The Obama Family’s First Dog, Bo, Has Died

President Obama greets Bo outside the Oval Office in 2012. Photo: Martin H. Simon/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Former president Barack Obama announced on Saturday that his family’s beloved dog, Bo, has died at the age of 12. The Portuguese water dog had been fighting cancer, Michelle Obama said. “Our family lost a true friend and loyal companion,” President Obama said in an Instagram post. “He was exactly what we needed and more than we ever expected. We will miss him dearly.”

While running for president, Barack and Michelle Obama had promised his two daughters that they would get a puppy whether he won or lost the race, and the then-candidate talked about the promise on the campaign trail. A few months after the Obama family moved into the White House in 2009, Senator Ted Kennedy gave them Bo as a gift (he was named after the blues legend Bo Diddley). Bo, who was widely respected across the country as a very good dog, quickly became a popular fixture and sometimes mascot of the Obama White House, and he seemed to handle the celebrity of being a presidential pet like a Portuguese water dog to, well, water. (And there were no biting incidents.)

Members of the White House press corps surround Bo in the Rose Garden of the White House in June 2009. Photo: Brendan Smialowski/Getty Images

Michelle Obama wrote on Instagram Saturday that while “Bo was supposed to be a companion for the girls” when they got him, “We had no idea how much he would mean to all of us”:

For more than a decade, Bo was a constant, comforting presence in our lives. He was there when the girls came home from school, greeting them with a wag. He was there when Barack and I needed a break, sauntering into one of our offices like he owned the place, a ball clamped firmly in his teeth. He was there when we flew on Air Force One, when tens of thousands flocked to the South Lawn for the Easter Egg Roll, and when the Pope came to visit. And when our lives slowed down, he was there, too—helping us see the girls off to college and adjust to life as empty nesters.

This past year, with everyone back home during the pandemic, no one was happier than Bo. All his people were under one roof again—just like the day we got him. I will always be grateful that Bo and the girls got to spend so much time together at the end.

In addition to his human family, Bo is survived by Sunny, another Portuguese water dog, whom the Obamas adopted in 2013.

Bo (left) and Sunny (right) in 2013. Photo: Pete Souza/White House via Getty Images
The Obama Family’s First Dog, Bo, Has Died