Portuguese will become First Dog at the White House

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The business of choosing a First Dog has been almost as stressful as picking a US Commerce Secretary. Finally, though, a kind of consensus has emerged. It will be a Portuguese water dog from a rescue shelter and it will arrive in April. For the name, we will have to wait a bit longer.

That there would be a dog in the Obama White House was never in question. Every US president since Calvin Coolidge has had a pooch under the Oval Office desk. And as we heard from Barack Obama on election night, his two girls, Malia, 10, and Sasha, seven, were promised a puppy if Daddy won.

Michelle Obama reveals the choice in an interview with People magazine. There had been talk of a Labradoodle, but no longer. Part of the attraction of both breeds is they shed only sparingly, helping Malia, who is prone to allergies. "From the size perspective, they're sort of the middle of the road," Mrs Obama said. "It's not too small, but it's not a huge dog. And the folks we know who own them have raved about them."

They would include Senator Ted Kennedy, who has two, Splash and Sunny. In a statement, he said he was "proud to endorse the Portuguese water dog as the next First Dog of the United States".

The dogs were favoured by fishermen on the coast of Portugal since they are strong swimmers and were known to rescue men who fell overboard. But dexterity and intelligence in a dog can present challenges.

"They're really good at opening refrigerators and cabinets, and so thank God the White House has staff to take care of things," said Janet Boyd, of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America.

The naming of the dog is clearly going to take a little more work. "Frank was one of them. Moose was another," Mrs Obama said. "I'm like, 'No. Come on. Let's work with the names a little bit'."