Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson
When First Lady Michelle Obama told White House florist Laura Dowling the whole First Family should be represented in this year's holiday decorations
, "I knew that meant Bo, too," Dowling says.
Forty thousand pipe cleaners and some 500 hours of twisting later, a four-foot-tall likeness of the President's Portuguese water dog is greeting visitors to the White House this holiday season.
"The real Bo came to the flower shop when we were just finished putting together Faux Bo," Dowling tells PEOPLE. "One of the butlers introduced them but I think Bo knew there were holiday baked goods in the office because he barely sniffed Faux Bo. But together, they make a striking pair."
And one with a don't-try-this-at-home pedigree.
Hardly a DIY project, Faux Bo is the product of a California artist who makes dog topiary frames and a White House volunteer who, by training, is an architect. "She took measurements of Bo and all his markings and the topiary made a custom frame for us," says Dowling.
About 80 volunteers spent between 500 and 600 hours twisting pipe cleaners into the wired, looped strands that make up Faux Bo's coat. "We had interns, volunteers and staffers taking pipe cleaners home with them to twist in front of the TV at night," says Dowling.
As for the other holiday decorations making their debut at the White House this week – elaborate fir trees and rosettes of dried oak leaves – Dowling says designers have nothing to fear from Bo. The real one. "Bo has to be one of the most well-behaved and sweetly-dispositioned dogs I've ever met. I've never heard of any problem with him getting into the plants."Read more about Bo on PEOPLEPets.com:Bo Obama Shakes Hands with Barbara WaltersTrainer: Obamas are 'Doing a Good Job' With Bo