Brow Beat

Did the Romney Family Dog Flee to Canada?

Mitt Romney is sniffed by a small dog while greeting supporters at a campaign event in front of a foreclosed home January 24, 2012 in Lehigh Acres, Florida.

Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Paging Gail Collins: the shameful tale of Seamus, Mitt Romney’s Irish setter—whom the candidate stuck in a crate and strapped to the roof of his car on a 12 hour ride to Canada—may have ended with a stroke of poetic justice. According to a piece on Politicker yesterday, Romney’s sons told reporters in an off-record conversation that the dog ran away when the family got to Ontario. Such a revelation, if true, gives the lie to Romney’s now nearly five-year-old claim that Seamus liked riding on top of the station wagon. (“He scrambled up there every time we went on trips,” the governor insisted. “He got it all by himself and enjoyed it.” To which we say: That is either one small station wagon or one very athletic dog).

Others have already disputed the idea that Seamus appreciated his wind-blown tours atop the family car. The 2007 Globe story describing the 1983 event recounted how Romney’s son at one point saw “a brown liquid … dripping down the back window, payback from an Irish setter who’d been riding on the roof in the wind for hours.” That Seamus suffered from diarrhea during the trip was taken as evidence that he and his owner disagreed about the wisdom of the travel arrangement. Earlier this week, an anti-Romney protest was held outside the Westminster dog show. And, in a Dan Savage-like move, Google users recently conspired to transform Romney’s name into a verb meaning “to defecate in fear.”

Is that fair, though? Do we know that Seamus defecated because he was afraid? We called a veterinarian and asked if it were possible that the dog just pooped because it needed to, without all the Sturm and Drang. Dr. Rawstrom of the MacArthur Animal Hospital in D.C. set us straight. “Dogs try to be clean, hygienic animals,” she said. “They prefer clean environments; that’s why one principle of crate training is to give them a space large enough to move around in but small enough that they don’t want to defecate inside.” Most housetrained (and healthy) dogs, she continued, will not poop on themselves. While Seamus could have “gone” out of desperation rather than fear, his runny stool indicates that he was experiencing high levels of stress. So, no, it’s not likely that the Irish setter was merely and unproblematically expressing his animal nature.

All this speculation may be moot, however, if Seamus voted with his feet and fled the premises. Mitt’s wife Ann has reassured everyone that the dog “lived to a ripe old age, basking in the affection of a large family.” We like to think he spent his golden years in Canada, an outlaw, never setting foot in or on or even near an automobile again.