I've been reluctant to add my voice to those in print and the blogosphere that are reporting or just plain talking about the new First Puppy, Bo. But over the past couple of days, a few things have happened that have prompted me to reconsider my relative silence.
First, I've been conversing by email with two Portuguese Water Dog devotees, both of whom I know to be very reasonable, intelligent people. They have polar opposite views of the new attention being paid to their breed. One person views the Obamas' acquisition of a PWD as an opportunity to educate the public about responsible breeders. The other fears that publicly sharing their breed expertise will result in their being harassed by animal rights extremists like these folks.
Second, I received an email yesterday from a person who clearly has yet another point of view. This person decries the fact that the Obamas chose to acquire their re-homed dog from a responsible breeder, rather than from a shelter or rescue group. The email (which I am reproducing without the sender's permission, because she certainly didn't ask my permission before sending it to me and a whole bunch of other people) says, in part:
"Is anyone else as outraged as me? I mean you'd never know given the lack of coverage in the media today. Why isn't this headline news? We need to let it be known what their family has just done. Michele has not kept her word after stating that they would be adopting their pup from a rescue? ... They have just created hundreds of puppy mills. Puppy mills here and most assuredly, around the world ... Don't we have any more reputable, thorough, and unbiased reporters and activists any longer?"
We do. Which is why I respond thus:
1. Activists, by the very definition of the word, are not unbiased.
2. The Obamas' first priority, very rightly, was to find the right dog for their family. Hopefully, they have -- they've certainly done everything right so far. Not only did they take the time to research breeds; they also sent the dog to a trainer using these methods for his initial schooling.
3. Although the Obamas' acquisition of Bo may not have directly saved a life, they've done the next best thing: making a donation to the Washington Humane Society. That donation will certainly go a long way toward making other, less fortunate dogs' lives better.
Lest anyone think that I am completely biased in favor of responsible breeders, let me add another thought. I think that some in the fancy who fear that animal rights extremists want to eradicate not only purebred dogs but also dog ownership in general need to consider ways that they may have inadvertently fanned such extremism. When certain breeds have so many wrinkles on their noses that the hair and folds on those noses cause corneal ulcers (I had to write about that recently. Not fun) ... when another breed's top line is so slanted that the dog looks as though it's squatting when it's actually standing ... when the same sires keep getting used over and over again to the detriment of the breed ... things need to change.
I'm no expert on genetics, even though the subject fascinates me. But anyone who took high school biology with me knows that I had considerable difficulty understanding how Gregor Mendel figured out the genetics of beans; the genetics of dogs are beyond my comprehension for the most part. Fortunately, there are other people who are far more comfortable and conversant with the subject. The solutions that some of them propose -- sensible, careful outcrosses -- make sense to me.