Bo (dog)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Official White House portrait of the First Dog, May 2009
Other name(s)First Dog of the United States[1][2][3]
Charlie (by previous owner)
SpeciesCanis familiaris
BreedPortuguese Water Dog
BornAmigo's New Hope[4]
(2008-10-09)October 9, 2008
Chicago, Illinois, U.S.
DiedMay 8, 2021(2021-05-08) (aged 12)
Washington, D.C., U.S.
Cause of deathCancer
Known forPet of the Obama family
TrainingDawn Sylvia (Hume, Virginia)
Can sit, present paw/shake, lie down, roll over, get off, wait[5]
TitleFirst Dog of the United States
TermApril 14, 2009 – January 20, 2017
SuccessorChamp and Major
OwnerObama family
Parent(s)Dam: Penny
(Amigo's Phor What Its Worth)
(Boyd, Texas)
Sire: Watson
(Valkyrie's Dr. Watson Is Here)
(Ambridge, Pennsylvania)[6]
Breeder: Julie Parker[7]
AppearanceTuxedo/black and white
Named afterObama girls' cousins' pet cat
and Bo Diddley

Bo (October 9, 2008 – May 8, 2021) was a pet dog of the Obama family, the first family of the United States from 2009 until 2017.[2] President Barack Obama and his family were given the male Portuguese Water Dog as a gift after months of speculation about the breed and identity of their future pet.[2][8] The final choice was made in part because elder daughter Malia's allergies dictated a need for a hypoallergenic breed. Bo was occasionally called "First Dog".[1][2][3] In August 2013, Bo was joined by Sunny, a female dog of the same breed.[9]

Bo was named by sisters Malia and Sasha after their cousins' cat, First Lady Michelle Obama's father, and as a reference to the R&B musician Bo Diddley. Bo's name was also Barack Obama's initials.

Breed background[edit]

The Portuguese Water Dog is originally from the Algarve region of Portugal. Only 48 Portuguese Water Dogs were entered for Britain's Crufts competition in 2009[10] and the author of The New Complete Portuguese Water Dog, Kitty Braund, believes there are about 50,000 in North America.[11] Due to its fleecy coat of minimally shedding hair,[12] the Portuguese Water Dog is considered a hypoallergenic dog breed.[13]

Breeding and original owners[edit]

"The President, Barack Obama, shows his youngest daughter how to pet a small black dog whilst his oldest daughter and wife watch"
The Obamas with Bo

Bred by Martha and Art Stern of Amigo Portuguese Water Dogs in Boyd, Texas,[7] Bo was a son of Watson—of the Rader family in Pittsburgh's Ambridge suburb—and Penny, belonging to Art and Martha Stern. One of Bo's nine litter mates was Senator Ted Kennedy's dog named Cappy (Amigo's Captain Courageous). The litter was named "Hope and Change", in honor of Obama's victory.[14][15]

Bo's original buyer is unknown, but eventually they returned him to the Stern family. Purchasing Bo required signing a contract to return him to his breeder if things did not work out. Bo enrolled with Kennedy's obedience trainer Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz in Hume, Virginia on January 5, 2009.[16]

Selection of the dog[edit]

At his first press conference as President-elect, Obama was questioned by reporters as to which breed the family was looking to acquire. He replied, "We have two criteria that have to be reconciled. One is that Malia is allergic, so it has to be hypoallergenic. There are a number of breeds that are hypoallergenic. On the other hand, our preference would be to get a shelter dog, but, obviously, a lot of shelter dogs are mutts like me. So—so whether we're going to be able to balance those two things, I think, is a pressing issue on the Obama household."[17]

George Stephanopoulos asked Obama on television in early January what kind of dog they would get, and when, saying that he was passing on a question from Obama's daughters who were sitting in the control room. Obama said "They seem to have narrowed it down to a labradoodle or a Portuguese water hound ... medium-sized dog, and so, we're now going to start looking at shelters to see when one of those dogs might come up."[18]

Much was made by the public and press about the family's search for a dog. On April 12, 2009, it was announced that the Obamas would soon accept a six-month-old Portuguese Water Dog puppy as a gift from Senator Kennedy. The dog was reported to have visited the family some weeks earlier[19] in a secret meeting to gauge compatibility and purportedly referred to by staffers as "The Meeting". However, the gift was not accepted until the dog officially arrived and moved in at the White House on Tuesday, April 14, 2009.[20]

Immediately after he arrived, the family staged a photo op with Bo on the property's South Lawn.[21] At the conference, Obama was asked if he would allow Bo inside the Oval Office, to which he responded: "of course."[21] He also gave a nod to President Harry Truman's quote "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."[21] The White House website was later updated to include official pictures and biographical details of Bo.[2]

Biographical details[edit]

"A black dog with curly hair and white feet wears a multi-colored lei around his neck"
Bo wearing a lei upon his White House arrival

Listed by the name "Amigo's New Hope" with American Kennel Club's breed registry[22] and given the name "Charlie" by his original owners,[23] the puppy received his name from President Obama's two daughters, Malia and Sasha, in part after their cousins' cat and Michelle Obama's father's nickname Diddley; the dog is named for singer Bo Diddley.[24][25]

In June 2009, the White House released a baseball card for Bo with his new official portrait on one side and tongue-in-cheek statistics on the other. Information included the facts that Bo's favorite food is tomatoes and that he does not yet know how to swim. The card was available by sending a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the White House.[26][27][28]

According to financial disclosure forms released by President Obama in 2010, Bo was purchased for $1,600, equivalent to $2,240 in 2023.[29]

It was announced in August 2012 that Bo was on a diet, though no other details were released. It was announced by the President during the Kids' State Dinner, where children from the states and territories who had won a contest to design healthy, appealing meals had lunch at the White House.[30]

Bo's heritage[edit]

"Michelle Obama and her oldest daughter walk a small black dog whilst Barack Obama and their youngest daughter walk a short distance behind them"
The Obamas walking with Bo

The Obamas had voiced a strong desire to adopt a shelter dog, but made no firm commitments.[31] In Summer 2008, Best Friends Animal Society, an animal welfare organization, gathered 50,000 signatures on a petition asking the family to adopt a shelter animal.[32]

Although Bo was a gift through a breeder, dog expert César Millán stated Bo could be considered part of a larger group known as "rescue dogs". He was unsuccessful in his first home when plans for him to provide companionship to an older female dog went awry; apparently his attempts to suckle irritated her.[20][33] The Obamas pledged a donation to the DC Humane Society in a show of support for shelter dogs.[34]

The Humane Society of the United States released a statement thanking the Obamas "for taking in a second-chance dog," but discouraged employing breeders.[35]

Reactions in the media[edit]

"Barack Obama running through the halls of the white house with a small black dog who looks up at him whilst running alongside"
Bo and Obama running through the east wing of the White House
Bo in March 2010

The Washington Post's Manuel Roig-Franzia, granted exclusive access to Bo for his debut in print, described the puppy: "Bo's a handsome little guy. Well suited for formal occasions at the White House, he's got tuxedo-black fur, with a white chest, white paws and a rakish white goatee."[36]

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) described the family's choice to accept the gift of a puppy from a family friend as "disquieting" and publicly urged Obama to have Bo neutered, despite the dog having been neutered before the Obamas received him.[37][38]

In anticipation of increased interest in the breed, the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America issued a statement requesting that members of the public considering obtaining the dogs "ensure that this breed fits their lifestyle", advising that the dogs' needs preclude their being left alone for long periods or boarded in kennels.[39]

Immediately upon Bo joining the First Family, four children's books and a plush toy depicting him were slated for publication or manufacture.[40][41][42]

On July 17, 2009, Ben Greenman, writing in The New York Times as Bo, reflected on his first hundred days in office.[43]

In the final episode of the History Channel's Life After People, aired March 16, 2010, the producers imagined what life would be like for Bo after the disappearance of humanity.[44] This program speculated that he would leave the White House, and live off seafood from the Chesapeake Bay.[45]

Bo was also shown on Dogs 101, as part of segment about the breed.[46][47]

Bo appeared in the comic book Lockjaw and the Pet Avengers and on the television shows Late Night with Seth Meyers and Ellen. On Meyers' show, Bo was the subject of a "Barney Cam" parody in which he is shown to be shamelessly manipulating White House staffers and guests (such as by finding and planting classified information in the bag of a speechwriter who refused to give him treats).[48]

Bo acquired the nickname "Bobama".[49][50][51]

Kidnapping plot[edit]

On January 8, 2016, a man named Scott Stockert from Dickinson, North Dakota was arrested for allegedly trying to kidnap Bo after United States Secret Service Agents discovered a 12 gauge pump action shotgun and a bolt action .22 caliber rifle on the back of his pickup truck.[52]


On May 8, 2021, the Obama family confirmed that Bo had died of cancer in Washington, D.C. at the age of 12.[53][54]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Dave, By (April 20, 2009). "Vigilant press spots Bo, the first dog, out for a walk". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
  2. ^ a b c d e "The White House—Blog Post—Meet Bo, the First Dog". White House. April 12, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  3. ^ a b Cooper, Helen (April 12, 2009). "One Obama Search Ends With a Puppy Named Bo". The New York Times. Retrieved April 18, 2009. Other Web sites, which have been tracking the saga of the selection of the first dog, were in a frenzy over the weekend.
  4. ^ Silva, Mark (April 12, 2009). "Obamas' dog Bo: 'Amigo's New Hope'". Archived from the original on April 16, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  5. ^ "Obama Dog Trainer: Bo Already 'Sits, Shakes, Rolls Over'". Us Weekly. April 15, 2009. Archived from the original on March 4, 2014. Retrieved February 28, 2014.
  6. ^ "The Obama Dog Blog: Cappy's Breeder Rejects Obama Dog Connection". April 15, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
  7. ^ a b Sostek, Anya (April 14, 2009). "First dog's father from Ambridge". Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
  8. ^ "World | Obama family 'picks first puppy'". BBC News. April 12, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
  9. ^ Feldmann, Lindie (August 20, 2013). "New little girl arrives at White House. Meet Sunny Obama. (+video)". The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  10. ^ "PORTUGUESE WATER DOG". Crufts. 2009. Archived from the original on February 25, 2021. Retrieved April 17, 2009.
  11. ^ Ryan, Denise (April 15, 2009). "U.S. first family puts Portuguese water dog on the map". Archived from the original on May 23, 2012. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
  12. ^ Scott, Danny; Miller, William; Griffin, Craig (2001). Small Animal Dermatology. W B Saunders. p. 4. ISBN 0-7216-7618-9.
  13. ^ "Portuguese Water Dog". AKC. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  14. ^ "Is Bo a rescue dog or not?". Record-Journal (Meriden, Connecticut). April 14, 2009. p. M6. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  15. ^ "Dog Tale: How Bo Became First Pooch". NBC Washington. April 11, 2009. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  16. ^ "Dawn Sylvia-Stasiewicz, trainer of Bo, the Obamas' White House dog, dies at 52". the Washington Post. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  17. ^ Neuman, Johanna (February 25, 2009). "New first dog: The Obamas choose a Portuguese water dog". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved January 20, 2015.
  18. ^ Weiner, Rachel (January 13, 2009). "Obama: Finding Puppy "Tougher Than Finding A Commerce Secretary" (VIDEO)". HuffPost. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
  19. ^ Roig-Franzia, Manuel (April 12, 2009). "The First Puppy Makes a Big Splash". The Washington Post. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
  20. ^ a b Theimer, Sharon (April 26, 2009). "PROMISES, PROMISES: Is Obama dog a rescue or not?". Associated Press.
  21. ^ a b c Theimer, Sharon. "First dog Bo makes himself at home". The Washington Times. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
  22. ^ Saul, Michael (April 12, 2009). "First photos of First Dog: Obamas meet Bo, their new Portuguese Water Dog". Daily News. New York. Retrieved April 13, 2009.
  23. ^ St. Clair, Stacy (April 13, 2009). "Obamas' dog: Meet Bo, the Portuguese water dog". Chicago Tribune. Archived from the original on April 15, 2009. Retrieved April 13, 2009.
  24. ^ "The First Puppy Makes a Big Splash". PopWatch Blog. April 12, 2009. Archived from the original on April 15, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  25. ^ Sobieraj-Westfall, Sandra (April 12, 2009). "The Obamas' Dog Has Arrived—at Last!". People. Retrieved October 2, 2010.
  26. ^ Iovino, Jim. "First Dog Bo's Portrait Out as Baseball Card". NBC Washington. Archived from the original on April 24, 2012. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  27. ^ Lee, Jess (June 19, 2009). "The White House—Blog Post—Bo: The Portrait, the Baseball Card". White House. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  28. ^ Conolly, Katie. "The Gaggle : Official Portrait of First Dog Bo Released". Newsweek. Archived from the original on August 25, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  29. ^ Marr, Kendra (May 17, 2010). "Hot dog: $1,600 Bo listed on disclosure forms". The Politico. Retrieved May 18, 2010.
  30. ^ "Latest News, Videos & Guest Interviews from the Today Show on NBC". Archived from the original on December 11, 2012. Retrieved December 7, 2012.
  31. ^ Greene, Nick (April 15, 2009). "Obama's criticized for breaking promise of adopting dog from shelter". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on April 17, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
  32. ^ "Obama's will adopt, rather than buy, a dog". San Jose Mercury News. May 11, 2008. Retrieved February 24, 2015.
  33. ^ Visitant, Carol (April 16, 2009). "5 Things You Don't Know About First Dog Bo—Barack Obama". People. Archived from the original on March 8, 2016. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
  34. ^ "Obama puppy: Portuguese water dog Bo is Obama puppy". The Baltimore Sun. April 13, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2009. [dead link]
  35. ^ "The HSUS Congratulates First Family on New White House Dog". Humane Society of the United States. April 12, 2009. Archived from the original on January 19, 2013. Retrieved November 5, 2012.
  36. ^ "Obama Dog Bo Diddley Obama Puppy First Dog Photos Video at The Insider". Archived from the original on May 23, 2009. Retrieved August 10, 2009.
  37. ^ Hess, Amanda (April 13, 2009). "PETA Encourages Obamas to Neuter Neutered Dog". Retrieved April 15, 2009.
  38. ^ Bedard, Paul (April 13, 2009). "PETA urges Obama to snip Bo the first dog". Archived from the original on April 16, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  39. ^ "Obama Family's Choice for 'First Dog' Prompts PWDCA to Remind Public About Responsible Breeding and Dog Ownership" (PDF). The Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, Inc. April 13, 2009. Archived from the original (PDF) on April 23, 2009. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  40. ^ Irvine, Chris (April 16, 2009). "Bo Obama to star in children's book". The Daily Telegraph. London. Archived from the original on April 19, 2009. Retrieved April 26, 2009.
  41. ^ Kondo, Koji (April 2009). Bo Obama: First Dog of the United States of America. CreateSpace. ISBN 978-1-4421-5644-9.
  42. ^ Lewis, J. Patrick; Beth Zappitello; Tim Bowers (April 2009). First Dog. Sleeping Bear Press. ISBN 978-1-58536-467-1.
  43. ^ Greenman, Ben (July 16, 2009). "The First Hundred (Dog) Days". The New York Times. Retrieved October 19, 2009.
  44. ^ "Take Me to Your Leader". History. Retrieved March 25, 2010. The President's dog must learn the ways of the wild.
  45. ^ "Bo Obama's anniversary: First year as First Dog". The Washington Post. April 15, 2010.
  46. ^ Dogs 101 Ep. 10, All the presidents' Pets,
  47. ^ Dogs 101 ep. 14, Bernese Mountain Dog, Afghan, Portuguese Water Dog, Cairn Terrier, Alaskan Malamute
  48. ^ Archived at Ghostarchive and the Wayback Machine: "Seth Puts A Camera On Obama's Dog Bo". YouTube.
  49. ^ Bungey, Sam (August 6, 2009). "First Family Arrival Date Set at August 23". Vineyard Gazette. Retrieved March 29, 2020.
  50. ^ Leonard, Tom (August 23, 2009). "Barack Obama arrives in Martha's Vineyard with family". The Daily Telegraph. Archived from the original on January 12, 2022. Retrieved March 29, 2020.
  51. ^ Bondar, Daniella (August 16, 2018). "Donald Trump Reportedly Hates Dogs, So That Might Explain A Few Things". Elite Daily. Retrieved March 29, 2020.
  52. ^ "Man Arrested for Plot to Kidnap the Obamas' Dog". January 8, 2016. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  53. ^ Pasquini, Maria (May 8, 2021). "Michelle and Barack Obama Mourn the Death of Beloved Dog Bo". People. Retrieved May 8, 2021.
  54. ^ Wang, Amy (May 8, 2021). "Obamas announce death of dog Bo, 'a true friend and loyal companion'". The Washington Post. Retrieved May 8, 2021.

External links[edit]

Honorary titles
Preceded by White House pet dog
April 14, 2009 – January 20, 2017
Served alongside: Sunny
Succeeded by