WASHINGTON — The identity of the first puppy -- the one that the Washington press corps has been yelping about for months, the one President Obama has seemed to delight in dropping hints about -- leaked out Saturday.
The little guy is a six-month-old Portuguese water dog given to the Obama girls as a gift by Sen. Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts. Malia and Sasha named it Bo.
Bo's a handsome little guy. Well suited for formal occasions at the White House, he's got tuxedo-black fur, with a white chest, white paws and a rakish white goatee.
A website called FirstDogCharlie published a picture Saturday morning purportedly of the puppy, which it said was originally named Charlie. The celebrity gossip website TMZ linked to the picture. So much for the big White House unveiling.
The FirstDogCharlie site included a photograph of a Portuguese water dog that looked exactly like the dog in a White House photo -- right down to the multicolored lei -- that the Washington Post was getting ready to publish on the front page of its Sunday paper.
A secret get-acquainted session with the family occurred at the White House a few weeks ago. The visit, known around the White House as "The Meeting," was a surprise for the girls. Bo charmed the first family, a source who was there said. He sat when the girls sat, stood when the girls stood. He made no toilet errors and did not gnaw on the furniture. Bo has, after all, been receiving lessons in good behavior from the Kennedys' dog trainers. These lessons have been taking place at a secret, undisclosed location outside Washington.
When the president walked across the room during the visit, Bo followed obediently.
Sasha was excited; Malia focused on all the "responsibility issues" -- how Bo will be trained, cared for, etc.
"Malia has done extensive research," the source said.
All of this is new to the first family. Sasha and Malia have never had pets. And neither the first lady nor the president had dogs growing up.
In a statement, the Kennedys said: "We couldn't be happier to see the joy that Bo is bringing to Malia and Sasha. We love our Portuguese water dogs and know that the girls -- and their parents -- will love theirs, too."
The choice of a Portie raised one complication: The Obamas have long said they wanted a rescue dog. But the carefully bred Porties almost never end up in shelters. Bo had been living with another family but it wasn't a good fit, so the Kennedys acquired him for the Obamas.
As for the rescue pledge, the Obamas came up with a solution to lend a serious symbolic note: They're going to make a donation to the D.C. Humane Society.
Roig-Franzia writes for the Washington Post.
Post staff writers Howard Kurtz and Rob Pegoraro contributed to this report.