Never heard of a Portugese Water Dog? You're not alone. And you're looking at a picture of one, coat trimmed in the finest tradition of Portugese Water Dogs everywhere. The White House pooch has traditionally been a small breed, made for sitting in a lap or by the feet, but definitely out of the way. (Although President Bill Clinton acquired a lovely chocolate labrador named "Buddy," after he uh, earned his time in the doghouse and needed a companion.) So here's what we know about PWDs, gathered from the breed's website: The existence of the Portuguese Water Dog along the Algarve on the coast of Portugal can be traced back to very remote times. Evidence exists which indicates that in pre-Christian times, the "water dog" was held to be nearly sacred, and severe penalties came to those who killed a "water dog." And... The first written description of the Portuguese Water Dog is dated to 1297, and concerns a monk's report of a dying sailor who had been brought out of the sea by a dog which had a "black coat of rough hair, cut to the first rib and with a tuft on the tip of his tail." Which almost explains the odd grooming job. (Doesn't it remind you of the time when you were a kid and the next door neighbor's wife got a really bad haircut and refused to come outside for two months?) Fortunately, the Obamas are not shallow, like us. Here's a description of the breed's personality and behavioral attributes:
This seafaring breed was prized by fishermen for a spirited, yet obedient nature, and a robust, medium build that allowed for a full day's work in and out of the water. The Portuguese Water Dog is a swimmer and diver of exceptional ability and stamina, who aided his master at sea by retrieving broken nets, herding schools of fish, and carrying messages between boats and to shore. That would be just excellent... if Barack Obama was a longshoreman. However, there must be some abidingly good reason that the Obamas are choosing a dog known for its love of and abilities in the water, along with its very unusual grooming procedures. Mrs. Obama says "the folks that we know who own them have raved about them. So that's where we're leaning." We'll be doggedly searching for more information until the pup's arrival. Sorta makes you miss ole Socks, the Clinton's cat which passed away quietly one week ago at age 19.