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Hey, Obamas! Is this your dog?

An Alabama underdog runs for the White House.

By Clara Germani and Mary Knox MerrillStaff Writers / January 23, 2009

Plays well with others: Bear (left) plays with other dogs at Hot Diggity Doggy Camp in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Mary Knox Merrill/Staff

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Boston; and Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Boston; and Tuscaloosa, Ala.
Bear, you must understand from the beginning, is an underdog. But his handlers are grooming him for a White House bid, anyway.

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Like fellow candidates vying to be First Dog – and dozens have formally declared – Bear is a born networker. He doesn’t just kiss babies, he plants big wet ones on anyone who crosses his path, and he likes to sit down (on your feet) and share a quiet moment. (Indeed, in two days of interviews, Bear only barked once.) What he lacks in polish, he makes up for in drive – at a lamp-tipping, carpet-wrinkling galumph.

And his résumé is perfect: rescued labradoodle, great dignity to “ding-ity” quotient, highly trainable (read: food motivated), ready to move today.

But Bear is not the only dog with a campaign team of dreamers hoping to get the Obama family’s attention in its search for a rescued labradoodle or Portuguese water dog.

The competition is fierce – among animal rescue advocates who see a public relations bonanza for the broad animal adoption movement which struggles to save 4 million stray and unwanted dogs nationwide each year, not to mention a windfall for their own shelters and agencies if their dog is The One.

There’s the Martin County (Minn.) Humane Society’s “Wema to the White House” Internet campaign in which a rescued Portuguese water dog was given the Swahili name for compassion and kindness to win Obama hearts. There’s the Winnipeg Humane Society’s gambit to get Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper to give Obama a labradoodle from a shelter-born litter of 11 when the new president visits in coming weeks. (The US Constitution is silent on the citizenship of a first dog). There’s the Humane Society of the United States lobby of “high level” administration officials to take a look at its California labradoodle “spokesdog.” And there are countless other canine orphans being offered up on rescue and shelter websites across the country.

“There are probably a hundred shelters in the US that would dearly love the president to take [their] animal,” observes Bill McDonald, executive director of the Winnipeg Humane Society. He doesn’t mind entering the fray with his organization’s month-old, foreign-born pups. “You can’t buy publicity like this” for animal rescue, he says.

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