White House goes to the dogs

The White House has been mostly a doghouse when it comes to presidential pets. And President-elect Obama intends to keep it that way.

He promised his daughters a puppy after the election, but finding one is proving to be a bit of a challenge.

“This is a major issue,” Obama told reporters Friday. It's generated more interest on his Web site than any other topic, he joked.

But 10-year-old daughter Malia has allergies, so the family is looking for a low-allergy dog. He also said the family would prefer to adopt a puppy from an animal rescue shelter.

As a Washington guessing game, trying to predict what breed of dog the Obamas will select doesn't rank up there with whom the president-elect will pick for his Cabinet, but anticipation about a new first dog is high nonetheless.

Will it be a Labrador racing around the White House grounds? Or something in the lapdog range? Perhaps something in-between.

The poodle was the top choice for the Obamas in an American Kennel Club survey of more than 42,000, the organization said.

President Bush's two Scottish terriers, Barney and Miss Beazley, and cat, Willie, occupy the residence at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Barney, who bit a reporter's finger as he tried for an “interview” Thursday, even has his own page on the White House Web site and stars in a Christmas video.

First pets have long been a tradition with first families. Dogs are among the most popular picks.

“If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog,” Harry Truman once said.

George Washington got his dog, Vulcan, from the Marquis de Lafayette, a Revolutionary War hero, as a gift. James Garfield named his dog Veto as an indirect warning to Congress. Abraham Lincoln's beloved dog Fido was killed by a knife-wielding drunk.

The Kennedys had Macaroni the pony. The Clintons had Buddy, a chocolate Lab, and Socks, a cat. President Clinton once told reporters the dog curled up with him when his wife wasn't home.

“He sleeps with me when Hillary's not here,” the former president said. “He's my true friend. We have a great time.”

Had Republican Sen. John McCain been elected Tuesday, more than 20 pets, mostly fish, could have moved in.