I want to congratulate President-Elect Obama for stating that his daughters' dog will be a rescue or shelter dog. Hopefully his example will help set people straight on the realities of breeds and shelters. Too many people explain avoiding getting a shelter or rescue dog by saying they want a particular breed and that it's "impossible" to get a pure-bred from a shelter.
It is possible to get a particular breed from a shelter and not a puppy mill. We just won't usually have papers for the dog, so if you want the pure-bred for showing instead of playing, a shelter might not work. The Obamas probably won't want to show their dog in any sense other than "to the general public and media."
My shelter does get a lot of mixed breeds, especially pit bull mixes, we do get pure-bred dogs on occasion. People buy an expensive pure-bred and then decide they don't want to deal with the medical issues that pop up more often in pure-breds or just the normal issues that come with owning a dog. We had one very sweet bichon frise (one of the best dogs for those with allergies) whose owners gave him up simply because they didn't want to take the time to housetrain him. Apparently they thought canine babies were smarter than human babies.
One reason why it can be harder to find a particular breed at a shelter is that it takes patience and good timing. Pure-bred dogs simply adopt out faster than mixed breeds if it's a popular breed. Sadly pure-bred pit bulls do not adopt out as quickly as they should, though this is mostly due to ill-informed laws and an ill-informed public. Pit bulls, one of my favorite breeds, are a topic for a different post.
Even when we get a pure-bred dog who doesn't adopt out quickly, we often transfer pure-breds to rescue groups who specialize in that breed. Pure-breds are more likely to have certain types of issues than mutts. Plus, each pure-bred has their own mixture of inherent issues and needs that differ from other dogs. Bichon frises, while great for allergy sufferers because of how little dander they produce and shed, are more difficult to housetrain than some larger breeds. Rescue groups are often better able to handle these issues than a general shelter.
Obama's choice to get a dog from a shelter or rescue group is a splendid example. Fox Studios is already hosting adoption events inspired by Obama's choice. Their first event was behind the White House to spotlight the connection.
Whatever dog the Obamas adopt will live a lucky life. He'll have an entire country loving him, a large house and yard in which to play, and the best vets in the country. Hopefully he just enjoys the love and attention and teaches the Obama daughters the great lessons dogs have always taught their friends: laughter and affection are great cures for whatever scares you, the size of a person, dog, or country doesn't matter--a little dog can be friends with a large one, and responsibility can be rewarded with undying affection and devotion.