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Obamas may pick a pound pooch

November 06, 2008|Stacy St. Clair | St.Clair writes for the Chicago Tribune.

CHICAGO — Unlike previous White House dogs, America's next first pooch may come from more humble beginnings: The Obamas appear to being leaning toward a rescue dog.

"Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine," President-elect Barack Obama told his daughters in his election night address. "You have earned the puppy that is coming with us."

Throughout the campaign, the Obamas dropped hints about the dog, whose adoption was promised regardless of the campaign's outcome. Malia, 10, expressed a desire for a "goldendoodle," a golden retriever-poodle hybrid that isn't recognized as an official breed by the American Kennel Club. And Michelle Obama told reporters in October that the family would select a rescue dog from a shelter.

A dog of unknown pedigree would be a rarity in the White House, where 22 of 43 presidents have owned purebreds. President George W. Bush has two Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley, who have their own government-run website.

A first dog's purpose is twofold, experts said. In addition to helping humanize the public perception of presidents, the pets also lift their master's spirits.

"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," American Kennel Club spokeswoman Lisa Peterson said.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals urged Obama to buy a pound pup.

"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," PETA President Ingrid Newkirk wrote.

Modern history has not been kind to White House mutts. Jimmy Carter was the last president to bring one to Washington. The pooch, Grits, was quickly banished because of "belligerent" behavior.

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