Romney’s Dog Story Will Make You Hit the Roof


Cindy Casares Portrait

Now that Rick Perry has come to his senses and dropped out of the presidential race, we can turn our attention to the other Republican candidates as the Texas primary approaches. (Well, it might be approaching, assuming federal courts can sort out the redistricting mess.)

Speaking of coming to one’s senses, what is wrong with you, America, that you are even considering voting for Republican front runner Mitt Romney who TIED THE FAMILY DOG TO THE ROOF OF HIS CAR FOR A 12 HOUR ROAD TRIP? Yes, I used all- caps because that is how horrified I am by this story. The first time I read it, I happened to be suffering from a bout of insomnia. I often lie in bed during those times and surf the net on my phone. I made the mistake of going down this rabbit hole one of those fateful nights and, suffice to say, I did not get back to sleep.

The story, it turns out, happened almost 30 years ago, in 1983, and was first reported by the Boston Globe, as relayed to them by Romney’s eldest son Tagg, and later corroborated by Romney himself. Romney, then 36, was driving his family to Ontario, Canada for a summer vacation at his parents’ cottage on Lake Huron. The Globe reports:

Before beginning the drive, Mitt Romney put Seamus, the family’s hulking Irish setter, in a dog carrier and attached it to the station wagon’s roof rack. He’d built a windshield for the carrier, to make the ride more comfortable for the dog.

Then Romney put his boys on notice: He would be making predetermined stops for gas, and that was it.

Ah, yes. The infamous “predetermined stops”. With five boys under age 13, what could be more desirous in a father than an inflexible, compassion-free automaton?

The story goes on to say that it was Tagg who first noticed Seamus defecating down the side of the car.

”Dad!” he yelled. ”Gross!” A brown liquid was dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who’d been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.

As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station. There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management.

Let’s analyze this, kids. Why do you think the dog was struck with a sudden bout of diarrhea? Was he, oh I don’t know, literally scared shitless? Excuse my French, but the act of torturing a defenseless animal deserves no mincing of words. The only thing that turns my stomach more than animal cruelty is the idea that this same person would be in charge of our nation’s uninsured kids, immigrants, unemployed, and otherwise defenseless or disenfranchised populations.

Here’s what’s even more disturbing: The Romney family members told and retold this story to the Boston Globe because they thought it was a charming anecdote that would humanize him to the public. They really don’t think he did anything cruel or inhumane.

While many people have written about the story, including New York Times columnist Gail Collins, who now makes it a personal goal to bring it up whenever possible, she along with most journalists have approached the story with ridicule. While the image of tying anyone to the top of a car on a family vacation calls to mind images of Chevy Chase tying his deceased Aunt Edna to the car in the movie National Lampoon’s Vacation, (Which coincidentally came out the same year this story happened, weird, huh? ), this was no joke. The dog was not dead and this amounts to nothing short of torture.

Still, even some of America’s most devoted political minds see it only as trivia. From an NPR report on Collins’ obsession with the dog story:

Collins mentioned the dog so often that Dartmouth political science professor Brendan Nyhan started keeping a running tally. “She’s trying to be funny — I get that. I appreciate a good campaign story as much as the next person,” Nyhan said. “But I do think it’s representative of the way that the media focuses on trivia, things that are so inconsequential. Mitt Romney is not running for dogcatcher — he’s running for president of the United States.”

This is the absence of mind that baffles me. How can anyone, dog lover or not, put a living being on the top of a vehicle going at least 55 miles per hour for more than 12 hours?

Perhaps most disconcerting is that Romney continues to insist the dog loved it despite the diarrheic evidence to the contrary “Peta’s not happy that my dog likes fresh air,” he quipped in New Hampshire in 2008 after the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals went on record along with the ASPCA to say you should never travel with your dog on the outside of your car. (Duh.) Then he defended the move to Fox News’ Chris Wallace who, admittedly, tried to put the screws to him.

I have an idea. Let’s strap Mitt Romney to the top of my car this summer. I’ll drive 12 hours; I promise to stop once and hose him off. If, by the end of the 12-hour drive, he’s still cool with riding on the roof, then I’ll let this go.