Obama Puppy Lobbying Blitz By D.C. Shelters
One of the most burning questions in Washington these days (besides how to get an inaugural ball ticket and where the Obama children will attend school) is: Where will Malia and Sasha get that puppy their father has promised them?
It certainly is the question being asked at area animal shelters.
Puppymania has ignited fierce competition among local pet rescue organizations clamoring to be the go-to adoption center for the next first family. The two most prominent shelters in town, the Washington Humane Society and the Washington Animal Rescue League, have both begun quiet lobbying blitzes to woo the Obamas.
"The League would be deeply honored to be the source of the nation's next first canine," WARL executive director Gary Weitzman wrote in a letter to President-elect Obama the morning after the election. "We would love to help you add a new member to your family."
WARL actually began its letter-writing campaign to Obama back in July - more than a month before he had formally accepted his party's presidential nomination. "It is our fervent hope that you and your family will soon be moving to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue," Weitzman wrote in the July 17 letter.
He even asked Obama to come in person to the shelter. "We hope that you, too, can find the time to visit the League with your family and choose the perfect dog," he wrote. "All of our resources stand at your service, and we would be deeply honored if you could find a way to agree to this request."
The Washington Humane Society hasn't contacted the Obamas, but the organization recently posted a notice on its blog announcing: "WHS Offers Puppy Kindergarten Classes to First Family Adopters."
The humane society's president and CEO, Lisa LaFontaine, wrote that even if the Obamas don't choose their pet from one of the WHS's two shelters in the District, the organization would still like to do the puppy training. At the White House, of course.
"Perhaps WHS can best be considered as a resource in helping the family, and particularly the girls, with training and socializing their new companion," she wrote.
What about finding a shelter dog that won't exacerbate 10-year-old Malia's allergies?
No problem, says Tara de Nicolas, spokeswoman for the Washington Humane Society. "We currently have a few dogs that might fit the bill, such as poodles and a 4-month-old Wheaton Terrier," she says. (We like Dave, a one-year-old 7 lb. black poodle mix who is described as "gentle with kids.")
As President-elect Obama has articulated, his family needs a hypoallergenic dog because Malia, his oldest daughter, is allergic. He said while their preference is to rescue a puppy from a shelter, "a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me." (Meaning, probably not hypoallergenic.)
Spokesman Jim Monsma at the Washington Animal Rescue League says "you can't put in an order for hypoallergenic" but such shelter dogs do exist. "As of last week we had a number of dogs who we believe were hypoallergenic," he told us.
The Obamas have said they aren't getting their new dog for at least two more months, until they're settled in the White House. And something tells us, there'll be plenty of hypoallergenic puppies to choose from come late winter in Washington.
Full Disclosure: The Sleuth adopted her puppy, Zola (who - sorry, Malia - is not hypoallergenic), from the Washington Animal Rescue League last year. As you can see in this photo, she was pretty irresistible.
Mary Ann Akers
November 18, 2008; 5:01 PM ET
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