WASHINGTON - Who let the dog out?
That's the Washington mystery du jour.
The identity of the first puppy - the one that the Washington press corps has been yelping about for months, the one President Obama has seemed to delight in dropping hints about - leaked out yesterday. This despite White House efforts to delay the news until the big debut planned for Tuesday afternoon.
The little guy is a 6-month-old Portuguese water dog given to the Obama girls as a gift by that Portuguese water dog-lovin' senator himself, Edward Kennedy of Massachusetts. Malia and Sasha named it Bo; their cousins have a cat named Bo, and first lady Michelle Obama's father was nicknamed Diddley, a source said. (Get it? Bo . . . Diddley?)
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.
Clearly, the identity of the dog was information too big to contain. A mysterious Web site called FirstDogCharlie.com published a puppy picture yesterday morning, complete with a Q-and-A with the dog, which it said was originally named Charlie. The celebrity-gossip Web site TMZ.com linked to the picture. So much for the big White House unveiling.
The affair was another hard lesson for Obama's tight-knit team, which had considerable success at controlling information and leaking tidbits to different news outlets during the campaign. But once Obama took office, that proved more difficult. With more wide-ranging sources of information available, word leaked to the media of major nominations, as well as the tax problems that sank former South Dakota Sen. Tom Daschle's bid to become the White House health czar.
Still, there's lots of stuff that didn't leak out, including a secret get-acquainted session with dog and family at the White House a few weeks ago. The visit, known around the White House as "The Meeting," was a surprise for the girls.
Bo charmed the first family, a source who was there said. He sat when the girls sat, stood when the girls stood. He made no toileting errors and did not gnaw on the furniture. Bo has, after all, been receiving lessons in good behavior from the Kennedys' dog trainers. These lessons have been taking place at a secret, undisclosed location outside Washington.
Bo, though he was raised elsewhere, already has a keen sense of who's in charge inside the Beltway. When the president walked across the room during the visit, Bo followed obediently.
Sasha was excited; Malia focused on all the "responsibility issues" - how Bo would be trained, cared for, etc.
Just in case Portie-mania ensues - how could it not, after all this buildup? - a staffer warns that Porties "are not for everyone. They're very energetic. They play, play, play. Then they sleep."