Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

White House dog: It's Bo, the Portuguese water dog for Obama daughters.


WASHINGTON--The new White House dog, Bo, a Portuguese water dog, joins the Obama family on Tuesday, a spokesman for First Lady Michelle Obama told the Chicago Sun-Times on Sunday.

The 6-month-old puppy is a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Mass.), a litter mate of one of their Portuguese water dogs. The Obama daughters named their new pet Bo because they have cousins with a cat named Bo and because Michelle's late father, Fraser Robinson, nickname was Diddley.

Since the Obama's did not get the dog from a shelter--as they thought they might at one point-- the Obamas will instead made a donation to a Humane Society.

Catherine McCormick-Lelyveld, a spokesman for the First Lady told the Sun-Times, "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!

"He moves in Tuesday."

She added later Sunday, "Yes this dog is the litter mate of (the Kennedy) newest dog Cappy. It was previously owned but did not get along with the other dogs in its last house. The Kennedys learned of its availability and got it for the Obama girls."

The White House had a national press strategy planned to unveil the long-awaited gift for the Obama daughters, Malia, 10 and Sasha, 7.

The dog was promised to the girls during the election as a gift, whether or not dad made it to the White House. On election night in Chicago, Obama said to his kids, "I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House."

But the dog roll-out was foiled after the news leaked out from a little-known site, The item was picked up by

That spoiled the puppy scoop that had been promised to the Washington Post in advance of the Tuesday announcement, so the Post went with the story right away. The Post got the puppy scoop because the New York Times got the exclusive about the planting of the White House garden. All of this behind-the-scenes press wrangling is gleefully recounted in the Post story.

On Nov. 7, Obama's first press conference after the election, I asked him about the dog.

He replied, "With respect to the dog, this is a major issue. I think it's generated more interest on our Web site than just about anything. We have -- we have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic.

"On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me. So -- so whether we're going to be able to balance those two things I think is a pressing issue on the Obama household."

According to the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America the dogs "do not shed very much but they do shed" and are considered hypoallergenic because they are single coated and have a "decreased tendency to cause allergies.

The breed pick by now is not a surprise.

Back in January President Obama said the frontrunners were a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound. In February, People Magazine reported Mrs. Obama seemed partial to a Portuguese water hound and the dog would arrive in April.


Big DEAL!!! How about more important issues?

It was bad enough when Biden went to the breeder. Now the Obama's! What about the million shelter dogs?? Not good enough for you and your kids. I feel like a fool for voting for you. I just read a post saying there are 16 Portuguese water dogs on petfinder. Kennedy should have butted out. I can't wait until the change guy (oop's that was a lie) goes back to Chicago!!

There are plenty of Portuguese Water Hounds available for adoption from shelters. See (link below).

i am so happy for the girls. now the fun and work comes, but they will love bo forever.

take good care of bo as he will become family in no time at all.

i hope you get to sneak him into your rooms so he can snuggle in bed with you.

show bo your love everyday.

hopefully your next dog can be a pound dog.

good job to all of the Obamas' on all the creative work, thinking, and hope you are giving the American people. it is so good to have fresh faces in office and with Michele and the girls i wish you all much happiness and success.

Hope (yes, my real name)

"They will instead *MAKE* a donation to a Humane Society.

LOL. You voted for him because of the type of dog they were gonna get? What a joke. You represent everything that's wrong in America.


if you take a look at the petfinders list, you will see there aren't any purebred PWD puppies and only a few adults (some with issues). I think the Obamas were looking for a purebred because of Malia's allergies.

That makes me sick. So much for rescuing a dog! Guess it was all for show...
I just lost a little respect for our president.

While a shelter dog would have been ideal, or even one from petfinder, how do you politely refuse a gift from a very prominent political figure? If you are upset for voting for Obama because of a new puppy and where it came from, then you don't have a realistic grasp on what politics are really about.
That's as ridiculous as people expecting him to already have 8 years worth of screw ups from his predecessor fixed in the month and half he's been in office. He's not a demi god people, he's a man doing the best he possibly can.

Oh geez. Are the people really shocked that the Obama's didn't get a shelter dog?!? The whole shelter bit, by the first family, was nothing more than a politcally correct stunt to begin with. Say one thing and do another as usual. Change you can believe in - right?

Who cares where the dog came from? It needed a home, and the Obamas will give him one. I enjoy this lighthearted side of the news after so many months of doom and gloom. Come on people, let's enjoy life a bit! And let's allow the first family to enjoy theirs, too.

Yes, there are many shelter dogs. There are also many children in shelters. Anyone who embraces life, any life and provides care and love is to be commended. I love our First Family and believe they should have a right to select their puppy, accept a gift and make a donation to a shelter to show their love for the rescue dog. Show some love - open your hearts.

If I recall the Pres said they would like to get a rescue dog. For those offended you and have lost some respect for him are really CRAZY. PLEASE GROW UP

Didn't you read the article?

" It was previously owned but did not get along with the other dogs in its last house. The Kennedys learned of its availability and got it for the Obama girls."

This dog needed a good home, just like pound puppies but it just did not go through the pound.

No shelter dog for Obama. Not surprised. So many lies in so little time. And, they actually accepted a dog from Ted Kennedy! The guy left a woman to die in a submerged car so that he could save himself. Imagine how he treats his dogs. I'm puppy mill sounds about right for Kennedy. I bet he drowns the defective pups. Hope the one the Obama's were given is healthy. So Mr. President, you're wife told a whopper when she said they were adopting a shelter dog. But, you're already in the White House, so you can go back on anything you say.

Oh Liz, lighten-up....the dog was a gift. You can't convince me that the only reason for voting for Obama was his pledge to get his kids a pet. In the 2 months or so he's been President he's done a remarkable job - reversing many of the negative actions made by the previous administration and leading the country into a most positive and healthy direction. Now, if we'd only get rolling on the prosecution of W and his administration for War Crimes and other illegal acts!

Who knows where that puppy would have ended up, since it needed a home? it might have ended up at a shelter! Hard to believe people can't just be happy for the Obama family. I never saw such nit-picking in my life --if it had been a shelter puppy, no doubt the next gripe would have been "Why didn't they choose MY city's shelter? I'll never vote for Obama again!" How childish can you get?

I usually hate fluff but this dog is very cute. I hope he will be happy and that the girls will be happy with him. To those moaning about shelter pets, grow up. There is nothing wrong with purebreeds from responsible breeders. Focus your energy on spay and neuter instead. And while I am sure the shelter would have approved Obama, many of the wackos in shelters deny good homes for the slightest reason.

The question I am asking is where did Ted Kennedy get his dog from and this litter mate? Hope it was from a private breeder a not a pet store! (and for those of you who think that purchasing a dog in a pet store is no big deal, go visit a puppy mill!)

Political figures set examples. In a country where 8 million healthy, adoptable cats and dogs are euthanized yearly, yes this is an important issue.

Places like petfinder, puppyfind etc... are shady sites. People have been scammed. After our portuguese water dog passed away, we did find a dog and under his picture it said "homeless." Well, the pic' was lifted from another breeders' site on the web that I'd recognized. You can get software to trace pictures. Also, some of the dogs are portuguese mixes. If asthma were not in the family, they would have had no problem finding some great pups and older dogs with the same awesome characteristics. Seriously, if you don't know by now and regardless of your political orientation, these are good people. The pwd is an endangered breed because of the small genepool. The best you can do is adopt an older dog from a breeder who does not have a home due to a small genetic flaw (Belle was 8 months, and we miss her so much).
But; the bottom line; Asthma. People can die or nearly die from an asthma attack. The online services do not always pick out the bad seeds. Even shelters lie because the classified space they take up is often not "policed".
Bo is a sweet little dog, and I think we'll all enjoy watching him grow up.

If you read carefully, this actually is a rescue dog -- he is 6 months old and needed a new home. The Press should do a better job of emphasizing this. There are lots of ways of rescuing a dog -- not just the shelter. One of my dogs is from the pound, but the other is from a purebreed rescue. Most breeds have rescue opportunities. In this case, Kennedy simply did the rescue before the need to use the breed's rescue organization arose.

One more reason to not like Obama - Hooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww can an American President NOT support AMERICAN animal shelters!??

Malia and Sasha-better give Bo a HAPPY NEW life
in The White House.
I hope Bo gets lots of love and kindness.
And he'll have a VERY big yard to play into.
What a lucky dog he is.
Bo Obama-welcome to your new home.
He's so cute that pooch.

I bet TMZ is so "proud" to be the first to break the news but seriously, they need to be ashamed. It is pathetic that they pride themselves on such a breach. Today it is a story about the dog in the White House. Where do they draw the line? Is there a line for them? I know it may seem harmless but it is really bigger than you and I perceive it to be. At what point do they respect anyone's privacy?

Stop it there's more important things in life than being so negative about a dog he's also one of GOD'S creations no matter where he came from let's focus more on the world and what it's coming to!!! AN END if we don't get it together as people.

There are over 48 different breeds of dog that are considered hypo allergenic. Surely an appointed staff person could dig up hundreds if not thousands of rescue animals that need a home that meet the presidents requirements that the girls would love just as well.

I wonder how many emails the president received from shelters nation wide notifying him of in need, homeless hypo allergenic pets. I'll bet his Blackberry was overloaded!

I've heard the excuse ("I couldn't find a dog at a shelter that I was not allergic to so I had to buy one") a million times. It's a Bum excuse.

Benny T. Bulldog (Rescued and glad to be alive!)

This is not a rescue dog. Kennedy should have stayed out of it.

You people who whine because Obama did not get a shelter dog really irritate me, to put it mildly. As a breeder of purebred persian cats, I agree with FatnSassy who says there is nothing wrong with getting a dog from a responsible breeder. I applaud Obama for not succombing to the agenda of the radical animal rights extremists who wish to end all pet ownership. Responsible pet ownership and education of the general public to spay and neuter any dog or cat not used for breeding or show (or other reasons in rare cases) -- not depriving a person of his constitutional right to own any type of cat or dog he chooses or targeting the good breeders who have devoted their lives to producing healthy, beautiful purebred animals. Instead of shutting down good breeders, the goal should be to educate the public so shelters will no longer be necessary.

All dogs are great, but with millions being killed in shelters each year, why didn't President Obama just get a great dog of any breed from the shelter? There are hypoallergenic dogs there and what about a mutt like he said? He could go to and easily have found a great dog to save, Shame on him.

I am very happy for the Obamas and for Bo. It was a beautiful gesture from Sen. Kennedy, and even more so considering his health concerns.

America, have faith that the Obamas will make good on their pledge for support. How could they have turned down such a gift from such a giving person? We are blessed by our giving.

BTW...I agree, there are other things to argue about.


I was really disappointed when I heard about this. The entire animal welfare community is disappointed. For those of you who cite "extremists", well, we're not. We're plain Joe's who have families and jobs who also make time to care for and fight for the animals who die by the millions in this country.

A simple adoption could have meant a world of difference to those who perceive shelter dogs as throw aways. While I do agree that buying a dog from a responsible breeder is not the worst thing, people don't know how to, nor will they, do their homework on how to find the real McCoy. They'll run out to the nearest puppy-mill store for a portuguese water dog.

How very sad that he broke this simple promise.

The fact that a woman drown some years ago, has nothing to do with Kennedy giving the Obama's girls a puppy. You are not God,so stop trying to be his JUDGE. Judge not that ye be judge not. The issue here is a puppy,it doesn't make any difference if it's a gift or come from a shelter. We as human beings need to grow up and stop acting like children. You have to stop an think maybe this little fellow might have ended up in a shelter,then what?


Lisa and any other who thing that after the threats given to the breeder about the Biden's dog, I'd take the chance draggin my 10 and 7 yr old kids feelings into politics -- then you are an idoit. Also -- some gave two little girls a gift and it is not their problem to rehab a shelther dog. I would and you can too.

So if you look on the grand scheme of thing lies with a shelter dog in the White House since there have been pure breeds there for years -- including the last eight -- Love that Barney -- you are an idoit with a poor outlook on life.

How would you have felt if they got the shelter dog (And by the way --- petfinder "rescue" charge fees -- where's the difference I ask. Wanted to rescue a dog and the min. donation $400!!! Where's the help a dog out in that????) If the dog had temp. problem, then what? If it was mixed with a dog that made triggered the little girls aleegery? Happy then? Don't tell those PARENTS how to do for THEIR children.

It's a gift for two KIDS!!!!! Get a grip!!! And if you go out buying the next $500 Wii for you kids at Christmas --- Hey then shame on you.

I have been upset about this for a while. The Obama girls are first time pet owners and they deserve to have a dog that doesn't come with a lot of baggage, as many shelter dogs do.

Where the dog came from, who bought it, how it was chosen is private Obama business. The man and his family are entitled to some privacy, aren't they?

Yes, I have a shelter dog, she was two years old when I got her, full grown and having no skills whatsoever. She has been with me for half a year and gets better each day. But she was no puppy, and I didn't want one. Everyone has a different idea of what they want, and they deserve to HAVE what they want.

Go, Bo, and have fun with your girlies!

I'm an avid supporter of Obama because I felt he would be the one to help Americans regain the ability to provide shelter and food for their family...something the Bush administration slowly took away.

I'm so happy that Obama and his family have adopted a puppy during these trying times. I'll be sure to tell my daughter to think of Bo in the warmth walls of the White House when she's cold at night because we can't afford to turn the heat on in our apartment.

While I still pray for better days and hope Obama has the strength to focus back on the hard working people in this country who didn't take advantage of the system and yet the system still failed them. I pray Obama will end his public image tour soon so that those who were laid off for no reason other than a bad economy can one day be given a job and have the ability to provide for their family again.

We need to hear from the White House that more is being done to provide jobs to the American people. PLEASE!

I'm still for Obama....I just hope he's still for me!

A dog is a living creature people, not a "gift." A dog is not a flat-screen TV or a Prada bag for godsakes. Dogs have emotions and can suffer and millions are being put down every year because people like the Obamas are too snooty to adopt a shelter dog!

To me, the idea of giving someone a dog as a "gift" is about as ridiculous as giving someone a kid or spouse as a "gift." I would have no problem telling Ted Kennedy (ooooh, I'm sooooo impressed, he's rich and pooooowerful, ooohhhhh) thanks, but no thanks to that pup to nowhere.

The hypoallergenic excuse is B.S. There's no such thing as a hypoallergenic dog, and they were clearly being shallow and selfish in their choices. For example, they were looking at Labradoodles, a mixed breed fad dog that is a poodle (less allergenic dog) mixed with Lab (more allergenic dog) and non one knows how allergenic a Labradoodle would be because, does it have more poodle or more lab, and it will always be a worse choice than a standard poodle if allergies (not looks and faddishness or being sooo cool in the breed you choose) are really your top concern.

I knew as soon as they started talking breeds that they were going to go the selfish/shallow route. If they were being unselfish and honoring their promise to adopt, they wouldn't have narrowed it down and chosen a specific (ridiculously rare) breed, they would have said, "we're open to adopting a hypoallergenic shelter pup of any hypoallergenic breed" and would have visited dogs at shelters and breed rescues and narrowed their choices from there.

To all you people who say this is unimportant, it's really sad to see how little you value lives. Very heartless.

Do people believe that pure bred dogs should be outlawed? No more breeding of dogs (or cats)? How very sad that there are so many people who are hypercritical of every single choice Obama makes. And that monster Ted Kennedy! (I feel sure that he cleared the gift with the Obamas before making the gift.)

How very sad it is to see all the free-floating rage out there!

What a lost opportunity.

Instead of adopting a homeless dog from a shelter being the next cool thing to do, buying a Portuguese Water Dog from a breeder will be the next cool thing.

This will draw thousands of disgusting dog breeders and puppy mills into breeding Portuguese Water Dogs which in turn will result in the deaths of thousands of unsold dogs or puppies who don't measure up to the "standard."

This will also lure thousands of existing owners of Portuguese Water Dogs to breed their dogs, adding to the number of surplus dogs. A commentator on ABC's This Week program stated that you don't find Portuguese Water Dogs in shelters. Get ready for that to change.

All of these activities will increase the number of all dog breeds that go unadopted at the nation's dog shelters resulting of course in increased killing of unwanted, yet perfectly adoptable dogs.

Also, I wonder if all these new Portuguese Water Dog breeders will be on the lookout for the following problems: hip dysplasia, various eye problems, GM-1 storage disease, and Hypoadrenocorticism.

To summarize: if you breed any dog breeds, you are disgusting. If you purchase a Portuguese Water Dog instead of getting a dog from a shelter, you are also disgusting. If you decide to breed your existing Portuguese Water Dog pet, then you are very disgusting. If you decide to start breeding Portuguese Water Dogs now that one is the "first dog", you are the most disgusting.

My guess is that Obama wanted to cover another lie to America by asking Ted to donate the puppy to him so that he could say that it was a gift and he didn't have a choice. They probably had this planned before they even announced they were getting a dog.

I am not an Obama fan, but so what if he didn't end up with a shelter dog - it was still a rescue and could have made its way to the shelter. Personally, I would not accept a penny from Kennedy (Mr. Chappaquidick). His mega-bucks bought him out of that tragedy. And Obama did make a donation to animal welfare, although he should have given at least what the dog would be worth, which would be about $1500, so give him a break people.

To Liz: You're a fool anywhy whether you voted for President Obama or not.

It's normal, I supppose, to criticize those you don't like or don't agree with, but can you critics read what you're saying here and honestly think you're sane? A family adopts a dog. It happens every day in every way. Get over yourselves and be glad the dog will have a decent home. I found my guy in the middle of a highway, but that doesn't make the adoption better or worse than any other. Being a responsible family is what matters.

A dog who has been returned to the breeder is a homeless dog, the same as a shelter dog. The O'Bamas needed a breed that is hypoallergenic.

I have had shelter dogs, dogs from breeders, and a dog we picked up in a cage at a garage sale. Frequently dogs from breeders are treated just as bad or worse than mixed breeds. We won't even mention all the puppy mills that should be closed down.

I am very fond of Norwegian Elkhounds are none were available when I got mine, so I went to a breeder. (I've had two Norwegian Elklhounds and never regretted it).It turned out that at age 2 one of them developed grand mal epileptic seizures. We loved him until he died at age 10-1/2 and were happy to have him since many people would have returned him because he was not "perfect" in their eyes. Many times breed rescue folks will not adopt outside of their state. I know there are many responsible breeders, but plenty of the abusive kind, to whom their dogs are a comodity and keep them in cages.

The relationship between a person and their dog or cat is no one's business other than their own.

Would you presume to tell people to adopt children and not have their own until all the orphans are adopted.

Get a grip people. Personally I am very happy to see that Bo ended up with a loving family, and look forward to following Bo's progress as he grows. Why oh why are there so many haters? Just enjoy life and try to let everyone else do the same.

From Portugal the Portuguese Water Dogs Monte do Catula, salute President Obama and his Family

As someone who has always adored dogs, I understand those who feel that the Obama's dog should've come from a shelter. As someone who has spent 55+ years allergic to dogs, I also understand the Obama's desire to obtain a purebred dog. I read and listen to those who state there are NO hypoallergenic dogs, yet there are dogs that do cause more symptoms than others. I researched this breed years ago. I went to breeders and spent time with the dogs. This was only one of two breeds that I did not get hives from when they licked my hand (the other breed was Bichon Frise), that my eyes did not itch and I did not wheeze. When it was time to choose a breeder, I was also careful to spend time with the puppy beforehand as well. Because of this breed I am able to enjoy the fun, love and pure pleasure of owning a dog that I never deemed possible. I have had my PWD for 6 years. They are full of energy, but also very gentle dogs that have been excellent with my grandchildren. If anyone has enjoyed the pleasure of owning a dog, you would understand why it has been important for me to have my PWD in my life.

Dear Paul and others who feel everyone should get their dog from a shelter. Purebred dogs have a long and distinguished history of service to mankind. They have been hunters, herders, and guard dogs, more recently, they are seeing eye dogs, detectors of cancer, aids to the handicapped,detectors of drugs, and search and rescue dogs. In some of these fields ONLY purebred dogs are used because they excel at their task and have unparalled focus and drive. By the way Paul remember 9/11, did you see the dogs searching through the rubble for hours on end - getting IV's because they were dehydrated but would not stop looking for victims. If you are ever in need of their services or if a building ever falls on you - perhaps then you will appreciate purebred dogs and those who spend their lives breeding them. A dedicated and responsible breeder.

Debbie Lynch,

RE: your last sentence. There is NO such thing as a responsible breeder.

Except in terms of "Responsible for ... dozens, hundreds of dogs being put to death."

It is simple math. No breeder will ever admit to their part in the overpopulation problem and resulting euthanasia.

Sometimes former breeders will 'fess up, but that is why they are "former."

It is so interesting to me, how the guilty are always innocent in their own eyes.

I thought America was the land of freedom, now you can't even choose the dog you prefer! Would you lighten up Americans - You have a man in the White House who wants to change the world and means it!!!

Dogs are pack animals and do best when not alone.
Bo could have a pup friend that is hypoallergenic and comes from a shelter. Hopefully one of the water dogs mentioned on some of the previous sights.

I am so happy for them they need some one to play with

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets


Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on April 12, 2009 9:37 AM.

Bo, a Portuguese water dog is the new Obama puppy. was the previous entry in this blog.

Obamas pick church across from White House for Easter Services is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.