Before the cute scene unfolded, we learned that Bo came as a gift to the Obamas from the Kennedys after the energetic pup didn't work out in his first home. After a mid-March secret summit at the White House, "People" reports, the Obamas gave their nod of approval and he was whisked away to the Kennedy's trainer for a month of puppy boot camp.
So much for adopting a "mutt like me" as Obama joked before becoming president. The first couple said their preference was to adopt from a shelter, but concerns about Malia's allergies kept them focused on hypoallergenic breeds like the Portuguese Water Dog, also known as PWDs. In the end, they accepted a pure-bred, personally trained pup from the Kennedys.
While all dog lovers are tickled pink for the Obama girls who finally got their wish, some are understandably disappointed by how the Obamas got their dog.
"Certainly it's disappointing to everyone in the sheltering field," says Kim Saunders, vice president of shelter outreach at Petfinder.com and author of "The Adopted Dog Bible." "He could have set this great example of adoption. That he didn't is a little disappointing."
The upside: Searches for Portuguese Water Dogs and other dogs are up at Petfinder, the amazingly successful online searchable database for pets who need homes. Searches on the breed have been up on Yahoo! too, signaling that Bo has captured our attention and hearts at least for a moment.
"There is a bright side," Saunders adds. "(Obama) didn't purchase a dog from a pet store. He didn't go to a puppy mill. People say to me, 'Oh, he'd never do that!' I say, 'Really? The vice president did.' "
Also on the bright side: The Obamas shined a pretty big light on adoption since they first talked publicly about getting a puppy and they brought home an older dog--6 months is adolesence in dog lives--which are often harder to place in homes, Saunders says.
And now, the work begins. By all counts, PWDs need lots of exercise, attention and like to work hard. (Sort of like the president, no?) But when you have a staff, it may be tricky for a family dog to know just who is in his pack and who he should listen to first. With that in mind, Saunders recommends the Obamas do a few things to help Bo settle in and truly become their family dog. The advice is good for all families who welcome dogs into their homes:
Involve Malia and Sasha in Bo's daily routine. "They can put Sasha and Malia in charge of feeding the dog. They can take the dog for a walk together as a family. Do the basic routine things that a dog knows as part of his life," Saunders says. It's great that the Obamas will have a staff to help exercise and care for the dog, she says, "but you really want that regular routine so Bo gets to know 'I am the fifth member of this pack.' "
If possible, allow Bo to sleep near one of the family members. Now, concerns about Malia's allergies may preclude them from wanting the dog to sleep near the kids, but Saunders says sleeping nearby family helps dog solidify their ties to family members. (We have a crate for our 5-month-old pup, Bailey, in my youngest daughter's bedroom.) And, if not in the girls' room, why not the first couple's? Saunders asks.
Puppy-proof the White House. Just like the rest of us, the Obamas will have to scour their home to make sure Bo does not have access to things easily destroyed or which can harm him if swallowed. Again, it's nice to have a staff to help you do this, so there's no real concern that Bo or the country's heirlooms are in any imminent danger.
Set a routine schedule, and involve all family members as much as possible. Dogs need a schedule, and they need to see who they are relying on for food and care on on a regular basis. For Sasha and Malia, knowing that they have someone relying on them to help ease a transition into a new home can only help them with their own big transition, Saunders says.
"It doesn't matter who you are, getting a dog is the most exciting thing in the world," she says "For those girls, getting a puppy is probably more exciting than having their father become president."
Do you wish the Obamas had adopted a dog, or do you think they got the right kind of dog for their girls and their family life?