The first puppy


POSTED: Monday, April 13, 2009

State Sen. Fred Hemmings says President Barack Obama's selection of a Portuguese water dog for his two daughters is an excellent choice.

“;They're perfect dogs for young children,”; Hemmings said.

He speaks from experience. Hemmings was the proud owner of a Portuguese water dog until the dog, Makai, died two weeks ago. Makai was 13 years old.

Hemmings said he got the dog after someone showed him an ad for some puppies for sale in a newspaper. The proud waterman of Portuguese descent thought it was a joke.

When he answered the ad and realized there is such a breed, he said, he could not get out his checkbook quickly enough.

The seller, former state Rep. Bev Harbin, said she saw a similar ad when she bought her first Portuguese water dog in 1991. Like Hemmings, Harbin, also proud to be Portuguese, thought the ad was a joke.

Harbin said since then she bred two litters of Portuguese water dogs. Most of them went to owners off island.

She said if you own one in Hawaii, expect a lot of ribbing.

“;You should hear the jokes I got. People would just make fun,”; she said.

Harbin said the last of her dogs died last week. The dog came from the same litter as Makai. And the dog that had sired the litter died three months ago, she said.

According to the American Kennel Club, the Portuguese water dog is native to Portugal and was bred to accompany fishermen on their boats. The dogs retrieved broken nets, dived for fish and carried messages between boats and shore. They also guarded the boats in foreign ports.

Hemmings said that makes the dogs affectionate, protective and water-loving. He said Makai sat in a friend's swimming pool whenever he visited.

Harbin said her dogs also loved to eat fish.

The future first pet is a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog that the Obama girls are naming Bo.

The selection was one of the White House's most tightly kept secrets.

Obama's daughters, 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha, picked a black-and-white pup, a White House official speaking on the condition of anonymity told The Associated Press Saturday night.

The dog is a gift from U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, D-Mass., who owns several Portuguese water dogs.

“;We couldn't be happier to see the joy that Bo is bringing to Malia and Sasha,”; Kennedy said in a statement. “;We love our Portuguese water dogs and know that the girls — and their parents — will love theirs, too.”;

The president and first lady Michelle Obama had said their choice was down to either a Portuguese water dog or a Labradoodle because they were considered good pets for children who have allergies, as Malia does.

Harbin says the dog's waterproof coat does not shed hair or smell.