But between the pile of suitcases – plus seven Romneys – there was no room left inside the car for another family member, an Irish Setter named Seamus.
So the future governor of Massachusetts and Republican presidential candidate did what any responsible pet parent would do. He put Seamus in a carrier and strapped him to the roof of the station wagon.
It’s true – the Boston Globe first reported this in June 2007. Romney had built a windshield-like device to protect Seamus, but it broke off early in the trip. At one point, his oldest son, Trigg, yelled “Dad! Gross!” and his other sons “howled in disgust” as a brown liquid trickled down the rear window.
According to the Globe story, Romney stopped at a gas station, where he hosed down Seamus and the car. He then put his wet dog back in the rooftop crate and hit the road again.
“Poor Seamus Romney,” wrote Globe columnist Scot LeHigh after the story was published. “Who, really, can blame Seamus, riding up there alone and forgotten, eyeing each approaching overpass and anxiously wondering if Mitt had calculated the clearances correctly, while the rest of the Romneys were safely ensconced in the vehicle below.”
Although Romney wasn’t cited, Massachusetts’ animal-cruelty law prohibits animals from being transported “in or upon a vehicle, or otherwise, in an unnecessarily cruel or inhuman manner or in a way and manner which might endanger the animal carried thereon.”
“If you wouldn’t strap your child to the roof of your car, you have no business doing that to the family dog,” Ingrid Newkirk, president of People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) told Time Magazine in the June 2007 article, “Romney’s Cruel Canine Vacation.” The article compared Romney to Clark Griswold from the 1983 movie, “National Lampoon’s Vacation.” Griswold infamously tied his aunt’s dog to the bumper of the family station wagon during a roadside picnic stop … and then forgot to untie him.
Newkirk called Romney’s action “a lesson in cruelty that was … wrong for [his children] to witness…Thinking of the wind, the weather, the speed, the vulnerability, the isolation on the roof, it is commonsense that any dog who’s under extreme stress might show that stress by losing control of his bowels: that alone should have been sufficient indication that the dog was, basically, being tortured.”
Romney countered Newkirk’s accusations during a campaign stop later that month in Pittsburgh. He said PETA was “not happy that my dog likes fresh air,” and insisted Seamus loved riding on the roof of the car.
“He scrambled up there every time we went on trips. He got in all by himself and enjoyed it,” Romney said.
The good news is that Seamus survived the hours-long trip to Ontario. According to the Toronto Star, because he had a tendency to wander off the Romneys’ Boston property, Seamus was sent to live with Romney’s sister in California, who had lots of room for the Irish Setter to roam.
The good news for Romney – at least until this week — is that this story has pretty much been buried since 2007, although New York Times columnist Gail Collins has attempted to keep it alive by bringing it up every time she writes about the candidate.
“Maybe we could get over his driving to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car if he’d just admit it was because he was too cheap to hire a dog sitter,” Collins wrote on December 1. “Maybe.”
PHOTO: Matthew Reichbach