When the First Family welcomed a Portuguese water dog named Bo into the White House last year, I knew the balance of power in that home might soon shift!

Not only had the Obama’s never owned a dog, they had selected a breed that has been deemed by many dog experts as “not a dog for beginners.”

I know this first hand, because as you must know by now, we have lived and travelled with our “Portie” Hooper for 8 years.

I first became aware of the breed after watching a show on Animal Planet.  I just fell in love with their looks, appearance, and spirit, as well as their connectedness to the world of water, webbed feet and all.

My husband, and I are boaters.  In 15 years, we have possessed a power boat, two kayaks, a canoe, and now a sailboat.  So, for us, a dog that took to the bays, oceans, pools, and canals of our lives, this dog was a good choice to say the least.  A perfect choice, you might add.

But nothing is perfect, not even the best dog.  What fun would that be?  When we “acquired” Hooper, our breeder, Carol Irragi of North Star Portuguese water dogs, gave us fair warning, telling us on several occasions that PWDs are not for the faint of heart.  Smart, energetic, fun loving, they are also headstrong, and stubborn, always trying to rule the home, or the boat.

Loyal to a fault, Hooper is always at our sides, underfoot, literally in our faces, watching our every move.  Nicknamed “velcro dogs,” Hooper, like most of her breed, attach themselves physically to those they love!  But this love, unfortunately, does not extend to other dogs, in my dog’s case anyway, making visits to dog parks out of the question.

Did I mention her energy level?  At age 8, she still runs and leaps like a two year old pup, clearing shrubs, and fences.  She swims like a Seal, and her tail (rudder) can leave welts during a bout of excitement.

She is a constant challenge.  We have endured the Turkey Incident of the Thanksgiving of 2008, the Wine Spill Incident of 2009, the after sail Cocktail Party Seasick Episode this past summer, and the famous Amelia Island Closet Incident of March ’09.  I would elaborate, but I am warehousing these “tails” for future short stories or a memoir.

Will Judy advised humans who sought to add a dog to their lives to choose carefully.  “Know thy breed,” he might have advised.  I kind of knew what we were getting into with adding Hooper to our family, but despite all the craziness, I am committed to giving her a good home for as long as she lives.

In the weeks following Bo’s arrival at the White House, Carol received an increase in the calls she got about the breed.  But these breeders are a tight circle.  There was a time, not too long ago, when the Portuguese water dog was almost extinct.  No longer needed by the Potuguese fishing industry, it wasn’t until a breeding pair was brought to the United States that they began to make a comeback.  It is no wonder that by working together, these dedicated breeders protect these special dogs, keeping them out of the greedy hands of puppy mills and pet shops.

Will Judy would be proud of us, we do know “our breed.”  We made our choice, and sometimes we just have to put up with our dog’s particular breed characteristics, like bossiness.  Like at the Obama’s place, Bo may rule the house, but in our corner of the world “Hooper drives the boat, Chief!”

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