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What's Wrong With Girly Dogs?

No girly dog.

Excuse me?

That’s right. Barack Obama doesn’t want a girly dog.

As in Barbara Walters’s non-allergenic terrier, a Havanese named Cha Cha.

“It’s like a little yappy dog?” Obama asked Walters, foolishly ignoring his wife’s advice not to criticize.

“It, like, sits in your lap and things?” queried the skeptical president-elect.

Michelle, still trying to save her husband from himself, pronounced the dog “cute.”

Barack wasn’t buying it. “It sounds kind of like a…a girly dog,” he said, at which point his wife pointed out, “We’re girls. We have a house full of girls.”

Except for the, well, Top Dog, who forthwith issued an executive order. “We’re gonna have a big, rambunctious dog.”

Okay, before I get all huffy about this, I should probably disclose: my husband has put forth a similar decree, except in perhaps even less politically correct terms. We don’t have a dog and we’re not getting a dog. (He exercised the Daddy veto.)

But he wants to make this clear: The dog were not getting is no yappy, lappy, Bichon Frise, Lhasa Apso or similar fluffball.

The dog we’re not getting is, he says, a chocolate Lab, a Golden Retriever, or -- and I quote -- “one of those Jack London dogs.”

So if Obama’s in the -- sorry -- doghouse with his comment, he’s in good company. And about the Havanese -- they do look awfully cute, but who could blame him for not wanting a dog whose American Kennel Club description includes “plumed tail…carried loosely curled over his rump.”

I understand the desire for a dog that’s happier fetching a ball than being carried in your purse. We saw a dog being wheeled about in a pet stroller the other day, I suppose so the poor dear didn’t get all tuckered out from walking.

But -- here comes the huffy part -- did the president-elect really have to say “girly?” What would his big, rambunctious secretary of state have to say about that? Imagine if he had committed this dog gaffe during the primary campaign.

In fact, 44 might want to consult with 43 on this issue. Vladimir Putin, it turns out, tried the my-dog’s-bigger-than-your-dog ploy with the president’s Scottish terrier. When George W. Bush visited his dacha a few years ago, the Russian showed off his pet Labrador. "Bigger, tougher, stronger, faster, meaner, than Barney," Putin boasted.

Really, Vlad? You might want to ask the hapless reporter who tried to pet Barney in the Rose Garden the other day about that.

As for you, Mr. President-elect, you might want to be careful. Remember, Hell hath no fury like a girl, or girly dog, scorned. Our bite can be even worse than our yappy little bark.

By Ruth Marcus  | November 28, 2008; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Marcus  | Tags:  Ruth Marcus  
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Next: Obama's All-Star Roster


I think I'd go with a pet monkey and name it 'W', just for continuity sake.
" Who broke that?"
" W."
" Oh..."
Then, if he doesn't poll well, they'd just have to shave him and give a seat on Citicorps board of directors. He couldn't do any worse than the current occupants....
How do you go bankrupt charging people 23% interest? Somebody has to have paid something back, right?

Posted by: dijetlo | November 28, 2008 2:37 PM | Report abuse

Yeah, good job, you picked a few examples of men who have small dogs. You know who owns most of them? Paris Hilton. Oprah. Women. It's not a bad thing, but are you so far up the butt of feminism that we can't admit that men and women like different things?

As an unabashed big-dog loving guy, maybe I just see it one way. You know how Bush's stupid little twit of a dog was yipping and bites someone's hand? A good Lab, Golden Retriever or Sheepdog would never act like that. Yet little dogs are always going around nipping people and barking their annoying little heads off. I'm not sure if it's bred into them or is modified by behavior. You can even see this with large mutts- I worked at a shelter for a year and the large dogs almost invariably had a better disposition than the smaller ones (though, to be fair, the mutts were usually better than the pure-breds, though that's probably because people wouldn't otherwise leave a pure-bred....)

Anyway, I know, little dogs are 'easier' and frequently smarter. But if you want a little dog, I don't see why you don't get a cat... then again, I like cats...

Posted by: fake1 | November 28, 2008 2:56 PM | Report abuse


It is too bad that the dogs mentioned by the President, namely golden/labrador retrievers and "Jack London" dogs will generally be problematic for someone who is allergic to dogs. Alaskan Malamutes, Siberian Huskies, etc., are great dogs but may have a tough time dealing with the heat of summer in Washington, DC.

I guess he's going to have to decide whether he is buying a dog for his daughters, or for himself....

Posted by: Pablo01 | November 28, 2008 3:07 PM | Report abuse

I'm not surprised by Obama's attitude towards girly dogs. He might be half joking - but he is not all that gender conscious, except in theory. That's his real weakness.

Posted by: asoders22 | November 28, 2008 3:09 PM | Report abuse

And btw - small dogs don't know they are small. They are still wolfs at heart, and they need to walk and run and not be treated like dolls. Ever seen a chihuahua scare a big terrier half to death? I have!

Posted by: asoders22 | November 28, 2008 3:11 PM | Report abuse

Please: the dog being wheeled might be injured/crippled. My neighbors have 2 dogs, and one had a leg injury. They took the dogs out just as before, but the injured dog rode in a little cart. Now he/she is better & all back to normal. Don't prejudge

(from a GSP lover, BTW)

Posted by: icyone | November 28, 2008 5:08 PM | Report abuse

Ruth - this is even dumber than your column on Michelle Obama and the "Mommy" question.

Is your job a pity job - i.e. someone pities you and lets you write this drivel?

Posted by: waterfrontproperty | November 28, 2008 5:14 PM | Report abuse

I would direct Mr. Obama's attention to a June 2008 BBC news item, reporting that Liberal Democratic leader Nick Clegg declares himself quite satisfied with a Mail on Sunday poll finding that he most reminds people of a chihuahua.

(In the same poll, Tory leader David Cameron had moved in the six-month rankings from poodle to Labrador, while Gordon Brown was holding steady for the year at Saint Bernard.)

Calling chihuahuas "tenacious little dogs," Mr. Clegg's take on the breed echoes the British Chihuahua Club's characterization of the dogs as undaunted by the myth of size and "ready to stand up for themselves even if the opposition is far bigger."

For the complete story, including overall political implications, go to the link:

Posted by: chloe1066 | November 28, 2008 6:21 PM | Report abuse

Oh God leave it to goofy Ruth Marcus to be
the one that proves WAPO has totally went to the dogs in its crazy obession with
their Hero Sainted Messiah Barak Hussein
Obama,the pathetic Presidential Elect
Trainee...Hey Marcus get a life and stop
trying to live yours through Obama!

Posted by: sherrykay2008 | November 28, 2008 6:24 PM | Report abuse

Luckily we have nothing more to be concerned about than what kind of dog the new First Family adopts, or gets, or buys.
This is a relief. And, really quite a nice pre-occupation for us.
Great fun, really.
Actually, living with a veterinarian who watched the Barbara Walters interview, and who said to me, right way, "Obama probably has never had a dog before." I thought, yeah, that's right.
When? In Hawaii, in that apartment with his Grandparents? NOooooo, probably not. In Indonesia for those very few months, noooo, probably not. In college living in that decrepit little hole of an apartment in New York City? No....probably not. In Chicago, living in that decrepit little apartment with a car with a hole in, probably not. When? Never so far, I think. This will be his first time.
So, give him a break, he has yet to discover the joy of it. "Girly dog" of "big dog" or ANY dog. The great thing is that he is going to discover the joy of having ANY dog. And, to those of you who know anything about ANY dogs, you can only be grateful and joyful, really, about the fact that our new President is going to have the joy, companionship, loyality, and just plain fun of having ANY dog.

Posted by: cms1 | November 28, 2008 6:48 PM | Report abuse

The allergy issue will probably settle this anyway.

That said, try to get a shelter dog, folks. They come in big and small sizes, mixes, and breeds.

Ruth, that goes for you too.

Posted by: peck3 | November 28, 2008 8:21 PM | Report abuse

I am an avid reader of the Post and of its op-ed pieces, but this may take the cake. Have we really been reduced to complaining about the use of the phrase "girly dogs?" Terrorist attacks in Mumbai, a sagging economy, historically low amounts of optimism about the direction of the U.S., and we're worried about whether the First Dog is "girly" or not??

I understand that people are protective of their pooches, and it's nice to know that people can find something to get fired up about. But worrying about an issue as asinine as this worries me.

As a female myself, I have no problem with the use of the word "girly." It's an accurate description of a significant portion of our population and I would hope that feminists (including the cited Hillary Clinton) would be able recognize that calling someone or thing "girly" does not amount to belittling the entire female population. And President-Elect Obama did not check his personal opinions at the door when he was elected - as long as he's not supporting legislation against my right to have a girly dog, who cares?

I think it's time to let our President-Elect get serious about real issues rather than an irrelevant aside. Let's start to worry about real domestic and international issues; if we still feel passionately about the "girly dog" once those are tackled, we can revisit it. But in the meantime, let's get to work.

Posted by: joroqez312 | November 28, 2008 9:01 PM | Report abuse

Why does the presidential family have to have a dog anyway? And having grown up in Maryland, I suggest that the family take a year to adapt to the humidity and the allergens of the area before getting ANY pet.

Posted by: dotellen | November 28, 2008 11:06 PM | Report abuse

"girly dog"? Reminds me of when Obabma called a female reporter "Honey".

The man need some work.

Posted by: redbug51 | November 29, 2008 6:27 AM | Report abuse

Girly dog, schmirly dog. Who cares? it will be their dog, not your dog, not the nation's dog. Ruth, you need to take some time off - maybe go shopping, do yoga, whatever. Recharge your creative batteries. . .and maybe gain some critical thinking skills. . .your columns are about as exciting as watching a greyhound sleep all day

Posted by: cymric | November 29, 2008 6:45 AM | Report abuse

Folks, don't take this too seriously! Can't the WAPO write about simple things sometimes? Your sour comments are not that important either, you know.

About girly dogs: I guess Obama, like many other gender-challenged men, subconsciencely feel that pitbulls and shepard dogs are all male, while poodles and little fluffy things are all female. Little does he know how tough a fluffy little thing can be! ;)

Posted by: asoders22 | November 29, 2008 8:29 AM | Report abuse

Bah! Haven't we all had enough of Pet-ie politics?

I'm tired of the big-manly-dog/little-girly-dog argument. Exploitation of this divisive issues has gone on LONG ENOUGH!

The White House needs some cats.

Posted by: pclement1 | November 29, 2008 8:38 AM | Report abuse

I have a Havanese. They are NOT Terriers. They are in the Bichon family. He is a little dog who thinks he is a BIG dog. He is 14 lbs - not too big - not too small. Both my husband and father love this dog and are not embarrassed to walk him. Havanese are high energy dogs who will play all day long. He loves to chase balls, play tug-o-war and run. And most importantly: little dogs = little poops!

Posted by: EJB23 | November 29, 2008 8:43 AM | Report abuse

Why doesn't he adopt a dog from the shelter? By the way, Wash Post, seems you people at the Post are finding it difficult to find things to write about with the Messiah, he's way too perfect, must be getting rather boring.

Posted by: tcdifla | November 29, 2008 9:17 AM | Report abuse

Wussy girly Obama doesn't want a girly dog? Good, I hope he gets a big tough dog that bites his sissy, mincing, self-obsessed butt every day.

Posted by: eggy1 | November 29, 2008 9:35 AM | Report abuse

Thank you, EJB23. I read through all the previous comments, and was getting ready to be the first to write in defense of Havanese. You beat me to it. Havanese are the fastest growing breed no one ever heard of.

As I write, my Havanese is asleep at my feet. He is most definitely NOT a terrier. He may be a "toy", but he is all DAWG. He has never lived in my purse, and never will. He loves to play with big dogs and runs with the pack at the dog park. He is a good watchdog without being a yapper. My male friends love him. He would never bite a reporter (Whether this is a good trait or a bad trait may be open to discussion).

Posted by: dygmbm | November 29, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Eggy 1: I take it you are very tiny and love doing embroidery? You sound like it.

Posted by: asoders22 | November 29, 2008 9:39 AM | Report abuse

Shame on you, Mr. Obama! You may have thought you were being funny (guess you didn't learn from your Nancy Reagan comment) but to imply that girls cannot be big and rambunctious is promoting a dangerous stereotype. As a black male, you should know better. "Girls" struggle daily to prove that their gender is NOT a handicap: in education, business, the military, athletics, in LIFE! You need sensitivity training and you need it fast!

Finally, I echo others here: please adopt! There are too many wonderful homeless animals out there to go and spend hundreds of dollars on a purebred. Even many purebreds are available through rescue leagues.

Posted by: FactChecker1 | November 29, 2008 10:14 AM | Report abuse

The most interesting thing about the Havanese is that Castro tried exterminating this breed because it was associated with the wealthy in Cuba.

As for Barney biting that reporter, he was an idiot because you never approach a dog's head, and certainly not with an open hand. The first is seen as a threat, the second makes you vulnerable.

As for "small" dogs? I had a German Shepherd growing up and the mess he could make was amazing. I now have two Westies, and they're great, loyal fun dogs, fully as intelligent as the Shepherd was. Much more manageable than the GS was.

The Obamas would have no problem finding a pure breed of the kind of dog they want if they contacted the rescue association for that breed. people are cruel and abandon all kinds of dogs, not just mutts.

Posted by: LevRaphael | November 29, 2008 10:50 AM | Report abuse

ALL dogs are beautiful and noble and much more worthy than humans especially politicians. Obama risks sounding like Michael Vick is advising him on the canine transition and is projecting his own gender inadequacies onto a pet.

Posted by: rdklingus | November 29, 2008 10:52 AM | Report abuse

Thanks Barack!
First, you prove once and for all that Democrats are weak on defense by keeping rock-ribbed Republican Sec. of Defense W. Gates on and now you make this totally unstatemanlike and tactless comment!
Your tactlessness is making Bush's legacy easier for him!

In real life, millions of people have dogs that they love and care for all of their lives no matter the size and I would suggest that you go to the animal shelter and rescue an abandoned, for whatever reason, dog. And don't be so stupid as to make a big deal out of it, OK? It's done every day!
You asked for this job (to put it mildly, now --- grow up!)

I have a feeling once this foot-in-mouth problem starts it never goes away and we shall be spending the rest of his presidency wondering what totally dumb thing Obama is going to say next.
He already hems and haws to much ....

I also remember driving in Chicago's South side and seeing lying, dead on a street corner a big, big dog already bloated in death in the bitter cold of winter.
They are used and abused as guard dogs in that vast neighborhood, where animal abuse is the norm.

Posted by: strohblumen | November 29, 2008 10:59 AM | Report abuse

Girls rule! My girl dog can whup my boy dog just any old day, and he is bigger, too. And if the boy doesn't behave, the girl uses her feminine wiles--which despite the standard male surgery he has had, he is still muchly susceptible to.

Anyway, I thought the dog was for the girls.

Posted by: martymar123 | November 29, 2008 11:10 AM | Report abuse

I think the saying goes, it's not the size of the dog in the fight, it's the size of the fight in the dog. My 5 pound Chihuahua chased a 100 pound Doberman down the street the other day. Another day, another Dobie might kill him, but he'd never cower.

"Girly" dog? "Girly," as in "Sissy"? Weak? Silly? Yep. Faux Pas. He can get past it by letting his "girly" girls pick out the dog. It IS for them, right?

Posted by: GrandaddyC | November 29, 2008 12:12 PM | Report abuse

First, you prove once and for all that Democrats are weak on defense by keeping rock-ribbed Republican Sec. of Defense W. Gates
Gates is an independent. Rumsfeld was the Republican.

Posted by: dijetlo | November 29, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

"Girlie" was way out of line. Personally, I think the well-crafted image of Obama shown to us in the campaign is fading. I voted for Obama but I think a real picture of this man is finally emerging. "Girlie" sounds like a sexist, insensitive term. And I'm insulted as a guy myself, too.

Posted by: buzziea | November 29, 2008 12:31 PM | Report abuse

Stop, stop--just stop.

Mind if I paraphrase?

"I wasn't really offended by Obama's joke, but I totally could have been? Because I totally get the whole thing about jocularity and deadpan and, you know, humor, but I'm thinking about stopping someday and then, well, all bets are off mister. But I wasn't all that offended. But we'll see."

Posted by: Nate518 | November 29, 2008 12:48 PM | Report abuse

Three cheers for President-elect Obama.

There comes a time when the political correctness has to stop.

And when it comes to passing off ankle-biters and lap dogs as "real" dogs that time has come.

What self-respecting dog wants to be carried around in a purse?

Or is so neurotic that it yaps at every falling leaf?

Or can't be taken for walk in the woods since it is no match for the average squirrel?

And has be picked up and carried if it walks more than a couple of blocks?

There's a reason why those pathetic yappers and pocket-book dogs don't ever get trained as drug-sniffers or seeing-eye or working dogs.

It's because they aren't really dogs. They're accessories.

President-elect Obama's daughters deserve to experience a "real" dog.

Posted by: pali2500 | November 29, 2008 1:32 PM | Report abuse

A dog from one of the Humane shelters would set a good precedent to set for all future US Presidents and the country in general. It would also set a good example to the rest of the USA and set a tone and tennor for the Obama Presidency.

Posted by: walker1 | November 29, 2008 5:37 PM | Report abuse

Black Labs: official dog of make-upless, Birkenstock-wearing Women's Studies majors. Usually with a three-or-four-syllable name taken from Greek mythology or a Bronte sister's novel. Most often found in the backseat of a Volvo station wagon parked outside the food co-op.

No thanks.

Posted by: mcdooley | November 29, 2008 5:50 PM | Report abuse

I'd suggest an American Bulldog.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | November 29, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

American Bulldog

Known for its brave and loyal demeanor, the American Bulldog makes a great pet for anyone, children and adults alike. A medium size dog that can weigh up to 120 pounds, the American Bulldog is muscular and sturdy with a powerful head and jaws and a squared face. Those who own them say that this breed is easily trained, extremely obedient and a fun member of the family.

Posted by: concernedaboutdc | November 29, 2008 7:22 PM | Report abuse

Rrrfff! Barack, honey, you put your big ole foot in your mouth on that one and will be the subject of much dish on the View in the weeks and months to come. I hate little dogs. But many more little dogs are better for allergic humans. We may have to get a few of them to snap at your heels Barack until you learn to talk better about girly stuff...Michelle has probably run you ragged on this already. However, it's true, in the end, that a lab mix is the most companionable creature that man or woman could find on this earth. BO, get Hill to run down the top 10 verbal minefields that male politicians need to avoid.

Posted by: questquecest | December 1, 2008 4:07 AM | Report abuse

For the best advice on this matter, why not go straight to the canine's mouth, so to speak? Our dog Oreo recently had his say on the matter at:

Posted by: satireguy | December 1, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

What's NOT wrong with girly dogs? If you want a girly dog, get a cat.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 1, 2008 3:01 PM | Report abuse

"Black Labs: official dog of make-upless, Birkenstock-wearing Women's Studies majors. Usually with a three-or-four-syllable name taken from Greek mythology or a Bronte sister's novel. Most often found in the backseat of a Volvo station wagon parked outside the food co-op."

Strange. Many of the black labs I know are most often found in the back of a pickup truck, smell like swamp water and are tuckered out from retrieving waterfowl. Though the snobbier ones spend more time in cornfields, going after pheasants.

Posted by: bsimon1 | December 1, 2008 3:04 PM | Report abuse

One more example of how Obama thinks women are beneath him.

I want you to consider this.... if a white President elect had said that he didn't want a type of dog because it was a black person's dog, what would the response have been?

Any time someone uses the word girly to describe something as inferior or undesirable, they are describing females as the same... inferior or undesirable to be one.


Posted by: lisa96 | December 2, 2008 9:28 AM | Report abuse

I once was a "large-dog" only guy. We had several German Shepherds, a Collie and the monster of them all, a Lab/Pyrenees mix. Then the wife showed up one day with a gift puppy, a chihuahua/terrier mix. I was furious. The next thing I know, I belong to the dog. She insists on being with "Daddy" everywhere I go, in the backyard, in the car. She rides to the store, except on hot days. She goes to the hardware store, where all the people there, including the owner, know her by name. I found that little dogs aren't so bad after all.

Posted by: mischanova | December 2, 2008 10:21 AM | Report abuse

Um. Haven't you all heard of hyperbole? Humor?

Try re-reading the column. Good grief...

Posted by: owl1 | December 2, 2008 12:21 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Obama. Girly dogs suck.

Last time I checked it was ok to have your own opinion on what kind of dog you like.

If you think Obama is a bad Prez because of his inartful choice of words to describe his taste in dogs you are a MORON.

We've got much more important things to worry about people....

Posted by: RightDownTheMiddle | December 2, 2008 12:59 PM | Report abuse

"What would his big, rambunctious secretary of state have to say about that?"

I am full of questions.

Wait, what? Hillary is big? Surely you were trying to make a joke somewhere, somehow; maybe the inanity of this column has killed my remaining brain cells; perhaps you have mixed her up with someone else--but she's what, a size 8? Is 8 plus-size now? Is size 000 the new size 0?

Will a Ruth Martin column ever make sense?

Posted by: schala1 | December 2, 2008 1:53 PM | Report abuse

Obama should do the right thing and get a dog that has been a symbol of the United States for 100 years -- a Pit Bull. From WWI to Buster Brown shoes to the Little Rasacals the Pit Bull has represented America like no other breed. He certainy doesn't need a curr dog from a shelter.

Posted by: oldno7 | December 2, 2008 4:02 PM | Report abuse

More concerning, and more telling, was how Obama interrupted both his wife and Walters when they were speaking. That made me very uncomfortable. Is he sexist? (Is the country? YES and YES. Now, let's do something about it!)

P.S. I'm a Dem who voted for Hillary in the primary but happily supported Obama as Pres.

Posted by: StowMom | December 2, 2008 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Oh no. People who say this kind of thing have some insecurity to deal with. No girly dog? He isn't exactly overly manly himself.

Posted by: rrgg1 | December 3, 2008 10:20 AM | Report abuse

President Obama is correct about "girly' dogs.
They are yappy little things who go on & on like a nagging wife.

I hope they get a real dog who will be calm, friendly and not yappy.

Posted by: UPURS | December 3, 2008 10:41 AM | Report abuse

Let's see. It's not enough that women complain all of the time and play the victim card successfully. It's not enough that a woman can "fear for her safety" and rape her man for everything he is worth. Take his house. Take his job and salary, and his children. Now she wants to correct how he wants his dog.

Ms. Marcus. Men and women ARE different. You can't legislate your BS on men.

Posted by: jlukas1 | December 3, 2008 11:54 AM | Report abuse

I usually hate your columns but this one was notably different. It was mercifully brief! Would you, girly, PLEASE stop getting your "panties in a wad" over every thing that your feminism disagrees with. I am just happy to have a president who is intelligent AND masculine! I hope Barack gets a nice big dog like Lassie or Rin Tin Tin. We need a symbol of hope and hopeless little wussie dogs will not do!!!

Posted by: maxkixx | December 4, 2008 7:43 AM | Report abuse

I guess that puts our Pres. into the girly man circle with Arnold, not bad company! Is it a dog for you or your daughters??? Go ahead and get yours too you deserve it but it might be good to let your daughter's pick theirs. Shih Tzus are wonderful but perhap not hypo-allergenic...

Posted by: cgillard | December 4, 2008 5:56 PM | Report abuse

"What's Wrong With Girly Dogs?"

Um, guys like Obama, me, and your husband don't like them?

Why does feminism for women mean men can't be masculine?

Posted by: cjenns | December 4, 2008 7:51 PM | Report abuse

It's a man thing. My husband gave the same speech about 'little, yappy, girly dogs' to my daughter and me. We now have TWO dogs- a shih-tsu and a pug. He makes more of a fuss over them than we do! Don't worry Michelle. The "girly dogs" could win him over yet!

Posted by: winnie47 | December 5, 2008 8:38 PM | Report abuse

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