Traveling first class.

One of my old boyfriends had a father who used to take the family on long car trips. Like lots of dads, he didn’t like to stop once he got a head of steam going. For anything. He made them — we’re talking four boys here — pee into Coke bottles; only number two would get him to pull over.

That said, he was a kitten compared to Mitt Romney:

Before beginning the (12-hour drive with the family from Boston to Ontario), 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.

The ride was largely what you’d expect with five brothers, ages 13 and under, packed into a wagon they called the ”white whale.”

As the oldest son, Tagg Romney commandeered the way-back of the wagon, keeping his eyes fixed out the rear window, where he glimpsed the first sign of trouble. ”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.

Call me Tony Soprano, but: Poor Seamus.

One of the first lessons you learn in the newspaper business is how cracked people are about animals. Animals and dead babies, but mainly animals. When something bad happens to a kid, readers are outraged, but if that happens to a dog or cat, multiply the outrage by 10. Or 100. Even stories about bad animals — say, a pit-bull fighting-ring bust, accompanied by photos of menacing-looking pits with scars and demi-ears and spiked collars — will get the phones jingling with bleeding hearts offering to take those poor animals in and retire them to the countryside.

It’s easy to laugh at these folks, and I have, but after a time I came to accept it. We love animals, and this is not a bad thing. I get upset when they’re valued higher than people, but as we see from the case of Mitt Romney, sometimes a dog’s life is nobler and worth more on the karmic scale.

Something I’ve noticed, and it’s entirely anecdotal so take it for what it’s worth, but: The more religious a person is, the lower their regard for animals. Living in Amish country pretty much stripped away every last shred of romance I might have felt for the Amish, but nothing flayed my expectations like learning that the Amish are a prime force behind puppy-mill dog breeding. To them, dogs are just another form of livestock.

And yes, I know how easy it is to go the other way, as a glance down the “pet clothing” aisle at Target will attest. In my dealings with critters, I’ve tried to take my cue from the many excellent professional trainers I’ve been privileged to know, who understand dogs and horses better than anyone. All were kind but firm, and understood a dog is not a child. A dog is a dog.

Still, none of them ever strapped theirs to the goddamn roof of the car.

Strap him to the damn car, is what I say.

OK, bloggage: I told you the glycol story was scary. Not that I would ever say, “I told you so,” but…

I don’t have the patience to read about Amy Winehouse. Someone who knows more, please tell me if I need to care about her or if I can just wait for the obituary.

P.S. I realize this space has been Tops in Lameness of late, but stay with me: I believe we have depths still to plumb.

Posted at 8:53 am in Current events |

16 responses to “Traveling first class.”

  1. LA mary said on June 28, 2007 at 9:16 am

    Amy Winehouse will survive without your attention or mine. I’ve heard enough of her to know I won’t be spending 99 cents to put her into the IPod. Not horrible, just not, um, there.

    Have you read any Temple Grandin stuff about animals? I picked up Animals in Translation as my official handbag book to read while waiting or eating lunch or whatever.

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  2. Dorothy said on June 28, 2007 at 9:22 am

    That sounds familiar, Mary. I think my son might have gotten it for me for Christmas. It’s on the on-deck shelf at home, which I’ll check after work today.

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  3. Jason said on June 28, 2007 at 10:09 am

    His family must think that anecdote about Mitt Romney is “endearing.” They’re wrong. It’s creepy and it makes him sound like a control freak.

    Also, Mitt Romney’s father was the one-time president of AMC. Shouldn’t he have been driving a Jeep Grand Wagoneer? Now there’s a car that an Irish setter would be proud to pee on.

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  4. Mary T. said on June 28, 2007 at 10:13 am

    I don’t think of my animals as my “children” either. But I would never even dream of putting one of them on the roof of my car, I don’t care about “windscreen” or no windscreen. It would terrify them! I also read today that what he did was in violation of state animal cruelty laws. It’s just insane that they did that.

    As for the Amish, I’m more concerned about how they get away with abusing their kids. Whole culture freaks me out.

    Finally, Amy Winehouse is an amazing talent. My personal opinion is that you’re missing out.

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  5. john c said on June 28, 2007 at 10:32 am

    Am I the only one who read that and remembered the scene from Family Vacation? Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) chains Aunt Edna’s dog to the bumper while he’s packing the car. Cut the family rolling down the highway, and Clark wondering if anyone else can hear that jangling noise. Cut to the Griswold wagon being pulled over by an enraged cop holding a shredded dog collar saying: “The little fella tried to keep up for the first mile or so.” This was back when Chevy Chase was still funny. And he nailed the look of creepy, heebie-jeebie, holy schneikies shock when he realized what the cop was talking about. Sick but very, very funny,

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  6. LA mary said on June 28, 2007 at 11:22 am

    Aunt Edna was on the roof after she died, wasn’t she? She didn’t have any nice windshield like Mitt’s dog had.

    When I had my first Great Dane, I was driving a 1969 VW beetle. He used to sit in the back seat with his paws on the backs of the two front seats, and stick his head out the sunroof. Big dog lips, flapping in the wind, barking at pedestrians when we stopped at traffic lights, it was quite a sight.

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  7. John said on June 28, 2007 at 12:44 pm

    Imogene Coca, she was a great entertainer!

    Didn’t Brian say he was loading everyone in the car and driving non-stop to Hersey?

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  8. Dorothy said on June 28, 2007 at 1:11 pm

    Let’s hope they all have their own seat belts, right John?! And nothing except maybe a luggage carrier is strapped to the roof!

    Maybe the Romney’s wear Depends on their family trips now. Perhaps even the dog?

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  9. John said on June 28, 2007 at 1:51 pm

    Those “special” Mormon Depends?

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  10. LA mary said on June 28, 2007 at 3:19 pm

    Do Mormon Depends go all the way up to the neck? There’s so much about that idea that is nasty.

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  11. Dorothy said on June 28, 2007 at 3:22 pm

    Maybe they go all the way to the ankle. Gravity and all that.

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  12. Marcia said on June 28, 2007 at 3:23 pm

    I like Amy Winehouse. So what.

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  13. wade said on June 29, 2007 at 9:48 am

    I’m with Marcia and Mary T – Amy Winehouse is happenin’.

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  14. Carmella said on June 29, 2007 at 4:28 pm

    …they tried to make me go to rehab but I said no no no…

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  15. Dave said on June 29, 2007 at 9:36 pm

    Strap the dog to the roof, a straight-out, scumbag thing to do. There, I’ve said it.

    Up until five minutes ago, I’d never heard of Amy Winehouse.

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  16. LA mary said on July 3, 2007 at 8:00 pm

    I’d like to see him try to strap my boxer/dane mix to the roof. Heh. heh.

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