breeds cooked up just because they result in a clever name. I don't want to hear about any Pomertriever or Bassetweiler or Cockerpincher or any other compound hound. It just smacks of elitism, and that's not the message you want to send right now.

A Portuguese water dog is OK, I suppose, as long as it doesn't offend the Spaniards. According to the American Kennel Club, the PWD is a seafaring breed, which in a tidal area like Washington could come in handy if you believe these reports of the ice caps melting.

But I'm a little nervous about the dog's characteristics, which are described as "spirited, yet obedient."

I happen to have one of these "spirited yet obedient dogs, and the emphasis is clearly on the spirited, with obedient running a distant second.

The bouvier des Flanders named Opie could be described as "spirited, yet even more spirited." He is so happy and spirited, in fact, that you can't punish him. Shake your finger at him, he licks it. Box him in the ears and he thinks that this is The Most Outstanding Thing that has happened to him all day. Insult and abuse he takes for encouragement and praise.

When you think about it, it's a pretty effective stratagem. At times, I wonder what would happen if someone like Barry Bonds would try this tact. The more you indicted him, the happier he would get.

Pretty soon, you give up trying to punish, because it is just no use.

So I'd be careful of these "spirited" dogs. The other sad thing is that this has broken down into a free-for-all between Portuguese water dog and labradoodle owners, each pushing their own mutt-related agendas. Looking through the political lens, I'm thinking that the Portuguese water dogs probably carry with them more votes (no sense offending the Iberian-American demographic), but labradoodle owners might be bigger campaign contributors.

It's a headache, no doubt. Maybe Obama should have promised a kitten. You never hear feline owners get into a fight over whether the Norwegian Forest Cat is superior to the Maine Coon. Or maybe you do and I just don't travel in those circles -- a fact that would make me feel truly blessed.

So in the end, the breed of presidential dog probably doesn't matter all that much. Just be sure it knows the basic commands: Come; sit; stay; and, where this Congress is concerned, veto.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324, or by e-mail at

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