Posted by: George | May 19, 2012

Dogs and Politics

In the coming presidential campaign, the ethical treatment of dogs will likely be a side issue, but an issue nonetheless. Neither candidate will mention dogs directly. We will, however, see pictures of the Obama family with the First Dog. We probably won’t see even one picture of Mitt with a dog, any dog. Dogs are mad at Mitt.

You’ve probably heard the story about the Romney family trip in 1983. Mitt, Ann, the boys, and the luggage were crammed inside the station wagon. Seamus, the family’s Irish Setter, was strapped to the roof in a dog carrier. At some point during a twelve-hour drive from Boston to Canada, Seamus came down with a bad case of diarrhea. Brown liquid began to appear on the windows. Ever calm in a crisis, Mitt pulled into a gas station, hosed down the dog and car, and got right back on the road.

So, now we have a Dogs Against Romney website and facebook page. The webpage sells bumper strickers, coffee mugs, and mouse pads. The facebook page, when I checked this morning, had 54,749 likes.

As this side issue has gained some attention, the Romney family and the Romney campaign have tried to mitigate the event, hoping not to lose the dog-lover vote, like they have already pretty much lost the women vote (over vaginal probes) and the Latino vote (over immigration).

Ann said that Seamus actually loved riding on the roof. This sounds a little like poor people loving the dignity of being poor, or like Barbara Bush saying that Katrina evacuees living on cots in Houston shelter actually had it pretty good.

Ann also said Seamus lived to a “ripe old age,” though some accounts claim the dog ran away once the Romney family hit Canada. The dog sought political asylum, no doubt.

Mitt said the car was crowded. Well, then, why not tie the luggage to the luggage rack on the roof and let Seamus ride inside? A luggage rack should be able to handle luggage at least as well as a dog carrier.

The Romney campaign launched the counter claim that Obama ate dog when he was about nine or ten, living in Indonesia. At the White House Correspondents Dinner, Obama countered this counter with a joke: “What is the difference between a Hockey Mom and a Pitbull? Pitbulls are delicious.” Obama would have probably been better off not waking this sleeping issue.

Some people have commented on how the dog on the station wagon roof reminded them of Clark Griswold driving off with Dinky, his dog, tied to the car bumper or Clark strapping a recently dead Aunt Edna to the roof in National Lampoon’s Vacation.

It reminds me of Randall Jarrell’s “The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner.” During World War II, the ball turret gunner manned a machine gun on the underside of B-17’s and B-24’s. It was a particularly dangerous job. Jarrell ends his five-line poem with this: “When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.”

Here is my reworking of the Jarrell poem in honor of Seamus:


                The Ride of the Irish Setter

From the Romney yard I was lashed to the roof

And I hunched in the cage until my wet fur froze,

Six miles from Flint, loosed from my life’s last meal,

I woke to black flies and the nightmare June Bugs.

When I crapped Mitt washed me off the roof with a hose.


I know Flint was not on the Romney vacation route. I just like how it sounds.


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