Karen B. London
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A New Dog at The White House
The Obamas welcome Sunny
Bo (left) and Sunny (right)

If you’re famous, it’s news if you eat out, if you change your hairstyle and when you actually do something important. So, for the likes of Carrie Underwood, Tim Tebow, Hilary Swank and Mark Zuckerberg, acquiring new dogs has meant that stories and photos of their new dogs show up in the news. Barack Obama and his family are in the news all the time, of course, but there’s been a burst of activity about their dog since they welcomed Sunny into their family a few days ago.

Michelle Obama tweeted the news with a simple, “So excited to introduce the newest member of the Obama family—our puppy, Sunny!” Unlike Bo who truly was a puppy when he joined the Obama family, Sunny is technically an adolescent at 14-months of age, but I understand the general use of the term “puppy” for dogs of all ages. Both dogs are Portuguese Water Dogs.

Like Bo, Sunny was purchased from a breeder, which is a disappointment to many, including people at The Bark. The Obamas missed an opportunity to rescue or adopt a dog, which would likely have had a huge ripple affect and done so much to help many dogs find their way into the hearts and homes of loving families. As they did with Bo, they donated to a local Humane Society in honor of Sunny.

She’s a beautiful dog and I hope Sunny and Bo continue to entertain us with their joyful play sessions and tender moments with the Obama family. Personally, I am thrilled that they have each other for canine company, which I think is so valuable whether you’re living at The White House or not.


Karen B. London, PhD, is a Bark columnist and a Certified Applied Animal Behaviorist specializing in the evaluation and treatment of serious behavior problems in the domestic dog.

Photo by Pete Souza/The White House

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Miss Jan | August 21 2013 |

IMO the choice they made was right for them and here's why I think so. Rehomed dogs often come with emotional and physical baggage and with the intense schedules and even more intense public scrutiny the Obamas would be bound to draw intense criticism from warring factions who have their own agendas on how to successfully rehome shelter dogs. "They should have done this." "No, they should have handled it THAT way." Then someone will opine loudly that they should call one of the TV dog-training celebs and others will argue about the choice of trainer. Worse, the dog-training TV celebs will go to war about protocols and even (as Cesar Milan did when the Obamas got Bo) imply that they are the trainer of choice. All in all a likely and most unpleasant scenario and the Obamas handled it IMO appropriately with a generous shelter donation in the name of their direct-from-the-breeder choice.

Submitted by Day | August 23 2013 |

While I wholeheartedly agree with your comments about what it would have done for shelters everywhere if they had adopted, I also understand that the reason they chose Portuguese Water dogs is because their daughters have allergies. Portuguese Water Dogs are famous for being hypo-allergenic. I think it would be equivalent to finding a needle in a haystack to find a Portuguese in a shelter.
I do disagree with previous comments about shelter animals bringing "baggage". Above all, they want a loving home. They can have certain fears from a bad owner but a LOVING owner can help them overcome any issues.

Submitted by Of COURSE | August 28 2013 |

Denying that shelter dogs often come with baggage is naive and unrealistic. The point was NOT that they often come with baggage - entire libraries have been written about that so please do not deny that some shelter dogs come with baggage. The point was that the Obamas would face even more negativity and false newsmaking no matter HOW they handled any possible "baggage" but WHO they chose to help with it. Please, learn to read for content and meaning and not for the purpose of politicizing this issue.

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