Last night Obama reaffirmed a promise to his daughters:
From the campaign’s onset, he vowed to buy the girls a dog, win or lose. And as he stood before the country as president-elect Tuesday, he announced that America would have a new First Dog come January.
“I love you both more than you can imagine,” Obama told his daughters, Sasha and Malia. “You have earned the puppy that is coming with us.”
Naturally, there’s controversy:
Malia, 10, has already expressed a desire for a “goldendoodle,” a hypoallergenic hybrid of a golden retriever and a standard poodle that typically can’t be found at the pound and isn’t recognized as a breed by the American Kennel Club.
Public opinion, however, is already at odds with the First Family. In a recent AKC poll, voters said they would like the Obamas to adopt a purebred poodle.
And check out this silly quote:
“Most of our Presidents kept purebreds in the White House,” AKC Spokeswoman Lisa Peterson said. “When times get tough – during a bad economy or when presidential pressures are at their peak — these dogs serve as personal companions and give much relaxation and laughter to our leaders during difficult times.”
As you’d expect, the usual suspects take the opposite view:
Should the Obamas go with a purebred, they’d do so over the objections of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. In a letter sent to Obama, PETA president Ingrid Newkirk urged him to buy a pound pup rather than purchase a pooch from a breeder or a pet store.
“No one needs to tell you that this country is proud to be a melting pot and that there is something deeply wrong and elitist about wanting only a purebred dog,” Newkirk wrote.
Chill out, it’s a family pet. Let the little girls have their puppy.
Also, for most pet buyers, breeding is not about elitism, it’s about quality and dependability. When a dog is descended from lines that have been shown, inspected, and bred by experts, it’s far less likely to develop unexpected health problems or behaviors when it grows up.
(Obviously, when you’re talking about animal breeds that have been over-specialized for show purposes to the point of having health problems, that’s a different story.)
“Millions of Great American Mutts — the dog that should be our national dog — are set to die in our nation’s extremely overcrowded pounds and shelters for lack of good homes.”
First of all, how the shelters and pounds treat their animals is not the fault of people who own pets. “Adopt this pet or we’ll kill it” is not an admirable sales pitch.
Second, one of the points of having breeding programs is that they create pets that are dependable and lovable and that people don’t want to abandon. Animal shelters and breeding programs are two different solutions to the problem of unwanted pets.
Having said that, all three of my cats are from the Orphans of the Storm shelter in Deerfield, and they’re great. It would be nice if Obama got a shelter pup, but only if that’s what his daughters want. If he caves in to anyone besides his children on the subject household puppies, he has no soul.
Finally, I must give kudos to reporter Stacy St. Clair for digging out every last aspect of this story:
If Obama makes good on his puppy promise, the gesture could be seen as olive branch to a segment of the population that didn’t support for him. An Associate Press-Yahoo News poll last summer found that pet owners favored McCain (who owns more than a dozen dogs) over Obama 42 percent to 37 percent, with dog owners particularly in McCain’s corner.
If you’re assigned the “First Pet” story, this is the way to do it right.