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Obama Family Ponders First Pup

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

While the country waits to see if President-elect Barack Obama keeps his campaign promises, his 7 and 10-year-old daughters got some reassurance the other night about a promise he'd made to them.

President-elect BARACK OBAMA: Sasha and Malia, I love you both more than you can imagine. And you have earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House.

(Soundbite of crowd cheering)

SIEGEL: Back in May, Obama and his wife, Michelle, told "Good Morning, America's" Robin Roberts that the family would be getting a dog in a year's time, when they'd be more settled, win or lose. Obama added that it would also give him time to see if the girls were ready for a pet.

(Soundbite of TV show "Good Morning America")

President-elect OBAMA: Whether they're going to be responsible.

Ms. MICHELLE OBAMA: That's a daddy right there.

President-elect OBAMA: Whether they're going to be responsible in the middle of winter.

Ms. OBAMA: I'm gonna...

President-elect OBAMA: To go walk that dog.

Ms. OBAMA: We're getting a dog.

President-elect OBAMA: When it's cold outside...

Ms. OBAMA: The dog is done. It's a done deal.

President-elect OBAMA: The dog - the dog's a done deal.

Ms. OBAMA: Kids, you guys are getting a dog.

President-elect OBAMA: Who's walking the dog? That is what we're concerned about.

NORRIS: Now, the question is what kind of dog? Turns out there's already much debate on that topic. This summer, well before the pundits started making predictions about who would prevail in the election, the American Kennel Club created the Web site presidentialpup.com.

SIEGEL: Some 42,000 people voted for their favorites among hypo-allergenic breeds. Word is that Malia has allergies. And the winner: the poodle, though it's been reported that Malia is partial to the golden doodle, a cross between a poodle and a golden retriever.

NORRIS: During the campaign, Obama poked fun at his own celebrity status with a joke that touched on a particularly fancy dog breed.

(Soundbite of charity dinner, New York)

President-elect OBAMA: I'm serious. I even spilled my soy chai latte all over my Shih Tzu. It was really embarrassing.

NORRIS: Obama there was speaking at a charity dinner in New York.

SIEGEL: And as the owner of a Shih Tzu, I protest that joke. Animal rights groups have raised their voices. The People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wrote to the Obama's telling them that getting a purebred would be elitist. And some 50,000 people signed a petition from the Best Friend's Animal Society urging the family to adopt a dog from a shelter.

NORRIS: And that's what Barack and Michelle Obama have said they will do. The Humane Society wants to hold them to that, calling the move, quote, "a real message of hope and change for all the dogs in shelters waiting for a loving home and those currently suffering in abusive puppy mills."

SIEGEL: Well, whatever pooch Malia and Sasha end up with, they'll be carrying on a long tradition from George Washington to George W. Bush. Most U.S. presidents have owned dogs.

NORRIS: And you can see photos of those beloved White House dogs from Calvin Coolidge's Rob Roy to Bush's dog, Barney. That's at npr.org. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

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