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The First Puppy

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Dear Mr. President Elect Obama,

Senator Ted Kennedy, the Lion of the Senate, had the right idea. As he convalesced on his boat in Hyannisport I saw him beckoning to his dog Splash, a Portuguese Water Dog.

If you've never heard of this breed, they have a remarkable story.

Bred as working dogs, they carried messages back and forth between boats for the Portuguese fisherman. But what was even more impressive was that they were trained to herd fish into the nets and could dive under water at considerable depths to retrieve tackle and pull the nets in.

This breed is very old and although they are often mistaken for Standard Poodles, Porties (as we owners like to call them) are the source of the Poodle breed. They can be black, brown or white with either a curly coat or a wavy coat. They have hair, not fur, and that's why we have two of them.

Our daughter Lena, who is now 17, begged us for a dog from the time she was 4. The hitch was, she was violently allergic to all animal hair and fur. We tried exposing her to the so-called 'hypo-allergenic' breeds.

The Wheaton Terrier (so hyper I wanted to rip my eyes out after spending time with it)
The Bouvier (A Mammoth walking carpet)
The Poodle (Chick Dog)
The Maltese (Chick Dog)
The Bichon Frise (Chick Dog)
The Puli (Yeah, like I was going to comb that thing)

We figured total immersion would be the only way to get an accurate sense of how she would react so we took her to the homes of some of the breeders. My husband would pick up a puppy and rub it across her face like a washcloth. Invariably her face would explode. Her eyes would swell, her nose would run and she would sneeze and cough until she threw up.

Some friends of ours had a Porty named Zeke. He was huge and brown and his noble bearing displayed a quiet confidence I'd rarely seen in a dog. I guess when a dog is that intelligent and has been bred to think for themselves, humans aren't 'all that'.

I was a little worried. These dogs were bigger than any dog I'd ever owned. I grew up with mid-sized mutts. We went to a dog show and I was allowed to walk with one on a lead. I should say, he walked me, or rather jerked me along for about 30 feet until I decided I was really very fond of my rotator cuff. But, at least it wasn't a chick dog, so, 10 years ago, we got our first Portie.

My husband Chad traveled all the way to Ohio to get the one puppy that pretty much chose HIM. The breeders insist that you name the dog with the beginning letter of the alphabet that represents the order of the litter.

Our dog was a 'g' so we named her Gabriella. Later, we got a male dog from an 's' litter that we named Satchmo.

Mr. President, I am willing to donate my dogs to you. They are literally one stop shopping, believe me. If you want a dog that can assist you with putting to bed the question of your commitment to Israel, look no further than Satchmo. He converted to Judaism and is very observant. And if you want a dog willing to do 'girly' things like dress up, Gabby is all about the glamour. She just adored getting dressed in this kicky Da Nang and Hard Tail ensemble.

Yes, they're house broken, they don't chew stuff and they're very friendly. Just a caveat; Gabby is somewhat noise sensitive, so no 21-gun salutes in the area if you can help it. She'll pee on your bed, for sure. And Satchmo tends to greet guests by diving into their crotch or butt. Frequent guests have given him the moniker "the anal intruder". So, with the exception of visiting Greek dignitaries, I think he should be kept at bay when the doorbell rings.

My daughter Lena worked the polls for you and my daughter Hannah, at age 13 has been an outspoken supporter of yours amidst a conservative environment in her school. I'm sure, if we actually consulted them about this decision, they'd fully support our offer to give our dogs to you. They are completely hypo-allergenic and you'd be doing us a huge favor. We'd even throw in a couple gallons of Nature's Miracle in case you can't control the sudden noises at the White House. Sasha and Melia will have endless fun dressing up Gabby and both dogs will eat anything dropped on the floor.

You won't be sorry Mr. President.

-- By Laraine Newman

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