Picking the Obamas' White House Pooch

Everyone has an opinion on what type of dog the Obama daughters should get.

ByABC News
November 5, 2008, 5:49 PM

Nov. 6, 2008— -- Barack Obama was just minutes into his speech Tuesday to accept the presidency of the United States when he vowed to make good on a very important campaign promise -- to get his daughters a White House puppy.

Now it seems everyone has an opinion on what kind of pooch the Obamas should get and where they should get it from.

It's a big decision. Many White House dogs -- most presidents have had at least one -- become celebrities in their own rights.

With the help of former first lady Barbara Bush, President George H.W. Bush's springer spaniel, Millie, wrote her own best-selling book on the daily goings on at the White House.

And the public fawned over pictures of the Clintons' lively chocolate Labrador retriever, Buddy, later grieving over his death in 2002 after he was hit by a car near the couple's New York home.

Some White House dogs are much more than just pets. In many cases, the presidential pet helps shape the president's image with the public.

Author Stanley Coren, author of "The Pawprints of History: Dogs and the Course of Human Events," has extensively researched the role of White House dogs and said presidents and their families have used dogs for everything from companions to sounding boards to publicity props.

Both Bush presidents are "very doggy people," Coren said. "They bring their dogs with them everywhere."

The first President Bush even installed dog-treat dispensing gumball-type machines at Camp David so his dogs were never more than 50 to 60 feet away from a snack. Likewise, the younger Bush often travels with his dogs.

But for all of Buddy's fans, the Clinton dog was intended only as a prop, Coren said, to enhance the image of the family, pre-Monica Lewinsky scandal, after Chelsea Clinton left for college. The Labrador retriever was picked in 1997 because it was the most popular family dog and the chocolate variety was selected, he said, because black Labs don't photograph well and yellow Labs were thought to be so beautiful they might have distracted photographers from the Clintons themselves.