Congressman Touts Shaved Golden Retriever for First Dog
There's been no shortage of advice at the annual gathering of allergists here in Washington when it comes to the Obama family's hunt for a hypoallergenic First Dog.
The pressing issue of the would-be first pooch has dominated hallway and cocktail conversation during the five-day meeting of the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, which ends today.
The doctors have varying opinions on what breed the Obamas should choose in light of eldest daughter Malia's allergies, but they all agree: there is no such thing as an allergy-free dog.
(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
"There is a hypoallergenic dog. It's called a cat," jokes Rep. Steve Kagen (D-Wis.), an allergist who was elected to Congress in 2006.
We ran into Kagen at an after-party for the allergists (wild times) on Saturday night, where, oddly enough, the Sleuth was invited, too. Not one of the physicians there, including Kagen and the co-host of the party, top allergy specialist Daniel Ein, believed any dog is truly hypoallergenic.
"'Hypoallergenic' is a relative term," Ein explained further in an email Monday. "It means that it is less allergenic, not non-allergenic. So the safest dog is no dog; next safest, a stuffed dog; and then, someone else's dog."
But given that the Obamas are clearly intent on getting their own living, slobbering, panting dog regardless of the household allergy issues - Dad promised, after all - Kagen has a very strong opinion of what type of dog it should be.
"If you're going to get a dog, get a real dog. And the dog I love best is a golden retriever," Kagen told us, regaling us with stories of his beloved late golden retriever, Champ.
Kagen even shared his unsolicited and biased opinion with first lady Michelle Obama on Inauguration Day before the start of the swearing-in ceremony. "Get a golden retriever and shave it," Kagen says he told Mrs. Obama, who, according to the congressman, hasn't come back to him for more advice.
And Kagen is serious. He really believes a shaved Golden Retriever would be the ideal dog for the Obamas - better than a goldendoodle, poodle, labradoodle, Wheaten terrier or other allegedly non-shedding designer dog that has been mentioned as a viable White House canine.
"It's not a joke," he says. A close-cropped cut would reduce dander, which, besides saliva, is one of the main sources of dog allergens.
For those of you who are understandably worried about this prospect, Kagen doesn't mean the First Dog would be shaved bald. No Goldenbaldy. He's talking about a very short crew cut, a respectable look that any first daughter would be proud to walk around the South Lawn.
"Champ loved it," says Kagen of his own dog's haircut. (Champ, incidentally, died of cancer from eating a poisonous weed killer.)
In her last interview on the subject, with People magazine, the first lady said her family was "leaning" toward adopting a Portuguese water dog, and sometime in April.
Better hurry, Dr. Kagen. The window for lobbying is closing fast.
Mary Ann Akers
March 17, 2009; 1:14 AM ET
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