March 6th, 2012

A dog starved at his master’s gate
Predicts the ruin of the state.

William Blake, Auguries of Innocence, 1803.

The story of Mitt Romney once forcing his dog to travel a long distance in a hutch tied to his car roof has been getting traction. Rightly so, as it encapsulates something peculiar about him. Contrast Newt Gingrich, plainly a very unpleasant man, worse than Romney on most moral dimensions. But consider. Newt is arrogant, selfish, greedy, priapic and hypocritical. But then so am I, and so are you – hypocrite lecteur, mon semblable, mon frère – and our worst in-laws, up to a point. We trust that we all either have a weaker temptation to these vices, or better brakes, from our entourage, conscience, prudence, self-awareness or common sense. Still, I can see myself as Newt on a very bad day.

Romney arouses a different reaction. There is simply no way most of us could ever have treated a dog like that. It raises horrid echoes of the childhoods of psychopaths like Ian Brady and Jeffrey Dahmer.

Romney has been getting less popular as he campaigns. Some of this is no doubt due to his relentless opportunism. But isn’t there also a feeling that something was left out of the box when he was assembled? Even Tea Partiers may feel some reluctance to hand over the keys to the football to a high-functioning sociopath.

So: a doggerel competition. Doggy epigrams and verses please, no longer than a limerick (5 lines).

To get you started:


. . . . . . . But that was long ago
And in another country; and beside
The dog is dead.

Marlowe, The Jew of Malta; orig.”wench”


I was his Highness’ dog at Bain.
A puzzled ghost now; please explain.

(from Alexander Pope:
I am his Highness’ dog at Kew.
Pray tell me. Sir, whose dog are you?


The perfect teeth, the handsome crust:
A smiling death to canine trust.


A thrusting young partner at Bain
Drove his wife and five kids through the rain.
When the dog on the roof
Of its terror gave proof
He hosed crap and shame down the drain.

58 Responses to “A dog starved at his master’s gate”

  1. Russell L. Carter says:

    If you stroll past, Mitt, humming your song
    Armed legions will spring forth from my bark.
    Don’t resist my hard heart nor my welcoming growl
    I’ll watch you die, trampled under their boots.

    Apologies to Jean Genet, “The Tree”

  2. Herschel says:

    To continue with The Jew of Malta:

    Oh holy friars, the burden of my sins
    Lies heavy on my soul; then pray you tell me
    Is’t not too late now to turn Christian?
    I have been zealous in the Mormon faith,
    Hardhearted to a dog, a covetous wretch….

  3. noseeum says:

    After what he did to Seamus
    The election of Mitt Romney would shame us.

    • Cheryl says:

      Honestly, if this is how he treats the family pet… could he possibly care about people he doesn’t know at all? Seamus did well to run away. What a shining example (hardly) Mitt is to his children… which lends the thought… why are stupid people so fertile?

  4. larry birnbaum says:

    Funny but I’m not erudite enough to participate.

    On the issue itself: I don’t see any evidence other than this episode that Romney is particularly weird and the comparison with genuine psychopaths seems really wrong to me. His family life seems good, kids thriving. Maybe there’s a really dark streak there but there’s no evidence of that.

    So yeah, that was a weird thing to do. But compared with Santorum or Gingrich or Paul he seems a pretty mentally healthy guy.

    • noseeum says:

      I agree with Larry. There’s no evidence that Romney is a psychopath. I wouldn’t call putting your dog on the roof an inherently violent act. It seems more a matter of a complete lack of empathy for the dog than anything. I think psychopaths, despite a lack of empathy, also get some enjoyment out of causing pain or misery, correct?

      Even in the re-telling, no one said anything about Romney reveling in his dog’s misery. Just seemed indifferent to it. The car was packed and tight, dog goes on roof. Simple as that.

      Disturbing, to be sure. Psychopath? I think not. Narcissistic personality disorder seems like a more reasonable hypothesis. He is a political after all!

      • noseeum says:

        That was “politician”, not “political”. Damn auto-correct!

      • Ed Whitney says:

        If he puts his running mate in the overhead bin during the fall campaign, we can revisit the issue of his personality disorder. However, dogs like to travel with their nose out the window, so I have to agree the dog is insufficient evidence to make a DSM diagnosis for Mitt.

      • BadgerBob says:

        The proposition was that he’s a sociopath. Characteristic of that condition is, as you note, lacking empathy (and also lacking guilt, so if you did strap your dog to the roof you’d probably regard it as a funny story). Many successful business executives are high functioning sociopaths. It’s often truly helpful in business dealings not to be burdened by normal human emotions. To me, Romney conveys no actual human emotion about anything, so I’d agree there’s a reasonable case that he may be sociopathic. It doesn’t mean he’s having hallucinations or is a serial killer, mind you. He just doesn’t experience the world the way most of us do, emotionally.

        I’m convinced Wisconsin’s Governor, Scott Walker, is a sociopath. That’s contributed to his political misjudgment in several areas, because he doesn’t understand that others genuinely believe in moral principles — he assumes they are like him, and only care about winning and losing.

        • F.Bowdich says:

          “..because he doesn’t understand that others genuinely believe in moral principles…”

          Ho hum, whose moral principles are we supposed to believe in? Yours? And if your premise is true then it would make Walker a narcissist not a sociopath. A sociopath is self-aware and knows he is different, a narcissist is not.

      • Rhuumer Maanger says:

        Have you seen his America the Beautiful performances? Cringe.

    • John G says:

      I’m on the same track as Larry too. The dog goes into a carrier with a closed end facing to the front. Dog will be uncomfortable, but it’s not necessarily obvious that the dog will be (or was, in this case) traumatized.

      I agree that Romney is unfit to be president for many reasons, but I don’t think this incident demonstrates it.

      • John G says:

        That said, the Jew of Malta parodies are both wonderful…

      • noseeum says:

        I’ll have to disagree with you, John G. It should be patently obvious to anyone that the dog would be traumatized from this. If it weren’t at first, the mess running down the side window should provide ample evidence to correct his initial dim assessment. Plus, the entire family signed off on this plan! What the heck is wrong with them? I wouldn’t subject a caged lab rat to a rooftop ride down the freeway, let alone my household pet!

        I find the act at least a tad bit disturbing, and though there are plenty of reasons to not vote for Romney from a pure policy standpoint, this act would be enough to withhold my vote. With all of that said, I would not call him a psychopath or any other -path just based on Seamus’ harrowing experience. I would never let my dog in the same room as him unattended, and I would never vote for him either, but I’ll hold back on the amateur psychology.

        BTW, Slate actually asked a vet if the dog’s mess could have simply been the normal act of a happy, healthy dog. The answer was no. Dogs generally prefer NOT lying in a pile of their own mess.:

        • Tim says:

          I don’t disagree that this was disturbing and I don’t dispute that the dog would have been traumatized, but I think it’s relevant that this was back in 1983. To our credit, most people today are more sensitive to the needs of pets and animals than we were 30 years ago. Back then, Romney’s choice would not have been among the outliers. Today it’s a different story.

          OTOH, the rhymes are shaping up nicely. Do let’s have fun with this!

          • noseeum says:

            Huh? It’s 20 years ago, not 30 years ago. Everyone put their dog on the roof, but now no one would? What makes you think that?

            I mean, sure, dogs didn’t have their own PAC ( in 1983, but people still knew right from wrong. In fact, 1983 happens to be the year when National Lampoons Vacation was released, where we all learned a hard lesson of making sure you put the dog back in the station wagon before driving off rather than leaving him tied to the back. I’m getting emotional just thinking about Dinky.

          • noseeum says:

            LOL. It IS 30 years ago. I was thinking 1993 in my head and typing 1983. Sorry! Point still stands. People hated cruelty to dogs even way back in the ancient 80s.

          • Orly? says:

            Given some of his recent statements, do you really think his empathy has increased? He might know better, today, than to transport a family pet in this manner, but have his comments about the economy really led you to believe he is any more aware of the suffering of others than he was back then?

            I could overlook a single act of wreckless insensitivity. Hell, I could overlook several. But Romney’s statements about his lack of concern for the “very poor” were off-the-charts stupid. The safety net he so blithely promised to fix is not only shredded, it is the last resort of many families who used to be firmly entrenched in the rapidly vanishing middle class. He has no idea what poverty is, he has no idea what average reality is, and I’ve seen very little evidence that he is interested in learning.

      • Marc says:

        The prt of the story that stings is that the dog was so miserable that it made a mess all over the car. He stopped, washed the dog off..and put it back on top for many subsequent hours. That’s just cruel.

    • Anomalous says:

      Does anyone think maybe the guy is just kinda dumb? I don’t mean like idiot dumb but a few brick short of a full load.
      Everybody gets so blown away at how he keeps putting his foot in his mouth and just doesn’t quite get how regular folks think. Being dumb would explain a lot.
      We Americans equate making gobs of bucks with being smart but there is another way to make gobs of bucks. Start out with gobs of bucks and buy good advice. And be well conected. Presto, more gobs of bucks.
      Now he wants to buy the presidency and that works pretty well until he opens his mouth. Even gobs of bucks can’t make Mitt smart. If only he could hire some smart guy to talk for him and he could just stand there, grin and wave.
      Oh and I owe you a poem:

      A dog on the car roof in a crate
      After hours wasn’t feeling so great
      Cold and covered with brown
      The man hosed him down
      And then scoffed it must be something he ate

      Sorry that’s the best I can do. Would that my dad were alive to give you all better. He could throw funny political verse off all night. He missed the internet revolution by a couple years but would have been in his element here. You guys really missed something.

      • There’s plenty of evidence that Mitt’s father wasn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, either. However, George Romney made up for it with a vastly better moral sense of right and wrong than his son does. Can anyone picture Mitt standing up and walking out of the Republican convention for any reason? Other than not being given the nomination, of course.

  5. pc says:

    What was that old couplet about Castlereagh?

    The front door of Romney, this
    Stop here, wandering doggie, and piss

  6. There once was a dog who said, “Woof!
    I may be getting long in the toof,
    But you guys in the van
    Really don’t understand
    That it’s windy up here on the roof.”

    Said the man in the van, “Never mind;
    We inside (the miscalled humanKIND)
    Do not feel all the breeze,
    But we’re anxious to please:
    Would you rather be strapped on behind?”

  7. koreyel says:

    The Marquis de Mittens?
    Don’t trust him with kittens.

  8. Richard W. Crews says:

    Didn’t I read that one of the kids said the dog ran away at the destinaation? That speaks volumes when your dog bails on you. I think this should be followed up and made a big deal. Even the dog won’t stay with him.

  9. bcinaz says:

    An extraordinary infliction of cruelty and terror
    A whole family lacking in empathy
    Who are not fit as custodians of any living creature.

  10. kevo says:

    This may just be a lark,
    but we should offer
    applause to Mitt –
    a one-handed bark!

  11. BM says:

    (Sure, why not?)

    Old Governor Romney in Boston-town
    Gave his pooch a transvaginal ultrasound.
    But it pissed and it shat
    and it stained his cravat;
    whence it rode on the roof to the pound.

  12. Betsy says:

    A Toast (with caesurae):

    To the manor-born, whose // Contempt for the kennel-bred
    Reveals him to have been // Raised in a barn.

  13. paul says:

    To continue with the classics:

    “If you prick us, do we not bleed?
    If you put our crate on the roof of your car,
    do we not crap all over your presidential campaign?”

    This would never have become a big issue (imho) if Mitt and his people hadn’t presented it
    as something really admirable and worthy of emulation that Mitt did. It’s that disastrous combination of
    tone-deafness and the Dunning-Krueger effect.

    “Grey and stiff, but not a bad fit,
    Truth-proof, empathy-proof,
    proof against feces and dogs through the roof.
    Believe me, they’ll fire you in it.”

  14. Sean says:

    I hope an extra line doesn’t keep me from participating …

    ‘Doggie up there! what have you to ride with me?
    Look out the back while I wash the side of my minivan,
    (Bark loudly, no one else hears you, and I stay only a minute longer.)

    Do I contradict myself?
    Very well then I contradict myself,
    (I ran Bain, I contain multitudes.)’

    Apologies to Whit.

  15. Rusty says:


  16. Corporations are people
    Dogs are luggage
    Trees are the right height

  17. Mary says:


    Riding on the roof
    cold air blowing, lotsa bugs.
    Think I’m gonna shit.


    Up here all alone
    The kids get to ride inside.
    I will run away.

  18. Nancy says:

    The guy (Romney -if he’s a good mormon) wears “Holy Underwear” or “garment” that they believe protects them. The very devout will bathe with part of the dirty garment on and then put clean garment on clean part of body so it never leaves their person. Mr. Romney, if again a good mormon, believes if he lives a good mormon life, has plenty of kids, goes through mumbo-jumbo ceremonies with secret names and handshakes at the temple will receive his own “celestial kingdom” (aka planet and he will be god). Hopefully his wife will remember her secret name and handshake that she got at their “sealing” or she will never make it to the celestial kingdom because the husband has to “pull her up.” I guess she is screwed if he dies first. SO, sure he is as right as rain…put your terrified dog on top of the car with no one to try to calm him, no “garment” to protect him and go on vacation–sounds like National Lampoon’s vacation. Sure-elect him president-the “garment” companies will have to work overtime so we can all be safe! I think I want to move to Canada…

  19. Martina says:

    MY understanding is that the poor beast was run through the carwash IN its’ crate and that that was the first story but when it began circulating either the Romneys purchased a clue or , more likely , one of their political team realized what political kryptonite this was and tweaked the story juuust enough to make them look clueless or unkind as opposed to some sort of ‘path. And yes , if you hose down a dog that is still in its’ crate and on the roof then drive , even at the speed limit , on the highway you are some sort of sociopath. Are we kidding here ? Can anyone say HYPOTHERMIA ? [ And the most important distinction of sociopathy is a complete inability to empathise with another living creature , be it a terrified poop-covered pup or someone who has lost their JOB . A genuine sociopath thinks , as another commenter mentioned , that everyone is like them , that everyone sees other living beings merely as dolls or chess pieces . If I move this thing so , I'll get that . ] A drenched dog in a small space unable to move , in srong wind , for HOURS . That’s plenty bad enough…though I would not discount the car wash story , it would hardly be the first time a politician did something appalling and then tried to spin or cover up ; he may be – in comparison to more dramatic sociopaths – a sociopath LITE , but it surely looks like he is one . I can hardly be the only one who has noticed that in spite of the mask-like expressions he adopts he is almost completely devoid of appropriate affect .

  20. I think Mary’s second haiku wins the thread: understated and deadly. Thanks anyway to all our poets and poetasters!

  21. Lisa says:

    A dog strapped to it’s masters car,
    Surely won’t bring a troubled nation very far…

  22. Oh, can’t we forget this one item?
    I mean, even the dog didn’t bite him.
    It’s beyond comprehension
    Why it still requires mention
    By Gail Collins ad infinitum.

  23. KatS says:

    You reach for him, he sees the hand of God.

    He makes all the noises and postures of joy.

    He trusts like no other, not child, not wife.

    Then without thought, capricious and uncaring, you violate.

  24. FPE says:

    No, Jay, we cannot forget this one item! If it is beyond comprehension to you why it still requires mention, then you are just like Mitt, disconnected, lacking empathy, lacking passion, indeed, lacking a certain intelligence. The dog on the roof incident bears repeating over and over again, forever, until everyone with a soul has heard and understood it and realized that it’s an indicator of Mitt’s unsuitability for the position he is so determined to hold.

    • My disconnected, unempathetic, passionless, and unintelligent response is that the the dog incident tells us as much about a Romney presidency as the Lewinsky affair tells us about the Clinton presidency. Mostly, though, I just liked rhyming “ad infinitum.” And FWIW, I do think it’s too bad that Collins trapped herself into thinking that she has to mention the dog every time she mentions Romney. The first few times, it was funny, but it got old many, many columns ago.

      • Anomalous says:

        Clinton’s urges are understandable if not condonable.
        Romney’s actions, in relation to the family dog, are incomprehensible to the vast majority of people.
        In both instances we all ask, ‘What was he thinking?’ In Clinton’s case we then answer, ‘Well, yeah I know what he was thinking.’ In Romney’s case we come back to, ‘What WAS he THINKING??!’
        The difference is huge don’t you think?

        • Do I think there’s a huge difference between putting a dog on the roof of your car and getting blowjob from a young intern? Duh. Do I think one tells us more than the other about what kinds of policies and strategies a person will pursue as president. No. But if someone does, I’d be very interested to know of any presidential decision that might have gone differently if had been made by a person who carried his dog on the roof of his car. And please be specific in explaining how the situations are the same.

          Think about your own life. The chances are that you have done something that was a mistake and that you realized soon afterwards was a mistake, a stupid mistake. Should the everyone then draw conclusions from that incident about your character and about what you are likely to do in situations that are utterly different from those of that incident?

  25. Michael says:

    Death of the Ball Turret Setter

    From my Milk-Bone sleep I fell into the Crate,
    And I drooled in its belly as the panic rose.
    At seventy miles per hour, blind in the battering wind,
    I woke to the air horns and the roaring semis.
    When I loosed, they washed it off of the wagon with a hose.

  26. Herschel says:

    Cry ‘Havoc!’ and let slip the dog off car.

  27. sandra gardner says:

    If Seamus could speak . . .

    After hours on the roof for the ride,
    When all other dogs ride inside,
    I howled at Mitt,
    “You stupid twit!
    Sir, have you lost all pride?”

  28. Stephanie says:

    Who’s this candidate
    Who claimed the high moral ground
    But mistreats his dog.

  29. Rhuumer Maanger says:

    “My name is Romnzymandias, king of kings:
    Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
    Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
    Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
    The lone and level sands stretch far away.