Friendly advice on choosing the White House dog

November 23, 2008|By kevin cowherd | kevin cowherd,kevin.cowherd@baltsun.com

Barack and Michelle Obama, the nation is consumed with your search for the right dog for your family.

They asked you about it on 60 Minutes! Can a cover story in Time be far behind?

By the way, that was a good move promising the girls a dog rather than a cat.

As everyone knows, cats are aloof and imperious and have no soul, and, therefore, you never know what they're thinking.

If you had a cat at the White House, I could see you taking a foreign dignitary on a tour one day and the cat creeping up and raking the dignitary with his claws - for no reason, just for kicks - and now the two of you are running around apologizing and trying to find Band-Aids and Bacitracin.

Who knows if that could cause an international incident?

Hu Jintao, the Chinese leader, looks like the type who'd think about lobbing a few missiles our way if a cat scratched him.

No, you definitely made the right decision to get a dog for the family.

If I may offer a bit of advice as a lifelong dog person, it would be this: Don't get a yappy dog.

By yappy, I mean one of those jittery little dogs that yips and barks and never shuts up when people are around.

If you get a dog like this, he'll drive everyone on your staff nuts. You'll be having a Cabinet meeting and the dog will be yipping, yapping and throwing himself against the door, and nobody will get anything done.

Yappy dogs are your Chihuahuas, dachshunds, Pomeranians and the like. People can't concentrate with all that noise. I'm amazed anyone still buys them. They must feel like calling in a doggie exorcist every day.

Sure, by writing this, I have just guaranteed hate mail from the Chihuahua, dachshund and Pomeranian worshipers, but that's not important.

What's important is the two of you choosing the right dog for the kids and your new home. I'm just trying to spare you some aggravation.

Another word of advice: Don't be leery of Scottish terriers just because the current first dog, Barney, bit that reporter.

I saw a video of the incident on YouTube. Let me tell you, I'm totally with Barney on this one. That dopey reporter had it coming.

Here's Barney, out for a walk around the White House, enjoying the sunshine, minding his own business. And here comes this reporter trying to be cute for the cameras, cooing, "Hi, Barney!" in that sickly sweet voice people use around dogs and trying to pet him.

You could see Barney wanted no part of it. If you know dogs, everything in his body language said: Back off, Jack. A little personal space here, OK?

But the reporter kept it up. And, finally, Barney had enough and bit the guy.

I don't blame him. I would have bit the guy, too. Then the reporter is interviewed on TV and holds up his bandaged finger and goes on and on about it, like he was in a firefight with al-Qaida.

OK, that's enough about Barney. Just don't rule out Scotties because one of them wigged out on a stupid reporter.

I know there are allergy issues with your daughter Malia, and you said you'd like to get a hypoallergenic dog.

But there's no such thing, say most dog experts, because the major allergen in dogs is a protein that all dogs have.

So I would concentrate on getting a dog that has a good temperament. There will be plenty of stress in your lives, so you don't need some crazy Cujo rampaging around and scaring people. You need a dog that's playful and mellow at the same time. I happen to favor golden retrievers in the big-dog category and Shih Tzus among small dogs, but that's a personal thing.

My family had a Shih Tzu for 16 years until he croaked last spring, and he was the greatest dog ever.

Oh, sure, he got a little fussy toward the end, when he was holding out for top-shelf dog food, his breath went south and the vet wanted to charge me $300 to get his teeth cleaned, which was supposed to help the breath problem.

For 300 bucks, the dog should have gotten his teeth capped, too, although I didn't say that to the vet.

Another dog I would recommend is a goldendoodle, which is one of these hybrid dogs, a mix of a poodle and golden retriever.

My brother and his family have one, and she's very playful and affectionate, except she also has a tendency to bolt every five minutes.

Finally, my brother put up one of those electric dog fences that zaps the crazy mutt every time she strays off the property, and that took care of that.

Who's going to run across the street to overturn a few trash cans if you know you're going to get fried?

Good luck with your search. I'm sure we'll all be hearing soon about what kind of dog you've chosen.

Probably on another episode of 60 Minutes. It might even bring back Mike Wallace.

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