KATHLEEN PARKER: 2012 campaign crosses into the canine lane with Seamus and Bo

By Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON – I take a back seat to no one when it comes to loving dogs. For that matter, my dog takes a back seat to no one.
Ollie rides shotgun.
Thus, the story of Seamus, the Romneys’ dog who famously rode atop the family car in a crate en route to vacation (to Ontario, Canada, 12 hours away) – and suffered acute gastrointestinal inconvenience requiring a mid-trip hose-down – has caused me considerable distress. I know Mitt and Ann Romney to be lovely people who undoubtedly adored their dog, but how does one make this event seem less awful?
By way of furthering my own credentials, Ollie is a five-pound, 10-year-old blind poodle I adopted from a shelter two and a half years ago following a dinner party where I was, as we Southerners say, “overserved.”
I am his seeing-eye human – and where I go, Ollie goes. He can sometimes be obstreperous when he is “lost in space.” That is, disoriented and unable to find me the instant his poodle brain registers that he is not, in fact, nestled in the crook of my elbow, a preferred spot that has resulted in a rather dogged case of “Poodle Elbow.”
Yet, under no circumstances imaginable would my pooch be relegated to the top of a car. Car too small? Get a bigger one – or a smaller dog. Not enough room for five boys and an Irish setter? Leave one of the kids at home. Kidding, kidding.
But now President Obama has crossed into dog territory. Ever since the Obama campaign implicitly put Seamus into play, Romney’s family vacation has become a dogfight of a different order.
Obama, as the entire world knows, has a dog named Bo, whose addition to the first family was a promise kept to his daughters upon winning the presidency. Needless to say, Bo has never been crated on the roof of a car.
As timing would have it, Seamus is now a metaphor for the characteristics Romney critics find unappealing – out of touch, lacking in compassion, pragmatic to a fault.
By contrast, in a photo now in circulation, Obama is shown extending an outstretched hand to an eager Bo. Unlike Romney, by implication, Obama is friendly, approachable and at one in bow-wowness.
A Facebook page created by the president’s campaign, “Pet Lovers for Obama,” gives animal lovers a place to show their pets’ support for the Obama/Biden ticket.
When national issues are so complex, such distilled calculations may provide political relief, but is this really the way to pick a president?
Mitt Romney, who said attacks about Seamus have been the most “wounding” of the campaign, … said he wouldn’t put Seamus in a crate again.
Which leaves voters with two choices: Forgive Romney, as surely Seamus did. Or, condemn a man with a knack for economic recovery for his flip-flopping just this one last doggone time.
Kathleen Parker’s email address is kathleenparker@washpost.com.