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Guilderland Archives — The Altamont Enterprise, April 16, 2009

Altamont girl with advice on the First Dog gets a letter from The White House

By Philippa Stasiuk

ALTAMONT—When the Obamas teach Bo, the first family’s new pooch with a penchant for ponds, not to piddle on the Oval Office rug, Altamont fourth-grader Shannon Blakeley will be proud to know she perhaps persuaded them to pick the right puppy.

Nine-year-old Blakeley sent a handwritten letter to President Barack Obama’s daughters, Sasha and Malia, soon after the election but before they moved from Chicago to Washington, D.C.

“I just wanted to tell them about their new dog and about moving from Illinois to Washington,” said Shannon. “My friend Molly just moved, so I said it’s OK to move away because you’re going to make new friends and you get to move to the White House and you’ll get a new dog.”

Shannon’s mother, Mary Beth Blakeley, added, “Shannon wanted to try and help the girls not to feel so scared.”

In the pre-election campaign, President Obama promised, that if and when he were elected president, he would let his daughters get a dog. “You have earned the puppy that is coming with us,” said Obama to his daughters in his election-night address.

Shannon, who knew from watching the news that Malia has allergies, also included advice in her letter on some non-shedding dog breeds.

“I told them about schnoodles because I have one named Daisy,” said Shannon. “I know a lot about animals because I study a lot.”

Daisy, who is a mix between a schnauzer and a poodle, is one of three dogs that comprise the Blakeleys’ domestic menagerie on Western Avenue in the village. Unlike the other two dogs (a Siberian husky and a rescue dog also coincidentally called Bo), Daisy doesn’t shed. Because neither the poodle nor the schnauzer pure-bred line of dogs sheds, the schnoodle won’t either no matter what percentage mix of the parents’ genes get passed on to the puppies.

The Obamas ultimately chose a Portuguese water dog. Like the schnoodles, the medium-sized porties, as they are called, do not shed and have a coat similar to a poodle. They are a high-energy breed of dog and are aptly named due to their superior swimming skills. Bo, who is six months old, was a gift from Senator Edward Kennedy and his wife, Victoria.

Although Blakeley did not expect the Obamas to reply to her letter, in March something remarkable happened. “I was in bed and my dad woke me up because he gets the mail every day,” said Shannon, “and he had a big envelope in his hand and it said ‘The White House’ on it and I was really excited.”

The letter was from First Lady Michelle Obama, typed but with a handwritten signature. “Dear Shannon,” it said, “Thanks for your nice note about our future dog. There is a rich history of White House pets and it’s a tradition we’re excited to continue…”

First Lady Obama also told Shannon that hearing from her would help them to select a dog that is right for their family and that her enthusiasm was “the kind that our country needs right now.”

Shannon said that, when she went to school and told her friends that she got a letter from the White House, no one believed her, “and I was like, really really really!”

Shannon will forever have the satisfaction of knowing that her letter may have helped the Obamas decide what kind of dog to get. When asked what she would do with the letter, Shannon quickly replied, “I’m going to frame it and keep it forever.”

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