New presidential pet becomes part Washington politics

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SALT LAKE CITY -- Bo, the "first dog," is making headlines. The Portuguese water dog is a promise President Obama kept to his daughters, but Bo's arrival at the White House hasn't been the end of the story.

He's cute as a button, but that only gets you so far in Washington. Because Bo is not a shelter dog, there are sinking hearts.

Even here in Utah, advocates for homeless pets find the presidential pick disappointing. "When you're just looking for a dog, there are so many choices. And there are lots of choices in a shelter," said Carlene Wall, with the Humane Society of Utah.

There were similar strong feelings about the vice president's puppy pick, including death threats to the breeder. For powerful people, even man's best friend can be a political pawn.

"It's a way for PETA to get its message across, for shelter dogs to get theirs, even the cat lovers. You know, why didn't they get a cat? So it just goes on and on," said Kirk Jowers, director of the Hinckley Institute of Politics at the University of Utah.

Going back through history, there has often been a presidential pet. President Franklin Roosevelt was famous for having his terrier Fala at his side. The pair is immortalized in a statue in Washington, D.C.

There have been all kinds of animals on the White House lawn; even a horse entertained the Kennedy kids briefly.

The sight of Lyndon Johnson lifting his beagle by the ears sparked a little controversy from those with cruelty concerns. But a cocker spaniel named Checkers saved Richard Nixon's reputation in the mid-'50s.

Gerald Ford, Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton all had dogs as close advisers.

The Obamas' puppy pick have pundits in a pickle, and talk show hosts have been yipping too. That brings to mind something a lot of people are wondering, aren't there more important things going on?

The answer is: of course, unless you're Sasha and Malia, or even the president, who welcomes a little diversion now and then.

Even though Bo is not a shelter dog, he is considered a second-chance dog because he had been returned by his original owner.



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Richard Piatt


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