NEW YORK--Kitty Hendrix doesn't even own a dog. But the New York City-based actress led a rally Tuesday to call attention to what she described as one of the "most inhumane" and "horrifying" instances of animal treatment she said she'd ever heard of: The increasingly legendary tale of how Mitt Romney once drove from Boston to Canada with the family dog in a carrier strapped on top of the car.
The incident, mentioned in a 2007 Boston Globe profile of the Republican presidential candidate, occurred in 1983, when Romney, his wife, and his five sons took off on a jaunt to Ontario. Romney installed Seamus, the family's Irish Setter, in a dog crate equipped with a makeshift windshield that Romney designed, on top of the family station wagon. At some point during the trip, Seamus soiled himself—as the Romney sons discovered when they saw a brown liquid dripping down the car windows. Their father quickly pulled over, hosed the dog and the car down, and jumped right back on the road, speeding toward Canada.
The story, which made the rounds during the 2008 campaign--and is mentioned seemingly in every Gail Collins column in the New York Times about Romney--has gained new life in recent months. A group called "Dogs Against Romney" has trailed the candidate in protest around the country—parking a car outside campaign events with a stuffed dog strapped on top.
The group was set to make its biggest news splash yet on Tuesday—holding a rally outside the Westminster Kennel Dog Club Show at Madison Square Garden in Midtown Manhattan—this time with real dogs. The event attracted at least 15 reporters, 10 photographers and five camera crews—but as the clock inched past the noon start time, there was one major thing missing: actual dogs.
"They'll be here, they'll be here," Hendrix--who says she fondly recalls the time she used to own a dog--insisted, surveying the scene a bit nervously. "I mean, it's New York. It's tough to get dogs around the city sometimes."
As six people waved anti-Romney signs that read "Mitt is Mean!" and "Dogs Aren't Luggage," bored-looking photographers stood idly by.
"No dogs is not good," CNN's Jeanne Moos declared.
Alan Charney, a protester, sauntered by, reassuring the media that dogs would be on the scene. "I'll tell you what, if they don't, I'll get on all fours!" he said.
"At least I have a backup story," Moos replied.
Hendrix killed time, recanting the story of Seamus to reporters. "He disappeared after that, you know," she said, conspiratorially. "The boys told someone he ran away when they got to Canada."
Asked how she knew—since the Romney campaign hasn't publicly addressed Seamus's fate—Hendrix replied, "I read it online."
She told reporters the story was "repulsive." "What was he thinking? He couldn't let the dog ride in the back seat?" Hendrix declared. "I just think it's horrible. There were other options. He wouldn't have put one of his kids up there."
The tale, she said, should convince voters that Romney is not presidential material and pointed to President Obama's relationship with the first dog, Bo. "When his family had already gone on vacation, he took his dog Christmas shopping," she said. "That's how you treat a pet."
A few feet away, a man and a woman approached, pushing a dog crate—prompting Charney and his fellow activists to get excited. "Are you here with us?" Charney asked. The man shook his head, and continued toward the Garden entrance where the show dogs and their owners have been gathering for the final day of judging before tonight's Westminster finals.
A few minutes later, a young man walked up to join the protestors. As he turned, he revealed a plump pug stuffed into the pocket of his backpack.
"A dog is here," Hendrix exhaled in a breathy voice. "THANK god."
As photographers and reporters surrounded the lonely pug, identified by her owner as "Saki," Charney cracked, "One dog represents millions!"
Eventually two more dogs appeared on the scene, including an English bull terrier named "Petey"—named after the dog from "Little Rascals," his owner helpfully noted.
Moos leaned down and stuck a CNN microphone near Petey's snout. "What do you think?" she asked.
The dog yawned and turned its rear end toward the camera.
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