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Image: Obama and Baby
Jana Kohl  /  "A Rare Breed of Love"
As part of a campaign to stop puppy mills, then-Senator Barack Obama posed at the Lincoln Memorial with Baby, a poodle who survived a puppy mill but lost one of her legs from the ordeal. The image will appear in the upcoming book, "A Rare Breed of Love" by Jana Kohl.
Helen Popkin
By
msnbc.com
updated 11/14/2008 9:07:14 AM ET 2008-11-14T14:07:14

The e-mails started around 8:30 a.m. Nov. 5, the morning after Barack Obama’s presidential election, or more importantly, his victory speech. I’m just surprised my inbox didn’t start filling up the night before, say 4 minutes, 35 seconds into Obama’s speech when he broached what, for a whole lot of cyber dwellers, is the most important implication of his historic win.

No, not the economy. Not peace in the Middle East. Not gay marriage. Not that-other-really-important-thing-I’d-know-about-if-I kept-up-on-current events. More than any other aspect of this new leadership, American Netizens are positively apoplectic over the future First Puppy.

"You’ve earned the new puppy that's coming with us to the White House," President-elect Obama publicly announced to his daughters Malia, 10 and Sasha, 7.

It was as if millions of animal rescue advocates suddenly cried out and were silenced — silenced because they were busy e-mailing, texting, blogging and Twittering their insistence that the portending presidential pooch must be a rescue. Any alternative canine acquisition would be cause for pre-impeachment.

Yes, the voting majority who gathered on the Internet and opted for “Change” this election rubbed the pessimistic crust from their eyes and said “the heck with economic and international doom and gloom! What we really care about are … puppies!”

Still, you don’t need to have squandered two work weeks glued to the puppy cam — that insanely popular streaming Internet video that’s been focused on nothing more than a crate full of adorable Shiba Inu pups since this month began — to know that was some calculated speechifyin’ on the president-elect’s part.

Mr. T. Bear
PetFinder.com
Meet Mr. T. Bear, "phantom" colored Labradoodle mix puppy and potential presidental pooch available for adoption on PetFinder.com.
While Obama’s no doubt too busy to engage in 24/7 streaming cuteness, it’s obvious by his endorsement from the Humane Society Legislative Fund (not to mention his picture with Baby, the three-legged rescue poodle taken at the Lincoln memorial), the president-elect knows nothing will mend the bipartisan divide quicker than the thought of something small and fuzzy with a fat little belly you just want to eat!

Political chat rooms both red and blue were well into hashing out this matter by the time I received the first 8:30 a.m. e-mail — this frantic broadcast missive from 12-year animal shelter volunteer Mary Bernal: “Since Obama has promised his girls a dog when they move into the White House, I have been searching various animal rights Web sites for some kind of campaign to ask him to adopt a shelter dog.”

This was immediately followed by a string of reply-alls from those equally eager to find such a campaign, as well as other e-mails containing  links to the ASPCA, the Humane Society of the United States, Best Friends and a suggestion to contact Oprah.

Those who truck in Internet animal advocacy find this to be totally awesome. “I have never seen this many blog notes about shelter dogs, certainly not in political blogs,” said Betsy Saul, co-founder and president of Petfinder.com, the Internet host of 12,187 animal rescue groups and some 306,381 adoptable pets (some of which became members of the Technotica Pug Brigade).

The Web site, which allows potential pet parents to search for new family members by location, breed, age, size and more, hopped on the Presidential Pup bandwagon at the first mention of an Obama dog months ago. Petfinder.com features a page showcasing dogs that meet Malia and Sasha’s Labradoodle preference.

There's also a plethora of other breeds to meet the Obama family's hypoallergenic needs. At last count, Petfinder.com boasted 2,558 Poodles/Poodle mixes (some of which are Labradoodles), 925 Yorkshire Terrier Yorkies, 657 Bichon Frises, 434 Cairn Terriers, 247 West Highland White Terrier Westies, 152 Cockapoos and 120 Wheaten Terriers.

Even if the girls don’t find their puppy via Petfinder.com, Saul said it’s great they’ve got the nation thinking about pet shelters. “I’m just happy the conversation is going on,” she said.

You know who also thinks this is a great thing? Dr. Stephen L. Zawistowski, executive vice president, programs and science advisor for the ASPCA, another organization with an XXL Kong’s worth of pet and animal advocacy information on its Web site — not to mention its own Obama pup watch page.

PetFinder.com
Here's Suzy one of the adoptable labradoodles showcased in PetFinder.com's presidential pup campaign.

“If we have dogs good enough for the president, then our dogs are good enough for you,” said Dr. Zawistowski in a telephone interview. Like Saul, he’s also cool with it if the Obamas decide against the shelter route.

“I think anything that brings attention to the fact that shelters play a positive role in the community is great,” he said, adding that 15 or 20 years ago nobody would care if the First Pooch came from a shelter.

Dr. Zawistowski also addressed this whole hypoallergenic business — that grooming and cleanliness can affect allergic reactions, and there’s no way to tell if dog’s particular dander or saliva will cause a problem unless the sensitive party spends some time with the pup.

It’s this allergy business that’s causing the — um — less professional of Internet animal advocates to fear the Obama family’s final choice. Sure the president-elect talks rescue, but then he uses his daughters as a caveat.

What if these allergy constraints of his daughter might cause him to waver — resulting in a canine flip-flop of national proportions? Because, let’s face it: crazy cat people get a bad rap, but crazy dog people are so much worse. Crazy dog people will cut you.

I know. I am one. And I have a knife. Generally, it’s used to chop fresh organic ingredients for meals served twice daily to my herd of rescue pugs, but I’m not above turning it on a backyard breeder … or animal-as-accessory maven Paris Hilton. Whatever.

So, as a crazy dog person, let me just say, dang! If Obama is the so-called Internet president, then he should know darn well that "rescue" and "mutt" are not synomomous —you can get a purebred hypoallergenic dog from a rescue group. Twenty-five percent of shelter dogs are purebred. Even if our future leader doesn’t have time for puppy cam, he should know about Petfinder.com!

While the folks at Petfinder.com or the ASPCA can keep the Presidential Pup controversy in perspective, there’s no controlling the crazy dog people on the Internet. (Not unlike the crazy every other-kind-of-people on the Internet.)

Take for example, anxious animal advocate Mary Bernal who has since e-mailed the Obamas with her pet shelter plea, but still obsessively checks the Today Show’s Obama puppy vote tally throughout the day, every day.

As Bernal told Technotica, “If they don’t adopt a shelter dog after all this … you know, I’m not even going there.”

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