Sake, a Pug breed, during a "Dogs Against Romney" demonstration outside the 136th Westminster Kennel Club Dog Show at New York's Madison Square Garden in February. The group, founded in 2007, is demonstrating against U.S. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's treatment of his family dog, Seamus. (SHANNON STAPLETON/REUTERS/SHANNON STAPLETON)

I refer, of course, to the pooch the Romneys drove to a vacation cottage in Canada in a carrier on the car roof, even after the Irish setter had what is delicately called “an accident” and the future presidential hopeful stopped to hose him off.

Opponents and dog lovers have used the 1983 incident as a glimpse into what they hope voters will judge an uncaring heart and soul. After all, if he would do that to a beloved family pet – finish the sentence.

Mitt Romney’s protestations haven’t done much to quell the controversy. So it’s no surprise that the other Romney, the one women are warming up to – fresh off her PR victory over Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen – would weigh in with an explanation. Ann Romney is her husband’s ambassador with women. Why not become his dog whisperer, too?

"The dog loved it,” she told ABC’s Diane Sawyer. “He would see that crate and, you know, he would, like, go crazy because he was going with us on vacation.  It was to me a kinder thing to bring him along than to leave him in the kennel for two weeks.”

“Once, he — we traveled all the time — and he ate the turkey on the counter.  I mean, he had the runs,” Ann Romney said, laughing.

Considering that Americans spent more than $52 billion on their pets in 2011, overcoming the doubts of those who sympathize with Seamus’ plight might be a tough sell, even for the Romney everyone likes.

And with Newt Gingrich struggling to maintain relevance in a GOP presidential contest that is already over, recent news of the former speaker’s penguin bite failed to distract animal lovers from their ire over Seamus.

It was no scene from “Happy Feet” when Gingrich, in town for the National Rifle Association’s annual meeting, visited the St. Louis Zoo last week. During a behind-the-scenes tour, a small penguin nipped his finger. A bandage fixed the physical wound, but have even the animals turned on Newtie?

Mary C. Curtis, an award-winning multimedia journalist in Charlotte, N.C., is a contributor to The Root, Fox News Charlotte, NPR, Creative Loafing and Nieman Watchdog blog. She has worked at The New York Times, Charlotte Observer and as national correspondent for Politics Daily. Follow her on Twitter: @mcurtisnc3