A new relationship with animals, nature and each other.

In Case You Forgot about Seamus . . .

Seamus the dog, courtesy of Mitt sister Jane Romney

Gail Collins simply can’t turn down any opportunity to remind us of the time Mitt Romney strapped the family dog to the roof of the station wagon for the 12-hour family trek from Boston to Canada. (To be precise, Seamus was in a crate that was strapped to the roof.)

With her deft hand and a light touch, Collins has managed to work the Irish setter into 19 of her New York Times columns – four times this month alone . . .

Last month, writing about Rick Perry’s disastrous debate performances, she added that governor’s campaign team was planning to switch to negative advertising:

As things stand, the Perry camp is apparently planning to keep their guy in the background during debates and hit Romney over the head with mean commercials. That shouldn’t be too hard. Maybe they’ll include the day Mitt drove to Canada with the family dog on the car roof.

In May, asking what it is about Mitt that the Republican base just can’t abide:

What is it that everybody hates so much about this guy? That he pioneered the Obama health care reform plan in Massachusetts and now denies it? That he’s ardently anti-abortion after having run for governor vowing endlessly to protect abortion rights? That he drove to Canada with the family dog strapped on the roof of his car? Or is it just something about the hair?

In her last end-of-year quiz, she asks readers to match six presidential hopefuls with their 2010 achievements. The first three:

A) On a visit to Iowa, introduced his spouse to the audience as “my red-hot, smoking wife.”

B) Took six shots to kill a caribou that was, really, just standing there.

C) Continued to fail to explain why he drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car.

Two weeks earlier finds her talking about Christmas gifts for and about the candidates:

And while we’re expanding our horizons, I hope somebody out there is thinking about a tasteful Mitt Romney Christmas ornament, perhaps showing Mitt’s family vacation to Canada, with Seamus the dog strapped in his cage on the roof.

It started way back in the last election cycle when, in 2007, Collins suggested that John McCain pick Romney for his running mate “so I can repeatedly revisit the time Mitt drove to Canada with the family dog on the station-wagon roof.” When Sarah Palin was picked instead, she noted that “unlike Mitt Romney, [Palin] has never gone on vacation with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car.”

So, what is it about the story? Maybe that it captures the essence of Mitt’s management style. As the Boston Globe described the car ride:

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.

No discussion of why Seamus was having a seriously upset stomach on the roof. Nothing about what it takes in terms of wind speed and the vacuum effect of a crate that’s only open at one end (like when you drive along with the windows closed and the hatch open at the back) to cause the poop to pour out of the crate and down the back window. Nothing about the possibility of squeezing him into the car regardless.

The Globe also tells us that a few years later, since Seamus has wandered off from the house so many times and ended up at the pound, he sent him to live with his sister in California (which is where the photo at the top of this post was taken).

What does the story tell us about Mitt? That he’s uncaring to the point of active cruelty? That Seamus preferred fresh air and Mitt was simply being obliging? That it’s an example of Mitt’s exemplary problem-solving abilities?

It’s easy to get hooked on the Seamus anecdote. Gail Collins, who was once the editorial page editor of the New York Times and is now arguably the best and most readable of its columnists, just can’t leave the Seamus story alone. For better or worse – or both – it seems to capture the personality of the man who may be our next president.