The State of New Jersey just passed a new law requiring pet owners to restrain their pets in the car. It’s become known as the Seamus law, after Mitt Romney’s dog Seamus who famously rode to Canada on the roof of Mitt’s car.
Now I have mixed feelings about this law. It was designed to keep primarily dogs from distracting the driver. Which is a good thing. But I’m worried that it will lead to a crime wave.
Because restraining my dog led me to bribe an official of the French government. Somehow I eluded authorities and remain a free woman. But there is a lesson here. And that lesson is this:
Restraint results in a loss of freedom
Yes, it’s true. I am profound. And awesome. And a hardened criminal.
So what happened, Elyse? you say, wondering if you really want to know about my life of crime. And you know I’m going to tell you.
* * *
When we got Cooper in 1998, we owned a Toyota Picnic, a little six seat van not available in the U.S. It was kind of a vomit van, actually, because it was well known to induce vomiting by anyone who traveled with us. We kept a large supply of cleaning supplies with us at all times.
Anyway, I read an article about how, if you stop suddenly, while traveling at 60 mph, a 50 lb Springer Spaniel dog will be traveling significantly faster as he flies through the car. He will, in fact, become a projectile and might end up killing your kid.
Now I liked the dog a lot even at that early stage. But I didn’t really relish the idea of the dog killing my kid to whom I was quite attached. So, to scorn and jeers from John, I bought Cooper a special doggie seat belt that attached to the seatbelt of the seat behind the driver’s.
Cooper, however, did not approve of this new restraint. I presume I hadn’t adequately educated him on the importance of self-restraint. Because he ate his restraint. And he had started eating the seatbelt too when I realized what was happening and released the rebel. Who then happily sat wherever he wanted in the back of the vomit van.
Fortunately, Cooper hadn’t really done much damage to the seatbelt. There were only a few bites taken out of it; it worked perfectly well and was not a safety hazard.
But when we moved across the border into France a couple of years later, well, we had to have the car inspected. And the French car inspectors are famous for flunking Americans. According to my husband, anyway. And so I faced the villains alone.
Now, before you jump all over my husband for sending me into the lion’s den, well there is something you should know. My husband cannot lie. He cannot stretch the truth. He cannot exaggerate. Worse in this case, he would not have been able to restrain himself from explaining to the inspector that it really was not a safety issue.
Me, well, I’m different. I grew up getting away with high crimes and misdemeanors. I rarely got caught, and when I did, well, I got out of it. I’ve had practice.
So whenever we needed to deal with the French government, well, it was all up to me.
I drove to wherever it was, produced my paperwork, and waited my turn. Truthfully, I was nervous. I didn’t want to have to spend $1 zillion replacing a seat belt (car repairs in Switzerland/France are tres cher). So I fidgeted with the container of mints in my pocket. Tic Tacs.
When my turn came, I was outside with the inspector, chatting to him. He was a young guy, and was nice and helpful as I tried to have a chatty conversation with him in my pigeon French. In fact, he couldn’t have been nicer to me.
Plus, the car was in great shape, clean and nearly perfectly maintained. He found nothing wrong on the outside. Then he opened the front passenger side, and tested the seat belt. He closed the door and went to the rear passenger seat, and tested that one.
I started to sweat. The chewed one was next.
He went around and opened the rear driver’s side door. And that’s when I did it.
“Tic Tac?” I asked him, holding out the container.
“Oui, merci, madame,” he responded, closing that door without looking at the damaged seat belt. He took a Tic Tac, and proceeded to inspect the driver’s seat belt.
My car passed inspection with flying colors.
And I continued to live a life of crime in France, just outside of Geneva for two years.
* * *
So, if you are going to be driving through New Jersey with your dog you have two choices:
Restrain him or buy yourself a three-pack of Tic Tacs.