A Dog’s Breakfast

The latest tizzy around Barack Obama is what kind of dog should he get for his children. He promised them one, he actually intends to keep THAT promise, and now the question is what kind.

“We have two criteria that have to be reconciled,” Obama said. “One is that [daughter] Malia is allergic so it has to be hypoallergenic.”

Obama added that while many breeds are hypoallergenic, he would prefer to adopt a dog from a shelter. The problem?

“A lot of shelter dogs are mutts, like me,” Obama said. “So whether we’re going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household.”

As trivial as this seems, it raises a lot of thoughts in me — almost none of them actually related to dogs. But I’ve heard a LOT of the arguments.

There’s one faction that says Obama should get a shelter dog. That sends the “right” message, and could encourage more people to adopt otherwise-unwanted dogs. Going for a purebred, they say, send the “wrong” message, and smacks of elitism.

I say screw them.

They do have a semi-valid point. Barack Obama, in his own words, is a “mutt.” Other terms that could apply are mongrel, half-breed, and hybrid.

I tend to use similar terms to myself, referring to my own ethnic heritage (a thorough blend of Western and Northern European), but I have nowhere near the diverse background as our president-elect, who has the same mixed European background on his mother’s side blended with a full-blooded Kenyan father.

Personally, I’ve never been that fond of “purity” as a concept. In many cases, it is an artificial measurement, and often things of lesser purity are superior. In metallurgy, for example, alloys almost always trump pure elements. (Keep your iron; gimme steel!) In botany, hybrids outperform pure strains. And in animal biology, keeping a breed “pure” often ends up with simply reinforcing bad genes.

So our president-to-be is a mutt. I think that’s great. It’s uniquely American, wonderfully symbolic of our status as a nation — we took the castoffs and wretched refuse and undesirables and human discards of the world, and forged them into the single greatest nation the world has ever seen. Screw all those people with their pride in their ethnic and cultural and racial purity. We got ’em beat, and we beat ’em with their own garbage.

America, the ultimate “green” nation. We recycled the world’s trash, and spun it into gold.

So, saying all that, Obama ought to get a mutt, right?. And not just any old mutt, but one whose genetic makeup is scrambled six ways to Sunday. A mutt reminiscent of George Carlin’s dog Tippy, who a vet once categorized as “it’s definitely not a monkey” and “part Dodge Dart.”

Nope.

Obama should get a purebred, for one very simple reason:

This dog isn’t for him. It isn’t for the nation. It isn’t a political prop.

It’s for his daughters, and one of them has allergy issues. So she needs a hypoallergenic breed, one that won’t trigger her allergies.

What the Obamas ought to do is prepare a list of breeds that will be safe for his daughters and let them pick out the ones they like. Then let the girls choose the actual dog.

After all, as he said, they earned it. And they deserve a pet of their own, not quasi-guardianship of some political prop.

Life in Florida XVII
The Race