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Archive for April 12th, 2009

The story behind the Obama’s new dog

Ted Kennedy may be getting the credit for the Obama’s new pup, but if it weren’t for Vasco Bensaude, it probably wouldn’t have been a Portuguese water dog that wound up on the White House lawn.

In the 1930′s Bensaude, a wealthy Portuguese businessman and dog lover was introduced to the breed by friends. By then, the breed’s numbers were dwindling, and there were only a few still doing the job they were bred to do — fisherman’s assistant.

Once seen all along the coast of Portugal, the breed was prized by fishermen — for the companionship they offered, the security they provided on docked boats, and their ability to jump in the water and herd schools of fish into the nets.

They had other skills as well, such as retrieving lost tackle or broken nets, and to serve as couriers, delivering messages from one boat to the next.

The first written description of the dog dates to 1297, when a monk wrote about a sailor hauled out of the sea by a dog with a “black coat of rough hair, cut to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail.”

The Portuguese water dog — known in Portugal as Cao de Agua – is believed to be a blend of poodle, Kerry blue terrier and the Irish water spaniel.

Improved technology in the fishing industry lessened the demand for the Cao de Agua, and only a few remained in the 1930s, when Bensaude acquired one named Leao. Leao became the founding sire of the modern breed, the first litter of which was born in May 1937.

It took another 30 years for the dog to come to America. The first didn’t arrive until 1968, and was a descendant of Leao.

The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America was formed in 1972, and the breed was acknowledged by the American Kennel club in 1983.

(Source: Portuguese Water Dog Club of America)

Obama dog chosen, arriving Tuesday

President Barack Obama’s daughters have settled on a pup — a six-month-old Portuguese water dog they’ve named Bo.

The dog is a gift from Sen. Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, who owns several Portuguese water dogs. The Washington Post reported the story first in its online editions Saturday night.

“Bo’s a handsome little guy. Well suited for formal occasions at the White House, he’s got tuxedo-black fur, with a white chest, white paws and a rakish white goatee,” the Post reported.

The black-and-white puppy is is scheduled to make his public debut Tuesday.

Obama’s daughters chose the name Bo because first lady Michelle Obama’s father was nicknamed Diddley, after singer Bo Diddley, the Post said.

White House aides told The Associated Press that the office of the first lady arranged an exlusive deal on the dog story with the Post. They said the dog was not in the White House as of Saturday evening.

Celebrity Web site TMZ.com also reported Saturday that the Obamas would get a black-and-white Portuguese Water Dog from the same lineage as Sen. Ted Kennedy’s pets. TMZ said the six-month-old pet was named Charlie. Instantly, FirstDogCharlie.com went online.

Obama promised his daughters, 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha, a puppy during the campaign.

According to the Washington Post report — you can find a version of it here — the family met the dog a few weeks ago at a secret White House session:

“The visit, known around the White House as ‘The Meeting,’ was a surprise for the girls. Bo charmed the first family, a source who was there said. He sat when the girls sat, stood when the girls stood. He made no toilet errors and did not gnaw on the furniture. Bo has, after all, been receiving lessons in good behavior from the Kennedys’ dog trainers. These lessons have been taking place at a secret, undisclosed location outside Washington.

“When the president walked across the room during the visit, Bo followed obediently.”

Must be my stop … Moscow’s subway dogs

Commuters in Moscow share the subway with stray dogs — and that’s just one of the ways dogs (and people) have adapted to the changing city.

Dogs were barred from Moscow’s metro in Soviet times, but now they are a common sight, curling up on empty seats, lounging in stations and — like the one in the video above — hopping on and off subway cars at their leisure.

The Wall Street Journal had an excellent story on the phenomenon about a year ago. There’s also a website about the subway dogs — www.metrodog.ru.

“The behavior of stray dogs is like theater,” says Alexei Vereshchagin, one of several zoologists studying Moscow’s strays.

Read more »

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