Portuguese Water Dogs, PWD, or Porties, once faced extinction with only 25 known dogs. Today, this breed is as popular as ever. Recent notoriety has come with the choice of a Portuguese Water Dog as a possible resident in Obama’s Whitehouse. This loveable breed has found fame at the side of Senator Ted Kennedy and in his children’s book, My Senator and Me featuring Senator Kennedy’s Portuguese Water Dog, Splash. It is believed the Portuguese Water Dog existed in pre-Christian times, there were severe penalties for anyone who killed a water dog during this period . The first written evidence of the Portuguese Water Dog according to the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, is the description left by a monk writing in 1297 about a dying Irish sailor brought out of the sea by a Portuguese Water Dog.
The Portuguese Water Dog, or Cao de Aqua (Kown-d’Ahgwa) in Portugal literally means dog of the water. Once found everywhere up and down the coast of Portugal, the breed was highly valued by fisherman. Portuguese Water Dogs were trained to herd fish into nets much like cattle dogs and sheepdogs were trained to herd livestock. Portuguese Water Dogs were also trained to retrieve nets and equipment and are capable of diving underwater. The Portuguese Water Dog also did important service as a courier between boats and shore and boats and other boats. As commercial fishing took hold, the need for the Portuguese Water Dog as an integral part of the fishing industry came to an end leading to near extinction of the breed.
According to the Portuguese Water Dog Club of America, the breed owes its survival to a wealthy Portuguese businessman named Vasco Bensuade. Bensuade had heard stories of the magnificent Portuguese Water Dog and in 1937 set out to acquire one of the remaining dogs from a fisherman and to begin breeding. In 1968, the first Portuguese Water Dog arrived in America, and by 1984, the first Portuguese Water Dog won best in show.
The Portuguese Water Dog is highly prized because it is one of the few breeds that do not shed making them an excellent choice for families with allergies. President Barak ‘s Obama’s daughter suffers dog allergies which is why Senator Ted Kennedy suggested the Portuguese Water Dog for the Whitehouse. The Portuguese Water Dog no longer plays a part in the fishing industry but they retain there agility in the water. In San Francisco, there is an organization called B.A.R.K, Baseball Aquatic Retrieval Korps, made up mostly of Portuguese Water Dogs. The Portuguese Water Dogs of B.A.R.K., dive into Mc Covey Cove next to the San Francisco Giants ball park and retrieve balls during batting practice and homerun balls that land in the water. Many of the balls landing in the water by the ball park were home runs hit by Barry Bonds, the balls that the Portuguese Water Dogs of B.A.R.K retrieve are sold for fundraising purposes to benefit pets in need. The Portuguese Water Dog may no longer be helping the fisherman of Portugal but they are busy helping other canines.