Shannan Koucherik: A take on Obamas' dog

— To the editor:

Ever since the Obamas announced that they would be getting a dog for their daughters, I have been watching the process with interest.

When they made the announcement that one of their daughters had allergies, I knew that the search for a "pound puppy" would be difficult. I also knew that they wouldn't be getting any dog until it was partly trained and fully housebroken (it wouldn't do to pee on antique carpets or chew the Lincoln bed).

Mixed breed dogs can be wonderful companions, therapy and service dogs, but realistically, there are times when the needs of the family override the politically correct stance of only taking a dog from a shelter. Sometimes you must know the genetics of an animal to make it a successful member of a family or to meet special needs.

Over my 50-plus years working with dogs, I have "rehomed" many - mostly border collies in bad situations - that never had to go through the shelter system.

Some of them had been bounced around from home to home, getting more problematic with each move. When they land in a forever home, I consider them just as rescued as a dog snatched from a pen on the day of its planned execution.

I applaud the breeder who made the first owner of the Obamas' puppy sign a contract to return the dog if it didn't work out (or developed genetic problems) and then took the steps to make sure he went into a permanent home. No puppy mill operator would ever do that - they just want the money from sucker buyers and don't care about the quality of the dogs they ship out.

And while we're on the subject, changing the name of a puppy mill to a "puppy (or dog) farm" doesn't make it any less of a horror for the poor, quality animals producing the money for irresponsible operators.

In an ever ongoing quest for non-news, the headlines this week are now turning to a puppy conspiracy theory - the Obamas' pup isn't really a rescue, the Kennedys knew that the pup would end up in the White House, etc.

So what?

At least the family researched the breed, met other Portuguese Water Dogs and talked with owners who had experience with them and then met the pup in question before making a commitment. This was no spur of the moment, emotional choice.

And hopefully, Portuguese Water Dog breeders will resist the temptation to make a few bucks to satisfy demand that could ruin this great breed just as similar popularity has done in others.

Shannan Koucherik

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