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Portuguese water dog owners fear Obama effect

Will Obamas make breed too popular?

It's nothing against the Obamas. But some Portuguese water dog owners aren't thrilled the breed is a front-runner for the first family.

The choice could mean a spike in the dogs' popularity — and that could mean a rise in shady breeders and fickle owners who don't understand the dogs and eventually abandon them, owners of Portuguese water dogs say.

"There's always the danger of something like that," said Stu Freeman, president of the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America. "It's 101 Dalmatians syndrome."

After that movie came out, "everyone thought, 'aren't they cute,' " ran out and bought the dogs and found out they were not quite as adorable as the ones in the movie, Freeman said.

First lady Michelle Obama told People magazine that the family is looking to rescue a Portuguese water dog in April, though her press secretary said Thursday that the decision isn't final. President Barack Obama had also mentioned a Labradoodle as an appealing choice.

"They have their favorites — with the Portuguese water dog being a top contender — but there hasn't been a selection yet," Katie McCormick Lelyveld said.

In 1998, the breed ranked 82nd in popularity, according to American Kennel Club registration statistics. Ten years later, they were ranked 62nd.

"With the way the economy is now, animal shelters are seeing a dramatic increase in the number of abandoned animals," said Daphna Nachminovitch of PETA. "It's certainly not a time to make more dogs."

The way to get down Broadway: walk

Two heavily used swaths of New York City's Broadway will become pedestrian plazas in May to help reduce traffic and pollution, an experiment that could become permanent. Last summer, the city designated two lanes of Broadway for bikes and a public esplanade between 35th and 42nd streets, but now the concept is being taken a step further. Broadway will be closed to vehicles at Times Square, from 42nd to 47th streets. A couple of blocks at Herald Square, 33rd to 35th streets, also will be closed. The plan is to allow amenities like cafe tables and benches. "I think it's great. There are too many cars," Jenny Wong, who works at a hotel in Times Square, told the New York Times. "Can we get rid of the pigeons too?"

Footprints point to early upright stride

More than a million years ago, an ancient human ancestor walked across a sandy plain in eastern Africa, leaving footprints that scientists now hail as the earliest evidence of upright walking. The footprints, dated to between 1.51 million and 1.53 million years ago, were discovered at Ileret, Kenya, researchers report in today's edition of the journal Science. With a large toe parallel to other toes, the prints indicate a modern upright stride. They are likely to have been made by the early hominid Homo ergaster or Homo erectus. Older footprints, dating to 3.6 million years ago found in Tanzania, have been attributed to Australopithecus afarensis. Those indicate upright posture but a shallower arch and divergent big toe.

Portuguese water dog owners fear Obama effect 02/26/09 [Last modified: Thursday, February 26, 2009 8:33pm]
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