Dog on Roof? What Was It Like for Romney's Pooch?

It may sound like a scene from Chevy Chase's "National Lampoon's Vacation." Mom and Dad pack their five boys into a white Chevy station wagon, load the luggage into the back, strap the dog to the top of the car and begin the annual family road trip from Boston to their summer home in Ontario.

Wait: Strap the dog to the top of the car?

Actually, it's not a movie. It's the true story of Mitt Romney's 1983 family vacation, according to an article in Wednesday's Boston Globe.

The article pegged Romney, the 2008 Republican presidential candidate and former governor of Massachusetts, as a family man, father to five sons, adoring husband and dog's not-so best friend. Using a 1983 family vacation to talk about Romney's family values, a shocking paragraph caught the eye of animal rights groups and angered pet owners across the country.

"Before beginning the drive, Mitt Romney put Seamus, the family's hulking Irish setter, in a dog carrier and attached it to the station wagon's roof rack. He'd built a windshield for the carrier, to make the ride more comfortable for the dog," read the article.

Jordan Kaplan, the owner of Petaholics, a dog walking service in New York City, and a lifelong dog owner and dog lover, said Romney's actions were uncalled for.

"It would be one thing if someone put it down or forgot and then drove 50 feet and realized what they did," said Kaplan. "I don't know anyone who would purposefully do that to a dog."

Physicist Dr. W.J. Llope, a senior faculty fellow at Rice University in the department of physics and astronomy, has his theory about the Romney's decision to strap Seamus to the top of the car.

"Seeing the inside of the car is full, Romney absentmindedly says to himself, 'Where am I going to put ole Seamus here?' and hearing his name, the dog says, 'Roof, roof,'" said Llope.

What Happens to a Dog on a Roof Traveling 50 MPH?

All kidding aside, what exactly would be the dangers of strapping the family pet to the roof of a speeding vehicle for 12 hours?

Llope said putting a dog on top of a car is just like putting anything or anyone else on the roof.

"What happens to a dog in this situation is precisely what would happen to any of us in the same situation: Trapped in a box for 12 hours would be no one's idea of comfortable," said Llope.

Dr. Russell Cumming, a professor of aerospace engineering at California Polytechnic State University, got a little more technical.

"At that speed, assuming sea level conditions, the poor little dog would have about 10 pounds per square foot pressing against his head," said Cumming.

And in layman's terms?

"He would constantly feel a little less than 3 pounds pressing on his head for the entire trip," he added. "The windshield would help, but boy that would get tired."

Nobel Prize-winning physicist Douglas Osheroff of physics at Stanford University said the dog crate on top of the car would change the air flow around the vehicle.

"Beyond a certain velocity, the air flow becomes turbulent," said Osheroff. "The airflow isn't going to be laminar," which means it won't have a uniform distribution.

Cumming said that's bad news for Seamus.

"Chances are the windshield would only protect the front of the dog, but the air flowing around the windshield would buffet the side of the dog -- that would be tiring," said Cummings. "My wife's a vet, and she would be more worried by the dehydration of the dog's eyes under those conditions."

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