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Canine conundrums

Posted: May 1, 2012 10:52 a.m.
Updated: May 2, 2012 5:00 a.m.

So, we have one candidate who eats dogs and another who straps them to the roof of his car like a freshly cut Christmas tree.

How in the world can we have two presidential candidates treating pooches so poorly?

To be fair, the Obama “eats dogs” incident was picked up from a chapter in one of the president’s books where he chronicles his time living in Indonesia.

He was just a kid, only about 6 or 7 years old, being introduced to a foreign country thousands of miles away from his home state of Hawaii.

His stepfather prodded him to eat the rather unsavory meal, while also giving him such snacks as snake meat and roasted grasshopper. 

Romney’s dog troubles stem from an incident that happened almost 30 years ago, but he’s being judged by 21st century standards.

His doggy faux pas occurred in 1983, long before man’s best friend enjoyed such perks as gourmet dog food and diamond-encrusted collars.

Romney propped the family’s Irish setter in a dog carrier atop the family station wagon and drove 650 miles from Massachusetts to a family cottage in Ontario.

The Romney clan downplayed the incident, saying it was akin to having a dog riding on a motorcycle or the bed of a pickup truck.

Either way, only the Romney family took that trip three decades ago, so we’ll never know if Seamus the dog liked it or not.

But it certainly was a different time for canines.

It was even announced recently that TV executives have launched Dog TV, a new breed of television aimed specifically for dogs.

Such a thing would have been a joke 10 years ago, much less 1983.

But the role of dogs in American politics is nothing new.

Franklin Roosevelt, for example, was so connected to his beloved Scottish terrier that a statue of his dog sits beside him at his presidential memorial in D.C.

President Nixon had a black-and-white cocker spaniel named Checkers that was actually incorporated into a powerful 1952 speech aimed at detailing his frank and modest lifestyle.

President Lyndon Johnson was famously photographed in 1964 on the White House lawn lifting his Beagle by the ears, much to the chagrin of animal rights activists.

In more recent times, we’ve also had Bill Clinton’s chocolate lab named Buddy and George W. Bush’s pup Barney.

But more importantly, we have dogs working side-by-side with soldiers on the battlefield.

Last May, the 80-member Navy SEALs team that stormed bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan included one very special soldier, a four-legged one.

Dogs have actually been used heavily in the war on terror since they’ve proven to be far better than people or machines at quickly finding bombs and performing a variety of other tasks.

Earlier this spring, bipartisan legislation was introduced to ensure a positive future for military working dogs.

The bill, sponsored by Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut and Rep. Walter Jones of North Carolina, calls for providing a good home and veterinary care for dogs retiring from the service.

For a long time, military dogs have actually been classified simply as equipment.

But Sen. Blumenthal thinks differently, and likely most Americans do as well.

“These dogs are friends, compatriots, comrades in arms, and they really deserve better,” Blumenthal told an interviewer.

While we should understand a dog’s place in the animal kingdom, we should also realize their place in our culture, particularly on the battlefield.

Becoming a subscriber to Dog TV, for example, may be going a bit overboard, but legislation like this is not only reasonable, but imperative.

These dogs sacrifice their lives for us overseas; it’s the least we can do to ensure they enjoy the rests of their years back home.

(Michael Ulmer is a staff reporter for the Chronicle-Independent, Camden, S.C. Email responses may be sent to



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