Minneapolis, MN (PressExposure) March 18, 2009 -- With every wag of its tail the First Dog will accomplish secret missions for dogs everywhere. The White House dog will teach the Obama children and their counterparts in homes across America about compassion, responsibility, and respect for animals while providing plenty of photo-perfect fun and stress relief. But the dog has already sparked controversy and hope among people who passionately care about animals. Allen and Linda Anderson, best-selling authors of Angel Dogs with a Mission (New World Library, 2008), say, "The Obama dog will fulfill its missions as the nation's doggie trendsetter with every choice the family makes for their new pet."
First, there was the issue of whether the Obamas would get a dog from a breeder or adopt a rescue. Not everyone agrees that rescued dogs are the way to go. The First Dog will have to earn high approval ratings to convince skeptics that oppose bringing home a dog with an uncertain lineage or past. The Obamas settled that debate by choosing a rescued Portuguese Water Dog, called Porties. Is this choice of dog delivering the same message as the Obama campaign that anyone, regardless of origin or parentage, can make it into the White House?
Next, pet pundits discussed whether Porties are a good representative of rescued dogs since so few of their breed are abandoned. With an estimated 6 to 8 million dogs and cats in animal shelters that euthanize 3 to 4 million annually, animal lovers hope the First Dog will demonstrate that any type of rescued animal makes a great family pet.
Another secret mission of the White House dog will be to set an example for children and pets by offering the Obama children a chance to experience what it's like to have another creature depend on them.
The ASPCA's "Guide to Kids and Pets" on its website clues parents in on what to expect children of various ages to do with an adopted animal. American Humane Association states on its website, "We believe that one of the best ways to protect children and animals -- and, on a broader scale, create a more humane world -- is through humane education that teaches kindness toward other people, animals and the environment."
In line with the axiom that children learn leadership skills and empathy by having a pet, First Lady Michelle Obama has stated unequivocally that her children will do the walking and poop scooping.
Children who implore their families to adopt a dog typically face the dilemmas of how to keep up with responsibilities of pet ownership when juggling school assignments and activities and thriving social lives. If Mrs. Obama succeeds in keeping her high-profile children engaged in daily dog duties, parents can point to the White House and say, "See? Sasha and Malia are taking care of their pooch."
One example of dogs having a mission to aid children is in Angel Dogs with a Mission. Zoom, a Cardigan Welsh corgi, and Deb Richeson of Smithfield, Kentucky began visiting a local elementary school and offering the dog's patient listening skills to special needs students. Not only "Zoom's Kids" improved, but also the entire school's reading test scores rose. Perhaps Sasha and Malia will read school papers to the First Dog that they write at the desk in the Lincoln bedroom and be encouraged by canine appreciation.