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The 21st annual H.H. Backer Pet Industry Spring Trade Show is at the Baltimore Convention Center this weekend, and I paid a visit to get some ideas of what new pet items are hot. One thing I learned is that doggy showers are a big trend now. I don't mean shower as in getting the dog clean, but as in giving gifts to the new pet owner, the way friends give expectant parents baby showers. Actually, it makes a lot of sense, because with any new pet there is a certain amount of gear that's needed to go with it.

So with that in mind, I started to think about the kind of gifts that FOB (Friends of Barack) might get the president when he brings his new dog home, as is expected when he returns from Europe. I talked with some of the pet show exhibitors and here some of the items we came up with:

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A DOOG Walkie Belt. These belts include pockets for sanitary wipes, poop bags, a clip for the dog leash, and, most important, a clip for the iPod. Company representatives Terri Huntington and Amy Scherr assured me that the front pocket is large enough to fit a Blackberry as well. And at $23, it won't break the budget.

A Pet Gear Steel Crate. Wise pet owners know the best way to train a puppy is to use a crate. But these deluxe models come with molded plastic lids, a comfort pad and easy-loading side doors. Even better, the crate folds flat and has wheels for easy travel, so next time the president flies off to Europe the first dog can come along, too. These crates are pricey, around $300, but the first dog deserves the finest.

A luxury bed. There were lots of dog beds at the show, in leopard prints, and hot pink and floral patterns. But Brian O'Donnell, owner of Snoozer Pet Products, has had experience with presidential dogs. He says the first President Bush's dog, Millie, slept on a Snoozer round bed. While Millie's bed cost a modest $75, O'Donnell recommends the lurxury sofa model with an orthopedic memory foam padding for the Obama dog. The bed retails for about $200. O'Donnell says he can offer the bed in 30 colors and have it emblazoned with the presidential seal.

Dog Layette set. No doggy shower would be complete without a doggy layette set. East River Group of New York offers a set that includes a squeaky toy, hat and sweater in a variety of colors and for every holiday. One problem is the sets will fit dogs only up to 20 pounds and the Obamas are talking of getting a labradoodle or Portuguese water dog that are bigger. But the layettes will be perferct for a puppy. They are priced at about $45.

Finally, every new baby needs toys and there were plenty to choose from at the show. Douglas Grabbe of Bridgeport, Conn., suggested a game where the dog must push aside plastic boxes to find hidden treats. Greg Nazimek with Katie's Bumpers offered his wide selection of fire hose dog toys, noting they are waterproof and are designed for training water dogs like the Portuguese water dog. And Anne Fernandez of Premier Pet Products suggested a wide range of stimulating puppy toys for Obama's new dog. "While the girls are in school and he is solving the world's problems and Michelle is in the garden, the puppy will need something to chew on. And our toys are better than Michelle's new shoes."

Photo: Dog with Katie's Bumpers fire hose toy

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