— Where, oh where, have the little dogs gone? The little dog dolls, that is.
Bo, a Beanie Baby version of Barack Obama’s new presidential pooch, has been disappearing from shelves within hours of his arrival in stores. He has also become eBay’s latest pet project, with purchasers seeking double the doll’s $4.99 retail price online minutes after they buy it through retail outlets. Some are even asking more than $100.
The Bo Beanies, of course, are modeled after the Obamas’ new Portuguese water dog, a gift from Senator Edward Kennedy earlier this year. And while the similarities are obvious — the doll is advertised as “The First Dog” — there is no presidential seal of approval for the product.
Nonetheless, Ty Inc. introduced the stuffed animal on April 16, two days after Bo made his White House debut in a photo session with the president, first lady Michelle Obama and their daughters, 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha. Ty said the company will donate a portion of its profits from the "Bo" doll to local animal shelters.
Ty got into a bit of hot water in February after introducing dolls based on the Obama children, calling them Marvelous Malia and Sweet Sasha. Michelle Obama’s spokeswoman objected, saying “We believe it is inappropriate to use young private citizens for marketing purposes.”
The doll manufacturer hedged at first, saying through spokeswoman Tania Lundeen that “There’s nothing on the dolls that refers to the Obama girls.” She added: "It would not be fair to say they are exact replications of these girls. They are not."
But the dolls were soon renamed Marvelous Mariah and Sweet Sydney, in deference to Mrs. Obama’s wishes. The original Malia and Sasha dolls are now selling for more than $2,000 on eBay.
A Ty spokesperson has not returned a call seeking comment. And so far, the White House has not objected to the Bo dolls.
In Chicago, the Obamas’ hometown, Bo Beanie Babies are selling briskly. An employee of the Borders book store told the Chicago Sun-Times that last month’s initial shipment of 25 arrived around 4 p.m. and were all sold by 9 a.m. “It wasn’t even necessary to set up a (display) table,” said the worker.
In addition to the original Bo, Ty is marketing a larger version for $9.99, as well as Bo keychains that sell for $2.99
There are also Beanie Babies of the newly renamed Mariah and Sydney carrying a pet Bo.
As for the real Bo, his popularity is not limited to dolls. Mascot Books plans to publish “Bo, America’s Commander in Leash,” filled with stories about the First Dog learning about White House holiday traditions. And Bo has also been featured in an illustration on the cover of a recent issue of The New Yorker magazine.