Mutts Mobilize in Midtown Against Mitt

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The Dogs Against Romney Facebook group tries to put on a real-life protest against the Republican outside the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show.

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NEW YORK CITY -- The latest chapter in the saga of Mitt Romney's Irish Setter Seamus -- who was famously strapped, inside his carrier, to the Romney family car roof on a trip to Canada -- took place today at outside the Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at Madison Square Garden, when the group Dogs Against Romney called for a protest to raise awareness of the incident and its dislike of the on-again, off-again GOP front-runner. A half-hour into the gathering, protestors were nearly outnumbered by CNN's resident weird-chaser Jeanne Moos.

Is this, like, well, you know, for real? I asked Alan Charney, an organizer with the progressive federation USAction who helped to put on today's event. It is, he said. "I'm shocked by how deeply this is felt amongst dog lovers," he said, as a handful of protestors eventually showed up.

"They think it reveals a fatal flaw, that he lacks a sense of empathy for creatures human or otherwise, that there's a mechanicalness or coldness to Mitt Romney. For some people, it's his comments about not caring about poor people. For dog lovers, it's what he did to his dog."

Eventually the protest got going. A dozen or so protestors milled about, carrying signs reading "Dogs Aren't Luggage," "Mitt Is Mean," and "I Ride Inside."

"It's a little hard for me to understand -- I'm not a dog owner. But it's a perspective that needs to be put out there," added Charney.

Veronica Cedeno of Weehawken, N.J., owner of a Scottish terrier, agrees that what happened to Seamus speaks quite poorly of his owner. "I'm just so strongly against what he did," she said. "If we know that he has so much money, why did he have to resort to putting his dog outside and his luggage inside? He couldn't have gotten some sort of mobile carrier, or another car, even?" So, your being here isn't tongue-in-cheek? Not even a little bit? "No," she replied, all sincerity. "What he did is just not very thoughtful. If he doesn't care about the goodness of dogs, is he going to care about the goodness of humans?"

Dogs Against Romney dates back to 2007, and digital political strategist Scott Crider claims founder's rights. In a way, today's event is a test of list strength. The Dogs Against Romney Facebook group has grown to 26,000 members. Some two dozen people RSVP'd their intention to attend, and, is normal with these sort of things, about half turned out. "I'm happy three dogs showed up," said Charney.

Behind me, I overheard a passerby say, "I don't know...does Mitt Romney hate dogs?" I turn to explain to two female onlookers Seamus's en plein air voyage north. "Was it recent?" Early eighties, I said. "That wasn't the right thing to do," said one. "But...that's really digging." They continued on their way.

There's stronger dissent, too. Joe Munna, raised in Queens, has happened upon the scene. Spying my notebook, he explains how New York City has some of the worst dog owners on earth. "Their dogs are depressed because they're not allowed to be dogs." He demurs on the Seamus issue. But Munna will diagnose the bigger problem: the country has gone too far, and now neither dogs nor people are allowed to roam free.

"These people have got to have something better to protest than Mitt Romney's dog," he said. His alternative: go after the corrupt fools over at the Port Authority, another transportation hub in midtown.

Charney made a final attempt to put the essence of Dogs Against Romney in perspective. "The right likes to talk about character," he said. "They're always talking about integrity. Well, their presumptive nominee has a character flaw. They started it. We're just bringing it back to them." He smiled, then shrugged.

Image credit: DogsAgainstRomney.com

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Nancy Scola is a writer based in New York. She has written for New York, Salon, and Seed, and is a frequent contributor to The American Prospect.

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