MIDWAY : Dogs with a difference

A friend once overheard a conversation I was having with a passer-by about my dog, Henry, and afterwards turned to me in amazement. “I can’t believe what you just said. I didn’t know your dog didn’t do that. He’s the perfect dog. Why doesn’t everybody have one?” Flattered, I muttered something about how quite a few breeds didn’t shed. “Oh, shed,” she said. “I thought you said they didn’t shit.” A Portuguese water dog, on those grounds alone, is not perfect. In fact, the breed is prone to an upset digestive system.

Even so, the Obamas have made a good choice. A labradoodle, another hypo-allergenic breed which the first family considered, is fine in so far as it goes. But a Portuguese water dog, or a PWD as they are known among breeders, is clearly a miracle among canines.

The new first dog will have webbed feet. It will do front crawl. It will

carry a shoe or a hat or a glove in its mouth for every waking hour. It will frequently give every impression of being a person zipped up in a dog suit.

It may even, like ours, sing along to a harmonica. It will be endlessly affectionate and tirelessly energetic. Ah yes ... tirelessly energetic. “From the size perspective,” Michelle Obama reckoned, “they’re sort of middle of the road — it’s not small, but it’s not a huge dog.” It’s a duty to point out that PWDs do, vary in their behaviour.

Sasha, 7, and Malia, 10, will hopefully be bowled over only in a good way. And one assumes there aren’t many sheep on Capitol Hill to be chased or barbecues to demolish. Our dog once rounded a bush in a relative’s garden with a live and still just about struggling chicken in his mouth (the chicken survived but was very quiet for a long time afterwards). The Obamas should also watch out for the paintwork. A PWD, standing on its hind legs and keen to be let out, can do considerable damage to a back door. Keep food out of reach too.

I have never forgiven ours for eating one end of the football pitch-shaped birthday cake I toiled over for my six-year-old’s birthday. Fantastic dog, though, Mr President. And one day, maybe, they will breed one which doesn’t shit, at which time the Portuguese water dog really will have the whole man’s-best-friend thing entirely sewn up.