First dog's father from Ambridge


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On a day when our nation's first puppy got acquainted with his White House surroundings, his father, Watson, lounged inside a strip mall in Ambridge.

Seemingly unaware of his progeny's sudden star status, Watson carried on as usual: napping, monitoring sidewalk traffic and nestling his head into customers walking through the door of 21st Century Media, his owner Craig Rader's home electronics business along Ohio River Boulevard.

The Raders got a phone call Sunday night during Easter dinner informing them that the Obamas had chosen 6-month-old Bo, a Texas-born Portuguese water dog and son of Watson, as their family pet.

"We're very shocked and surprised that we're now related to the Obamas -- through dog relations," said Susan Rader, at home in Ambridge yesterday with her sons, 4-year-old Garrett and 2-year-old Kyle.

Most days, 6-year-old Watson is your typical family pet, sleeping in his owners' bed at night and obligingly letting Kyle ride him like a horse.

But several times a year, he is used as a stud by his breeder, Julie Parker, who owns a kennel near Erie.

It was one of those meetings -- with a female dog named Penny in the dog days of August -- that produced Bo, known as Charlie until the Obama daughters re-named him, reportedly inspired by both their cousins' cat and Bo Diddley.

"She was a real nice little bitch, very sweet," said Ms. Parker, describing Penny. "We had no trouble."

Ms. Parker already gets far more requests to breed Watson than she is able to accommodate, she said, noting that he is desirable for both his even-keeled temperament and his classic water dog looks.

"He's got a lot of the qualities that make the breed identifiable -- a nice broad head, a lot of bone to him, a beautiful coat," said Ms. Parker, who charges about $1,900 for Watson's stud fee. "He brings a lot of things to the table for what you want to see in the next generation."

Earlier this year, U.S. Sen. Ted Kennedy chose another product of the same Watson-Penny union for his new puppy, Cappy. Two of Mr. Kennedy's other Portuguese water dogs have the same father and grandmother as Watson, the now-deceased Ben Hills Rogue Wade (known as Rudder) and Misty Meadow Miriah of Ben Hill, both of the Erie area.

Bo was originally bought by a different owner, who returned him to Art and Martha Stern, Penny's owners, because he didn't get along with her older dog.

At the suggestion of the Kennedy family, Bo was offered to the Obamas, who secretly met him earlier this year.

Because Ms. Parker and the Raders were under the impression that all of the "Watson children" from that litter had already been sold, the news that Bo was joining the first family caught them by surprise.

"I knew Martha had sold all the Watson puppies," said Ms. Parker. "I knew she didn't have any left. This hadn't crossed my mind."

If Bo is anything like Watson, the Obamas should have an ideal family pet, said Mr. Rader, though White House staffers should keep a close eye in the event that Bo inherited some of Watson's mischievous genetic material.

"He's done things I cannot even believe he's accomplished," said Mr. Rader, describing how Watson taught himself the risky trick of standing on the floor and reaching into the sink, flipping food out of the garbage disposal.

And though Ms. Parker is concerned about the breed's increasing popularity, she believes the shaggy black dog conceived on her property will be a good fit in the White House.

"I'm very pleased," she said. "I think they're going to have a fabulous dog."


Anya Sostek can be reached at asostek@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1308.


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