Running the country is probably the most stressful job anyone can have. Beginning with our first president, George Washington, to President Obama, many different pets have lived in the White House. Most of the men who have held the highest office in the land had a dog by their side. There have even been some famous “first cats” too. As a pet lover and a lover of history, I ran across some interesting facts about a few of our presidents and the dogs that made them smile.
We know what he did for our country, but did you know Washington is considered the father of the American Foxhound? He imported a pack of young Foxhounds from England before the start of the War of Independence. During the war, the Marquis de Lafayette became friends with Washington and presented him with a gift of three French Foxhounds. Washington bred his English Foxhounds with his French Foxhounds to produce the American Foxhound. Washington loved dogs and he often talked about them in his diaries. He fondly mentions one who kept his wife Martha up in arms because the dog had a knack for breaking in and stealing whole Virginia hams from her pantry.
One story that shows Washington’s character as a man and as a dog lover recounts the Battle of Germantown, which wasn’t going in Washington’s favor. The American troops were camped at Pennibecker’s Mill when a little Terrier was spotted roaming the battlefield between the American and British lines. It was discovered the dog belonged to the British commander General Howe and had gotten lost between enemy lines. Ignoring the advice of his officers who wanted to use the dog to demoralize Howe, Washington surprised everyone when he took Howe’s dog to his tent, fed him, made sure he was cleaned up and then ordered a cease fire. After the shooting stopped everyone on both sides watched as an aid to Washington walked across the battlefield under a flag of truce and returned the dog to his grateful owner.
The Obama family recently got a new puppy, and Sasha and Malia named him “Bo.” This breed was picked because the Portuguese Water Dog is purported to be better for people with allergies. Bo is a black and white Portuguese Water Dog, and was six months old when he went to live at the White House. In light of that, I thought I would do this month’s breed profile on the Portuguese Water Dog.
The Portuguese Water Dog was first recognized by the AKC in 1981, so they are a relatively new breed to the AKC. They are a member of the working group and the size standard for the breed is a height of between 17 to 21 inches at the withers for females and 20 to 23 inches for males, with a weight of 35 to 50 pounds for females and between 42 and 60 pounds for males. The reason for the diverse size ranges are due to the fact that smaller dogs were better suited to smaller ships, and large dogs were better suited for larger ships. Their lifespan is between ten and fourteen years of age.
In their native country of Portugal, they are known by three names. Cao de Agua, which means “dog of water,” is the main name they are known by. The two other names are Cao de Ague de Pelo Encaradolado, which is the name given to the curly coated variety, and Cao de Agua de Pelo Ondulado, the name given to the long-haired variety of water dog. Their duties included being a courier between ship and shore and from ship to ship, as well as retrieving lost nets or tackle, and herding fish into nets. They were even used by the Portuguese in the frigid waters of Iceland when the fleets sailed there to bring saltwater codfish back to Portugal.
According to the AKC, the Portuguese Water Dog was originally bred to be “a calm, intelligent breed of fine temperament, rugged and robust, with a profuse non-allergenic, non-shedding, waterproof coat, and webbed feet; he is an ideal outdoor dog, capable of limitless work.” They come in many colors including black, brown, white, black and white, brown and white, black and silver, brown black and white, and brown brindle. There are several theories that Portuguese Water Dogs and Poodles come from the same genetic lineage. The Portuguese Water Dog is shown in two clips: the lion clip and the working-retriever clip, and there are fans of both.
By the early 20th century, the numbers of the Portuguese Water Dog had dwindled and the breed was on the verge of extinction. This was due to advances in fishing and getting away from the fishing traditions that had been in place for many years. Thanks to the efforts of Vasco Bensuade, a wealthy Portuguese shipping magnate with a fondness for dogs, the breed was saved. Because of his efforts a breed standard was written. Bensuade’s first dog Leao, (which means lion) became the founding sire of a kennel that Bensuade set up. After his death, Algarbiorum Kennel was acquired by Conchita Branco, who was a former lady bullfighter.
However, despite Bensuade’s best efforts the Portuguese Water Dog was again on the verge of extinction in the 1960’s, as there were only about 50 dogs in existence in the world. Fate stepped in again, in the form of Deyanne and Herbert Miller, Jr. Due to the persistence of the Millers, the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America was formed in 1972 with fourteen other breeders. The breed was admitted to the AKC in June of 1981 under the miscellaneous category, and in 1983 they were admitted to the working group.
Today I am happy to report that there are over 5000 Portuguese Water Dogs, so it doesn’t seem like it will be going away soon. If you want an active dog that loves to work and swim, this may be the breed for you.
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The personal opinions and/or use of trade, firm, corporation or brand names, in this blog is for the information and convenience of the reader. Such use does not constitute an official endorsement or approval by CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company of any product or service to the exclusion of others that may be suitable. All opinions in this blog are those of the individual authors and not necessarily of CANIDAE® Natural Pet Food Company.