The Obamas Mourn the Death of Beloved Dog Bo

By Cameron Woo, May 2021, Updated June 2021
Bo in the White House West Garden Room.

Bo in the White House West Garden Room.

Bo Obama, the one-time First Family dog, has died. On Saturday, May 8, the former First Lady Michelle Obama shared the sad news via social media.“This afternoon was a difficult one for our family. We said goodbye to our best friend—our dog, Bo—after a battle with cancer,” Mrs. Obama, wrote on Instagram. “On the campaign trail in 2008, we promised our daughters that we would get a puppy after the election. At the time, Bo was supposed to be a companion for the girls. We had no idea how much he would mean to all of us.”

“For more than a decade, Bo was a constant, comforting presence in our lives. He was there when the girls came home from school, greeting them with a wag. He was there when Barack and I needed a break, sauntering into one of our offices like he owned the place, a ball clamped firmly in his teeth,” she added. “He was there when we flew on Air Force One, when tens of thousands flocked to the South Lawn for the Easter Egg Roll, and when the Pope came to visit. And when our lives slowed down, he was there, too—helping us see the girls off to college and adjust to life as empty nesters.”

Mrs. Obama went on to reflect on how she “will always be grateful” that her daughters were able to spend “so much time together” with Bo before his death. “This past year, with everyone back home during the pandemic, no one was happier than Bo. All his people were under one roof again—just like the day we got him. I will always be grateful that Bo and the girls got to spend so much time together at the end,” she wrote.

“As a family, we will miss Bo dearly. But we are thankful that he lived such a joyful life full of snuggles, games of fetch, and evenings spent lying on the couch,” she added. We also know we weren’t the only ones who cared for Bo, and are grateful for all the love you showed him over the years. Please hug the furry members of your family a little closer tonight—and give them a belly rub from us.”

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In 2009 when word got out that the Obamas would make good on the promise to get a family dog, animal activists hope that they would adopt a shelter dog but instead, the first family accepted a gift (Bo) from the late Sen. Ted Kennedy and his wife, Victoria. “It was an incredibly thoughtful gesture—not only because the breed was hypoallergenic (a necessity due to Malia's allergies) but also because the Kennedys had made sure that Bo was housebroken before he came to us,” Obama wrote in his memoir “A Promised Land.”


The country fell in love with the adorable fluffy Bo and he soon became a favorite with the press corps, visiting dignitaries and the thousands of children who attended White House events from Christmas parties to the annual Easter Egg Hunt. Photos show that Bo was a frisky and loveable companion throughout. A favorite image shows a young Bo running with former President Obama down a White House corridor. Few work environments anywhere would have benefited more than the spirit that Bo imparted to the White House during those years.

“Today our family lost a true friend and loyal companion,” the former President posted on Twitter Saturday, adding that Bo “tolerated all the fuss that came with being in the White House, had a big bark but no bite, loved to jump in the pool in the summer, was unflappable with children, lived for scraps around the dinner table, and had great hair.”

As they have so often before, the Obamas assume the role of consoler with grace and humanity. It is a reminder that even former Presidents and First Families must face the pain and grief of losing a beloved dog. 

The cause of death is attributed to cancer but no further details are available. Bo is survived by Sunny, another Portuguese Water Dog, adopted by the Obamas in 2012.

Photographs courtesy of The White House

Cameron Woo is The Bark's co-founder and publisher.

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