White House tosses water on dog tale
by Rebecca Cole
Labradoodle lovers, take heart.
After months of speculation, it appeared that the selection of a first dog was at hand. People magazine, with a fetching report on its Website today, revealed that First Lady Michelle Obama has narrowed the family's choice to a rescued Portuguese water dog. All that stands in the way now is Spring break - then comes a dog in April.
"You're getting some scoops here,'' the first lady told the magazine, People reported, and "the only thing still up in the air is the name."
But is the magazine barking up the wrong tree?
The first lady's press secretary, Katie Lelyveld, threw cold water on the report today, suggesting that a decision actually has not been made.
"They have not selected a breed," Lelyveld said. "Mrs. Obama likes the Portuguese water dog, but she is only one of four votes.''
The Obamas have not narrowed the search down to a particular breed, the spokeswoman said, but "their primary focus now is that they get a dog that works with their lifestyle." President Barack Obama had allowed in an earlier interview that the family had narrowed its search to the water dog or a Labradoodle, not a breed really, but a cross between a Labrador retriever and the Standard poodle.
(First Lady Michelle Obama may grace the cover of People magazine, with the story of the dog hunt, but President Barack Obama is featured on the cover of LA Tails, a complimentary magazine for pet lovers which dedicated a recent edition to rescue puppies.)
If the Obamas do decide on a Portuguese water dog, that might be difficult, says Mary Harkins, coordinator of rescue and relocation for the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America. A very active breed, some Portuguese water dogs "are without an off-switch - they just go all day," Harkins explains. "It might be a little bit too much for a family who has never owned a dog before, especially this family."
The No. 1 reason that Portuguese water dogs are rescued, Harkins says, is because owners who bought them as puppies didn't realize their prodigious activity levels.
Intelligent and a strong swimmer, historically used as a net-tending working dog by Portuguese fishermen, the PWD was taught to dive underwater and herd fish into nets. The relatively obscure breed is described by the American Kennel Club as providing an "indelible impression of strength, spirit, and soundness."
Finding a rescue PWD may be tough: Last year, only five PWDs were rescued , she says, and she already has a long waiting list.
"It's pretty difficult," Harkin says. "We're not that big of a breed that we would see a lot of dogs."