WASHINGTON (AP) – Forget the nuclear launch codes and the president’s BlackBerry address. The most tightly kept secret at the White House is the first pooch’s identity and arrival.

White House aides kept mum Saturday about when President Barack Obama might welcome a new puppy to the executive mansion. That didn’t stop celebrity Web sites and bloggers from tossing out rumors; one site even claimed it had pictures of the future first pet.

The president, for his part, embraced the frenzy: “Oh, man, now, that’s top secret,” Obama joked Friday to reporters.

Celebrity Web site TMZ.com reported Saturday that the Obamas would get a black-and-white Portuguese Water Dog on Tuesday from the same lineage as Sen. Ted Kennedy’s pets. TMZ did not cite its source on a report that also said the six-month-old pet was named Charlie, but Obamas would change that.

FirstDogCharlie.com instantly went online.

Administration aides said they had nothing to announce about pets on Saturday, but added the dog is not yet at the White House. They would not say when the dog was due to arrive.

The administration’s schedule offers some clues: Monday brings scores of visitors to the White House’s South Lawn for the annual Easter Egg Roll; aides don’t want the puppy to compete with that for news coverage.

The same aides also realize the choice of puppy has become a major news story for a White House that is also confronting an economic crisis, wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and its first budget. The puppy choice has been eagerly awaited not only by the first daughters, but by dog lovers as a break from the dire headlines.

Obama promised his daughters, 10-year-old Malia and 7-year-old Sasha, a puppy during the campaign.

“This is Washington. That was a campaign promise,” Obama said when he appeared on Jay Leno’s talk show last month, as the audience roared with laughter. “No, I’m teasing. The dog will be there shortly.”

Obama and his wife, Michelle, have said the choice is down to either a Portuguese Water Dog or a Labradoodle. (LabradoodlesForObama.com held out hope on Saturday.)

Obama said he expected the pet to be in place by the time he returned from his eight-day Europe trip, but no canine greeted him when he returned to Washington early Wednesday.

Obama even got a question about the puppy during a town hall-style event in Strasbourg, France.

“It should be there soon,” he replied.

AP-ES-04-11-09 1805EDT

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