I don’t go in much for conspiracy theories, but there’s something troubling about the new First Dog. As you may have heard, it’s a Portuguese Water Dog, a breed that you probably hadn’t heard of until Bo Obama landed on the public stage. If you read news reports about the dog, down around the third paragraph or so you will almost certainly see a sentence like this one below used to explain the origins of the breed:
The Portuguese Water Dog found its way into recorded history in 1297, showing up in a monk’s report of a drowning sailor who had been pulled from the sea by a dog with a “black coat, the hair long and rough, cut to the first rib and with a tail tuft.”
I’ve been trying for the past week to verify the claim, and I can’t. I’ll admit to being no expert on Iberian peninsula medieval history, but can’t track down the purported chronicle account, and I’m pretty sure it doesn’t actually exist.
Even were I to find it, I don’t see why this monk’s report is taken as a definite reference to the Portuguese Water Dog. Porties aren’t the only long-coated water dogs from the Iberian peninsula. There’s also the Spanish Water Dog, a poor neglected breed whose Wikipedia page is suffering a serious case of non-Obama-first-dog-having-itis.*
The earliest reference to the monk’s account that I’ve been able to track down is found in the 1986 book, The Complete Portuguese Water Dog. It is this book that is cited as the source for the official Portuguese breed web page, and from there it’s been carried to Wikipedia and then on to the third paragraphs mentioned above–usually almost verbatim. But the original book never mentions the name of the chronicle the account is supposedly taken from, nor does it even indicate where the chronicle was written or its original language.**
It is fun, however, watching how news stories garble this 1986 factoid. They know there’s a monk, a sailor, a dog and a chronicle, but from telling to telling the word “Portuguese” (and sometimes “Spanish”) migrates from one to the other. People just can’t decide whether it’s a Portuguese monk, a Portuguese chronicle, a Portuguese dog, or a Portuguese sailor that they’re talking about.
At any rate, I remain suspicious. Why would a medieval pedigree suddenly appear in a book published in 1986? If I were to indulge my inner tinfoil hat wearing self, I might suspect that it has something to do with the Spanish Water Dog’s first official recognition by the Spanish Kennel Club, which came about in 1985. Faced with the threat of another water dog, Portuguese enthusiasts could have doubled-down on the special uniqueness of their breed. Dog club people are very territorial that way.***
In today’s political climate, the distinction between the Portuguese and Spanish Water Dogs is probably of particular importance, since the other name for the Spanish Water Dog is the Andalusian Turk, and as we all know, al-Andalus is the name that the Muslims called Iberia when it was under their dominion. It is quite possible that the Obamas bought a Muslim dog and the whole Portuguese thing is a smokescreen. This is just further proof of the liberal bias of the MSM. If the Bushes had bought a Portie, you know that Keith Olbermann would have been demanding to see the dog’s kennel club registration from day one.
*Seriously, the Portuguese page is about four times as long and has recently received a thorough expansion.
**The only Portuguese chronicles I’m aware of were written in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries. While I might trust them about royal chronologies–who was king when, etc.–I’d be pretty skeptical of the accuracy and authenticity of shaggy dog stories contained within.
***Full disclosure: one of my wife’s grandmothers is a Portuguese Water Dog breeder–at one point breeder of the year according to some trade magazine or other. [These are her hands holding one of her dogs, when it was entered at Westminster.] Incidentally, the Portie breeders have known for months that Obama was getting a PWD. A dog breed that rare doesn’t just show up at the kennel one day.