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Late-night host David Letterman has been giving the dog near-nightly shout-outs. There are parody Web videos, “Dogs Aren’t Luggage” T-shirts and Facebook groups. (“Dogs Against Romney,” which protested outside last month’s Westminster dog show, has more than 38,000 Facebook fans.) The New Yorker featured a cartoon, with Rick Santorum riding in Romney’s rooftop dog carrier, on its cover last week. In the five years since the story was revealed, New York Times columnist Gail Collins has mentioned Seamus in at least 50 columns.

On Wednesday, the top campaign adviser to Santorum injected the dog into the already bitter Republican presidential race.

In response to a question on CNN about Romney’s criticism of an ad being aired by a super PAC supporting Santorum, John Brabender said, “Quite frankly, I’m not sure I’m going to listen to the value judgment of a guy who strapped his dog to the top of the roof of his car and went hurling down the highway.”

Romney did not simply strap Seamus to the roof. He attached a dog carrier to the roof rack of the family’s Chevrolet station wagon — the “white whale,” as his boys called it — and assembled a shield to protect Seamus from the highway winds.

The Seamus story first surfaced in the Boston Globe in a chapter of a biographical series the newspaper published in 2007, when Romney first ran for president.

One summer day in 1983, as the Globe reported, the overpacked Romney wagon — suitcases, supplies and five sons, ages 13 and under — set off from Boston for the 12-hour trek to his parents’ cottage in Ontario on the Canadian shores of Lake Huron. Romney, then a 36-year-old management consultant, had planned a single stop to refill the tank, get food and go to the bathroom.

Until the evidence of Seamus’s sickness started dripping down the back window.

“Dad!” Tagg, the eldest son, yelled from the back of the wagon. “Gross!”

Romney pulled off the highway, washed down Seamus and the car at a service station, then got back on the highway.

The reactions

To some animal lovers, the story is an example of cruelty.

“It really says this guy is not like us and is mean,” said Scott Crider, an Alabama marketing guru who founded Dogs Against Romney.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter, a Romney supporter, said he did not know the story about Seamus but did not see any harm in an open-air ride.

“We carry our dogs around in the back of our pickup all the time,” Otter said. “I’ve got two dogs, and I just say, ‘Get in,’ and they jump in the back.”

Romney’s political opponents sense an opportunity. Former House speaker Newt Gingrich
raised the incident a few months ago with a campaign video attacking Romney.

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