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Update: In the Spring/Summer 2008 edition of New York Tails, editorial columnist Mistress Chili Chinchilla wrote about the Obama family's decision to add a dog to their family at the request of their young daughters, Malia and Sasha. (See article below). There was an immediate debate between purebred enthusiasts and rescue organizations as to whether their new furry family member was going to be an adopted/rescue mutt from a shelter or a more traditional 'presidential purebreed.' In early October on Entertainment Tonight first-lady elect Michelle Obama said the family would indeed adopt a 'rescue dog,' and in his acceptance speech on November 4th, President Elect Obama said: "Sasha and Malia...I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with the White House."

Obama's Big Decision
Should He Shop Or Adopt?

by Mistress Chilli Chinchilla

Senator Barak Obama's choice of Vice President will become known in the next few days. But there is another choice looming over the senator's head--whether he should buy or adopt a dog for his girls once the election is over (good, bad, or otherwise.) The American Kennel Club says: "Presidential purebred pups are as traditional as baseball and apple pie" while animal adoption groups are poo-pooing this idea. Here's what Mistress Chilli Chinchilla, Editorial Page Editor for New York Tails magazine, says in the current issue of New York Tails.

Let's just say Barak Obama has a lock on New York City, if not necessarily the entire state of New York. Unfortunately, while we may think otherwise, national elections are rarely, if ever, based on how New York votes.

That said, the rest of the country will be watching Mr. Obama very closely on the decisions he makes from now until November. At presstime, for example, Mr. Obama had still not chosen a running mate. He was still deciding whether to tap into our gasoline reserves or condone drilling holes into the Arctic ice cap. He had yet to articulate just how he planned to bring our troops home quickly and alive. These are just a handful of the decisions he's facing.

And then there's the dog.

Didn't catch that last one? Mr. Obama (and presumably Mrs. Obama) have promised their two adorable daughters, Malia Ann, 10, and Sasha, 7, a dog -- whether it be in the White House or back in Illinois-- after the election. Whether he should adopt one or purchase one has become yet another issue facing the young Presidential hopeful.

Some people, including Yellow Dog Democrats (sorry, couldn't resist) are taking Mr. Obama's choice on this issue very, very seriously.

The debate started innocently enough. The American Kennel Club, a distinguished, well-heeled and influential group representing purebred dogs and the industry surrounding them (namely, AKC-licensed breeders) took a rare stab at humor with the release of a July press statement titled: American Kennel Club Offers Suggestions For Obama's New 'Number Two'.

First, as any red-blooded, dog-walking, poop-scooping American knows, the term 'Number Two' calls forth an image something other than the office of Vice President. Or at least it should. But let's put that unfortunate choice of words aside for the moment. In the same statement, AKC spokesperson Lisa Peterson said: "The first step in being a responsible pet owner is to do some serious and careful research to determine which breed of dog is right for you and your family."

True enough, and advice many more people should take to heart. If you are not going to adopt the perfect pet (that would be a Chinchilla, of course) and go with a dog you should research what type of dog is right for you and your family--even if your 'family' is just you and your dog. Even hard-core animal rescue groups will suggest trying to figure out your mutt's mix so you can decide if their size, temperament and other factors are a good fit for you. (There's tests for this now; see Dr. Levitan's article on page four of our magazine, New York Tails.) Breed mix is even more of an issue for those of us who live in hard-won "pet friendly" apartments where neighbors and landlords can, rightly or wrongly, weigh in with their opinions. While it is technically illegal, Mistress Chilli personally knows of certain buildings, which will not allow certain allegedly "aggressive" breeds entry.

"In the spirit of doggie democracy", continued the AKC statement, the Club urged fellow U.S. citizens to vote on what breed the Obama family should choose. The 'short list' they suggested includes: Bichon Frise, Chinese Crested, Poodle, Soft-Coated Wheaten Terrier and miniature Schnauzer. These breeds were chosen, in part, because they are considered by some to be "hypoallergenic" (less likely to exacerbate allergies, which is a factor for the Obama children). Another less-common consideration the Obamas should consider in choosing a family dog, the AKC said, is the breed's willingness to frequently travel on Air Force One and interact with heads of state. (Don't laugh: George W. reportedly has to chase his Scottie up and down the aisle of Air Force One on occasion.)

"From Washington's Foxhounds to Bush's "Barney" and "Miss Beazley" presidential purebred pups are as traditional as baseball and apple pie," the AKC proudly proclaimed. Those who agree are invited to cast their vote for the breed the Obama's should choose by August 19 at (At last check, there was a statistical dead heat between the Poodle and the Wheaten.)

"Presidential purebred pups are as traditional as baseball and apple pie?" Oh, really. And here I was thinking this great country was built on the backs of good ol' working mutts. Mutts who came to America in pursuit of a better life. Mutts who met and fell in love with other mutts here and began their own mutley crews. The great American mutting pot, if you will.

Mutt lovers weren't about to take the AKC's statement lying down.

Chat boards frequented by New York dog owners exploded in a flurry of spirited debates. Some said Obama's choice of dog presents an unprecedented opportunity for the highest, most visible office of our government to set an example to the rest of the nation (nay, the world) and promote animal adoption.

Others sided with the AKC; with the Obama girls' allergies and the hectic lifestyle the family will lead, a breed with a predictable coat and temperament might be best.

Best Friends Animal Society, a well-known animal adoption advocate, is stumping for the mutts.

"If Barack Obama is all about change, Best Friends Animal Society has a suggestion regarding the presidential candidate's reported search for a family dog: adopt from a local shelter," they said. They posted their own webs site,, where voters could sign a petition urging the Obamas to adopt.

"The American Kennel Club has suggested five types of purebred dogs that would fit the Obamas' lifestyle," they said. "While we don't disagree that it's important to choose a dog that matches well with the family, mixed breeds should certainly be considered along with pure breeds. Also, whether purebred or mutt, we believe the Obamas should make a winning choice and adopt a family dog, not buy one." (In fairness, the AKC did issue a subsequent statement which mentioned breed rescue groups; whether this was done in response to the Best Friends statement or some other reason - if any -- is unclear.)

And Republican presidential candidate John McCain? The senator from Arizona is your man if you're voting solely on the Pet Platform. In addition to his personal love of animals (he reportedly has two dozen dogs, cats, fish and turtles) his track record on federal humane legislation isn't too shabby, either.

But no matter who wins--Obama or McCain-one thing is certain: somebody's going to have to pick up after them. Guess who.

Click here for more articles about dogs.

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Most recent update: 11/5/08
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