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.