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Obama family introduces Bo

By jim Published: April 15, 2009

By Rebecca Cole
Chicago Tribune

WASHINGTON: In Washington, everything is political — even the choice of a family dog.

As President Barack Obama and his family officially introduced the new first puppy, Bo, a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog, to the world at the White House on Tuesday, people inside the Beltway were panting that Obama had broken his promise to find a rescue dog.

''Welcome to your life,'' Michelle Obama told Bo, as the first lady, the president and their daughters, Sasha and Malia, walked the dog along the South Lawn in front of a crush of about 50 reporters. They presented the picture of an average American family: two kids, two parents and a dog.

As cameras clicked and reporters scrambled for a view of the white-pawed specimen from a working breed, Bo took it all in stride, wagging his long pouf of a tail and tugging at his leash.

''He's a star,'' the president remarked. ''He's got star quality.''

Not enough, however, to land Bo a presidential pillow. When asked where the pooch is sleeping, Obama said, ''Not in my bed.''

As the first family romped with their pet across a South Lawn in spring bloom, the adoption of a family dog would seem to be the height of simplicity. After all, 40 million American households own at least one dog. But nothing is simple in Washington, the capital of scoring points.

In promising his daughters that, win or lose the presidency, the family would get a dog once his campaign was over, Obama had thrown a bone to animal lovers. Then, when he and his wife repeatedly said they would seek a rescue dog, Obama won over more folks.

''I've finally got a friend,'' Obama said Tuesday as the family encouraged Bo to do his business on the lawn.

But now tongues are wagging in Washington that Obama, in giving up the search for a rescue dog and taking a pricey purebred pup, has shown a knack for leaving people with one idea and taking another tack — such as the family's initial interest in public schooling for the girls, only to enroll them in the private Sidwell Friends School.

No shelter dog

Last summer, Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare organization, launched http://www.obamafamilydog.com, gathering 50,000 signatures on an online petition asking the Obamas to adopt a dog from a shelter. John Polis, public relations manager for the group, is disappointed in the president's choice of a purebred pup.

''We're always happy when a dog gets a new home,'' Polis said. ''But we feel that, overall, it was an opportunity missed by the president to adopt from a shelter or a breed rescue organization and make a statement for the 4 million to 5 million animals euthanized every year.'' Obama had said during his first news conference as president-elect that he'd be looking for ''a mutt like me.''

''We were real happy about that,'' Polis said, ''but it turned out not to be the case.''

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