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« The Obama puppy: Breeder tells the tale | Main | Stop pickin' on Bo Obama! »

14 April 2009


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I have been absolutely horrified at some of the comments that have been made about the Obamas regarding their choice of Bo over a shelter dog. And I've said all along that I don't believe a shelter dog is always the best choice, particularly for a first-time owner. I've been working in a shelter plenty long enough to know that to be true.

I think the Obamas did everything right in looking for a dog. They spent time doing their homework about the breeds they liked and they took their time instead of rushing into anything. And they ended up accepting a very nice dog from a very responsible breeder; the dog was in need of a second home, and is being given to them as a gift by someone who also has the breed and can provide any local assistance they might need during the "getting acquainted" phase of the relationship. How can this be any better or responsible a choice?

Sure, it would have been nice to have had them be able to adopt a shelter dog, but there would have been so many considerations. And what if they had adopted a dog with a problem, how would that reflected on shelter adoptions?

The Obamas have set an excellent example for the public by showing them the right way to get a dog instead of just running down to the shelter and "taking the first dog that picks them" (a serious suggestion by several members of the "adoption only" faction).

I wish nothing but the best for this family and their new pet, and hope Bo shares a long and happy life with them in the White House.


@MaKo Cheers! That is a lovely, solid point; a family who has never had a dog and gets a shelter/rescue animal would not have an ideal experience that would open them to other dogs in the future. Besides, allergy-friendly, healthy, behaviorally well-balanced dogs who are good with children are not exactly a dime-a-dozen in shelters or rescues everywhere.

Original Lori

Speaking of training-can you guys (maybe Liz) do a piece on how someone goes about becoming a trainer? I mean besides hanging out a shingle that says "expert trainer" or apprenticing at Petsmart.

Original Lori

I hope while "everyone" is b!tching and moaning that they didn't get the "right" dog, the girls are outside on the lawn playing with Bo and loving him the way he deserves to be loved. After all, they didn't name him "Statement."

Kathleen Weaver

I agree.

First of all, there is no way to get a dog that meets the family's requirements in rescue.

Second, it really isn't the Obama's dog. It's a White House dog. It would be nice if Bo turns into the Obama's dog. But don't be surprised if that doesn't happen.

Gina Spadafori

From Wonkette:


"It’s great that the poor little lonely Obama girls finally got a nice dog that won’t make allergy-prone Malia sick with its dog hair, because it is a special hairless breed. NO WAIT. It is an outrage that the Obama girls were given this dog because it isn’t LEGALLY a “rescue dog.” (Did you know “rescue dog” is a legal term? READ THE CONSTITUTION.) And guess what organization is demanding that Barack Obama personally slice off this dog’s nuts?

PETA, of course! Sadly for both the “People for the Ethical Treatment of the Animals” and Barack Obama himself, the dog — this elitist garbage bear, “Bo,” named for Hollywood legend “Bo Derek” — was already neutered, long ago.

SO? Just make the Obamas pay a lot of money (your tax dollars) to implant some of these “nut-sicles” in Bo’s currently-empty ball sack, and then cut those fuckers off, during that “weekly youtube” Obama likes to do on Saturdays.


Anyway, rescue-dog people are Very Upset because they wanted Obama to pick some dog from a rescue-dog organization. Instead, he and his evil family of fucktards long ago decided they wanted this particular breed of dog, in large part because it does not shed and will not make their daughter sick. ELITISTS.

[...] Good fucking christ. STOP IT."


To which I say, "amen."


the story line speaks to, "how to keep a puppy off the streets". Without using up resources needed for "rescue".

Too bad the First Puppy is one of about six dogs, genetically. More of a "Blue Blood" than an "All American".

Whether the First Family made a "right choice" is yet to be determined, hopefully, the dog has 15-20 more years in which to write his tale.


Christie, I totally agree with you. While it would have been a big win to see a rescue-pup (even better, an APBT) running around the White House, Bo is not only a great fit for them but CUTE too. How could anyone look at that face and condemn them for their choice?! People need to focus their frustrations elsewhere, like that lousy bill about 'invasive species' for pete's sake.


hey, send your mom over here! We all think you're 100000% spot on.

Gina Spadafori

We're grown-ups here. We wouldn't do that kind of potty-mouth, but it was still funny.


So instead of complaining about everything that's "wrong" with this choice, why isn't some animal welfare group sponsoring a First Dog Bo webpage with tips on how to properly care for the family dog? As cute as that pup is can you imagine the traffic that site would get and how much good it could do?

Gina Spadafori

After all, they didn’t name him “Statement.”

Comment by Original Lori — April 14, 2009

Ha! Cute pup, nice kids. I'm happy for them all.

We'll have a piece in the morning from Liz on what she would do as the White House dog trainer. She would be great at it -- not only as a long-time trainer and best-selling author, but also because ... well, you'll just have to read the piece in the morning!

Linda Thurn

I think some of you need to get a life. A family picked a dog they liked and made a commitment to give it a home. Not everyone can accept a shelter dog or a dog with problems or a mutt. These people took in a puppy. Isn't that good enough. Can't you stop sniping for one minute to see that there are positives in this situation?

Please....we don't all have to save nearly extinct species to be credited with having done the right thing.


Original Lori

btw...Bo=B(arack) O(bama)? ;O)


Now where is my flame proof suit?

My personal opinion is that I am glad that the first-ever dog of a family is a nice dog from a good breeder.

Chances are that this dog will be the 'unforgettable best-ever' fist dog who will teach this family how to love dogs, feed dogs, train dogs, live with dogs, take care of dogs, understand dogs,... all those things that you will need, *especially if your next dog is a shelter dog who might be really traumatized and needs experience*.

If your first dog is a severely traumatized animal with behavioural problems that might turn you - and the whole family - off dogs forever.

I grew up with cats and dogs, and I am quite sure that I could handle the challenges of a traumatized animal.

But as a 'first ever'?

Christie Keith

SO glad you linked that here... I almost did last night but the profanity and blasphemy skeert me. ;)


wonderful post. i think sometimes the love gets overlooked due to all the self-righteousness that can rear it's ugly head. And really, it's already done. No crying over spilled milk.

Anne T

"Great find Pai,

love it!

Comment by JenniferJ — April 15, 2009"

I concur! and 28 out of 28! lol!

Susan Fox

AJ must have read that and mistakenly thought it was a guide for how participate in teh internets.

Firing on all cylinders he was.

Susan Fox

Scratch that last comment. Wrong movie.

Alex, there was an interesting commentary recently, wish I could remember where, by a newspaper executive who has gone from being against posting comments at all to being in favor of uncensored, unmoderated, anonymous comments, if only to remind the rest of us that the dark side is out there, operating on a whole different set of assumptions about...almost everything.

Alex Verrastro

Anonymity: huge reason why the interwebs suck.

Susan Fox

Not Cleopatra?

H. Houlahan

Hey guys, you are letting a set of anonymous initials dominate the conversation.

"AJ" -- until proven otherwise with a verifiable full name, employer, biography disclosing his or her conflicts of interests, and a visit mit der googles -- does not exist. Is a fictional person. Not known in any newsroom in the land.

By engaging such a cowardly troll, you can give the appearance of defending yourselves. And as Christie herself has so eloquently argued quite recently, dog breeders need to stop skulking around apologizing for their passion.

As for "are you now or have you ever allowed a litter of puppies to come into the world," well ...

I am Spartacus!

Gina Spadafori

A.J. ... you came in attacking, you go out attacking. Don't let the door hit you in your anonymous ass.

(It's also interesting that Susan posts with her real name, and if you click on that name, you can see what she does for a living.)

Susan Fox

AJ, you are really a piece of work.

I don't believe for a minute that you have the slightest interest in learning anything, making an honest inquiry or doing anything other than "winning" some weird game that you've chosen to play in this comment thread.

So, in the interest of "full disclosure", who do YOU work for as a "journalist"? And if you are only asking questions as a private person, why even bring it up? You can try to have it both ways, but excuuuuse us if we call you on it.

Your definition of a "straightforward question" is positively Orwellian. It also provides one answer to the question "How stupid do you think we are?"


Comment by Christie Keith — April 15, 2009 @ 7:28 am

I actually don’t agree with The OTHER Pat’s response.


No, I don’t mind that someone came here and disagreed with something in my SFGate column.

Well I found it disagreeable, so neener-neener! Pbbbbbbbbbb~~~tttttttt!!!!!! LOL!

Christie Keith

LOL -- well, and that's okay too. ;)

Original Lori

Christie--I apologize for going all "White Knight" on you..should have known you could handle it yourself. :O)



Thanks for the belated real response. I appreciate it. Honestly, I do - though I could have done without some of your harsh comments toward the end. Yes, I'm a journalist. Does that mean I know everything about everything? No. I'm so sorry if you think that means you need to make sarcastic comments about my journalistic ability. Also, I sincerely apologize for not being familiar with your "body of work." I am familiar with the concept of a no-kill nation and I have read Nathan Winograd's book, which I thought was fantastic, though it did leave me with many, many questions. (Oooh - not questions for one of the gods! Does that make me an evil PETA member? LOL.)

Anyway, I can appreciate your comments about your discussions with your editor about possible conflicts of interest. I think it's always a good idea to have those discussions even if the editor doesn't think it necessary to disclose. I've had similar conversations with editors.

Anyway, it's too bad there can't be more civil dialogue amongst people who care about animals. Way too many assumptions on both sides. The anyone-who-breeds-is-evil assumption is wrong, but so is the anyone-who-questions-someone-about-breeding-must-be-a-troll assumption is too.


Exactly! The need to disclose a conflict of interest implies that the person espousing a particular viewpoint will enjoy a financial gain if that viewpoint succeeds. And "financial gain from breeding" doesn't even come within light years of describing Christie's position in writing that article.

And I'm pretty sure folks aren't required to validate their reason for espousing an opinion on each and every topic they choose to write about. For example, if I write a column about why I am in favor of supporting the performing arts, am I required to "disclose" that I am occasionally involved in community theatre productions? Or that on occasion, I even - gasp! - manage to land a principal role?

If I write a column about why I am against the physical and emotional abuse of children, am I required to "disclose" the physical and emotional abuse I may have suffered as a child?

And so on. I really wouldn't think there's a journalistic requirement for "disclosure" based solely on what a person's life interests and experiences have been that formed the opinions they hold. Because if there is, then there are a whole lot more writers than just Christie who are gonna have a lot to answer for!



Thanks for posting that previous - and very, very helpful - disclosure from an earlier column by Christie Keith. Now I feel I understand her ties to breeding and I can see that she's probably a sincere person who happens to love a certain breed of dog and maybe bred dogs a few times as a hobby. See? That was so easy! That's why journalists have the motto when in doubt, disclose.

I don't think the Chronicle column necessarily called for that level of disclosure, but just a half sentence in the column would have been nice. I can't believe I had to go through all this, and wade through all these sarcastic comments, just to find out the real deal about Christie Keith's past as a "breeder." (A disclosure would have preempted all the "She's a breeder!" comments in the comments section, too - that's part of why it builds trust.)


You're right. I don't know Christie. As I mentioned, I hadn't heard of her until I read her column yesterday. I think it should generally be assumed that the reader doesn't know the columnist, their past or their motives. That's exactly why it's important for her to tell her readers who she is and where she's coming from, in the column. As to whether she made money or didn't make money, you're right, I don't know her, so I have no idea, but judging from the disclosure above I'd say she probably didn't make much, if any. That's exactly why disclosure is important! Christie Keith's readers probably haven't known and worked with her for 17 years.

Anyway, thanks for the few non-hysterical responses. I stopped reading the comments section on one of my favorite dog blogs because it was filled with hysterical people screaming about PETA (which I am disgusted with too, so I'm not defending them) and guns and assuming that anyone who had a different viewpoint must be an evil PETA member who wants to steal their dog. There was no allowance for questioning anything, or for different points of view and it was, frankly, scary. This doesn't seem to be quite at that level, but I have to say it's reminiscent. Why assume the worst when someone you don't know comes and asks a question? And why wouldn't Christie Keith give me a simple honest answer instead of just making sarcastic quips about Communism?

I think it's too bad people on an animal blog have to be so touchy and defensive! Maybe we all need to go walk our dogs or something. LOL.

So A.J.—move along, nothing more to see here.

Gina Spadafori

I read Christie Keith’s original column in the SF Chronicle, where she didn’t disclose or even hint that she makes or made money breeding dogs.

Comment by A.J. — April 15, 2009 @ 6:09 am

I've known and worked with Christie for something like 17 years. If you think Christie made money breeding dogs ... well, you don't know Christie. Or any reputable breeder, for that matter. (Christie hasn't sold a puppy in more than 15 years ... and has no plans to. She has two elderly dogs, neither intact.)

What you don't get is that preserving heritage breeds is a calling, not a business.

I've also worked in newsrooms, for decades. There is no financial conflict of interest because there's no money made on the ethical, responsible breeding of dogs. None.

I have six , 1-week-old puppies next to me. Potential sale value in seven weeks: $3600 for the lot. Costs involved in just this one litter (the only litter she'll ever have, and I may ever have): More than $12K so far, just for health certifications, sending the mom to Minnesota and back for breeding, titles and training for titles, pre- and post-natal vet care. That doesn't include time off work to get the litter whelped and started off right, time spent training and competing for those titles, and travel to training, competitions and the veterinarians. Ahead: more veterinary costs, and hours about hours socializing and "pre-training" the puppies, plus shipping costs for the puppies to their new homes. (Two of which have owned the littermates of my oldest dog, 12-year-old Heather (one passed at 11, the other still alive) ... I think there's a pretty good bet that we can guarantee those are good forever homes off the bat.)

Not including food and non-breeding-related vet care, because everyone here gets that. And don't even get me started on the thousands of dollars and hours I have spent rescuing, fostering and placing dogs.

This is typical among reputable breeders. Typical. And your failure to acknowledge or understand that is also typical.

We are putting our own money into the preservation of these breeds, some quite rare. We are just as dedicated to the elimination of puppy-milling scum as you are, and just as interested in getting shelter pets into new homes.

You call Christie on her ethics as a journalist? I call you on bad reporting. Your understanding of the situation with regards to the distinction between reputable, dedicated breeders and puppy-millers is shallow, at best.

The animal-rights groups raise a lot of money bashing breeders, when they could be solving a lot of problems by acknowledging the reputable ones as stakeholders and working with us. But hate, lies and walk-in freezers are just so much easier.

Original Lori

Ok, so part of me thinks I should just ignore this and get back to work. But I don't think this particular article required any sort of disclosure personally, as it wasn't coming out for or against anything.

However, at the end of Christie's article "Are dog shows hurting dogs" there appears:

Note: My mother and I used to show and, very rarely, breed Scottish Deerhounds. We have not bred a litter in over 10 years, and no longer even own intact dogs. I can't recall the last time I was in the show ring, but it was years ago. I still maintain my membership in the Scottish Deerhound Club of America and I served two terms on its Board of Directors, where my primary contribution was to advocate on behalf of genetic health research in the breed.

So A.J.--move along, nothing more to see here.

Anne T

A.J. If you are a legitimate journalist and not a troll, you'd know how to use Teh Googles or the 'About' header and have read up on Ms. Keith prior to asking your question (which I suspect was really asked as a red herring). There you would have found the answer to your question "Does She or Doesn't She?" and not be coming here trying to derail us.


I can complain anywhere I want, can't I?

If you think it's really important to know why I came here, here's the fascinating story. I read Christie Keith's original column in the SF Chronicle, where she didn't disclose or even hint that she makes or made money breeding dogs. I read it in the comment section and thought, "No, that can't be true. She would have disclosed it." So, I did the Google search called for by Lori, stumbled across this column and decided to leave a comment here rather than go back to the original article, register (and probably get spammed later) just so I could ask one question. Also, that column had hundreds of comments after it, so I thought I'd be more likely to get an answer here.

I should have realized (though I'd never heard of her til yesterday) that Christie's not the type who'd provide an honest answer and have a simple conversation about ethics, or why she didn't feel the need to disclose. (I'm sure she has a reason?) Instead, I get snide quips about Communism. How clever!


Comment by A.J. — April 15, 2009 @ 6:09 am

I can complain anywhere I want, can’t I?

Well sure, but it doesn't exactly help your credibility. Makes you come across as some sort of ambulance chaser.

I read Christie Keith’s original column in the SF Chronicle, where she didn’t disclose or even hint that she makes or made money breeding dogs.

Just how much do you know about the Responsible Breeding of dogs? The reason I ask is that when done properly, most breeders end up LOSING money at it when all is said and done. So if you're trying to pin a "money motive" on Christie here, you are way, way off base!


Lori, I'm talking about her original column in the San Francisco Chronicle. She didn't disclose in the column, and I didn't see any place on their website where the publication discloses. A reader should not have to do a Google search to find out about your conflict of interest or apparent conflict - you should be open about it. That solves the problem right there.

Like I said, you all seem really rabid. I'm just advocating honesty and openness. The way you're all reacting, you'd think I'd called for the government to come take your guns or something. LOL.



I had a feeling this would happen! I knew my question would not be taken seriously and would receive some kind of sarcastic response. The general rule is when in doubt, disclose. It's not that hard, and then your readers feel they can trust you. If someone runs a rescue or once ran a rescue, then wrote a pro-rescue column, I think they should disclose that too. (It doesn't have to be a big confession, just as few words ... as in, "As a former breeder, I know...") As a general rule, if you've made money from something or currently make money from something and are going to write a column championing whatever it is you make/made money from, it's only fair to disclose.

Some of the nasty comments I got from others for asking this simple question really kind of make me laugh. I'd never heard of Christie until I read her column yesterday, so I'm not familiar with your little in-crowd here, but you guys seem pretty rabid. I especially love the commenter who was able to divine my tone from reading how I typed the word "breeder" and said that I said it as if I was talking about snot! LOL. Jump to conclusions much?

Christie, it looks to me from your sarcastic responses that seem designed to get laughs and back pats from your little crowd of admirers, and your ignoring of my question, that you don't feel any obligation to your readers. I think that's sad. A reader should be able to feel they're getting the full, honest story from you about your biases when you write a column.


A.J., I'm confused. Why would you come HERE (where Christie did disclose her "breeder" status in the final paragraph of her posting - albeit in a bit of a roundabout way) to apparently - as far as I can figure - complain about something she wrote somewhere ELSE?


I have no issue with the Obamas getting their dog from a breeder, and think there are lots of good reasons (many of which have been covered on this blog already) for getting a dog from a responsible breeder. However, "shelter dogs are traumatized and damaged" and "shelter dogs are not a good choice for first time owners" (MaKo and Marilyn, shelter dogs will turn first time owners off of dog ownership? really?) are not among these reasons. I hate to bring this up in a thread aimed at (correctly) defending the choice of getting a dog from a responsible breeder, but I've seen this attitude come up in comments here before, not just in this thread.

A couple quick points on this:

1) This has been said before, but since it keeps coming up I'll put it out there again: are SOME shelter dogs traumatized, abused, have existing behavior problems etc.? Sure. Are ALL or even MOST? No. Many shelter dogs make excellent pets *without needing any special rehabilitation, or presenting unusual challenges* (does this sound familiar from some of the fight bust threads?).

2) Many people will say that even if this is true, a beginning owner might not be able to tell a good shelter dog pick from a bad one. This is where responsible rescue groups can be a wonderful resource. A responsible rescue group (like a responsible breeder actually) has generally had the dog living in a home environment for a more extended time period, and so they know the dog's behavior in this setting, they know the dog's strengths and weaknesses, and they can play matchmaker, and prepare owners for the pluses and minuses of each dog (they've also often had time to instill fringe benefits like housebreaking and basic obedience).

As a first time dog owner (I didn't have dogs growing up either), I specifically wanted a young adult dog from a rescue group because I could basically have a guarantee of exactly the characteristics (temperament, behavior and appearance) that I wanted. I knew I wanted a medium sized, short haired, outgoing, athletic dog, who was already housebroken, didn't chew or bark excessively (I rent), had no known behavioral issues, got along with other dogs, and as a bonus preferably already had some obedience training, was crate trained, and enjoyed fetch. This is exactly what I got. And I knew for sure that I'd be getting all of this before I adopted her, and that there weren't hidden behavior problems, because I visited my dog multiple times in her foster home (I did have to assume they weren't replacing all the furniture between visits).

So some of the services a breeder provides (taking back the dog for life, extensive interviewing/matchmaking to fit dog and family) can also be gotten through a rescue group (and even many of the better shelters, though they generally have not seen the dog in a home environment, and have had the dog for less time). This kind of approach could be *especially* beneficial to first time owners.

Again, I am not saying that people should not get dogs from breeders (I may get a puppy of my own from a responsible breeder some day), but I do bristle when I see justifications that (unnecessarily) rely on the defectiveness of shelter pets.


AJ, life is really not that difficult. See the header at the top of the page and the word "about"? yeah, that's it, now move your mouse over it and "click.

Alex Verrastro

I've re-wrote this comment about 5 times now, and I think I'll just settle with my mind is numb from some of the ridiculous comments I read on your article, Christie. Clearly many people still buy into the "don't breed and buy while shelter dogs die." They fail to realize the kill shelters have just bullshitted them for years; aka, it's the shelters' faults that they have the kill policies in the first place. But I guess I'm just preaching to the choir.

Good article. As usual =]

Alex Verrastro

P.S. Shelter dogs are great, and people should adopt them if it's a proper fit. There are other ways to help shelters besides getting a dog from them (donating money, food, grooming supplies, toys, volunteering, etc).

Christie Keith

It's like when I get accused of being a lobbyist because I express my opinions about legislation. Totally cracks me up.

Christie Keith

Wow, AJ, do you mean, "Am I now or have I ever been a member of the Communist Party"?



Is it true that you're a breeder or former breeder?

If so, that fact should have been disclosed in your column. I'm a journalist, and failure to disclose that fact, if true, in a column like this just makes it seem that you don't want to come clean with your readers. If you simply disclose, you come off as much more honest and open. If not, and if a reader has to find out such a pertinent fact in the comments section, as I did, it makes you seem pretty shady and throws your motives into question.

If it's not true, my apologies. If it is true, shame on you and your publication and editor for not disclosing your conflict of interest.

Looks like you've got a lot of buddies here (also breeders?) so I won't be surprised if I get villified for asking the question. But I've spent enough time in newsrooms to know that this would be a definite "do disclose" fact. Columnists in my local paper disclose much smaller conflicts of interest all the time.


Here is a handy checklist for 'How To Recognize a Troll':

For fun, go compare how many aspects A.J. matched. =P


cute video compilation of Bo's first news conference:

Susan Fox

It's a marketing ploy to drive traffic to my website and blog. And that's MY sekrit agenda.


Moderation is a must in any quality online community. Or else you get classic trolls like A.J. coming in and making the thread all about them, scolding everyone else on their 'attitude' in response to his own rudeness, demanding his ignorance be fixed by everyone else instead of by his own effort, derailing the conversation and disrupting the community until it eventually breaks down and that great online space is eventually lost. I've seen it happen.

Moderation keeps 'safe spaces' safe, and protects the community. Moderation is what TRULY allows constructive discussion to happen.

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