Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney offered no defense Wednesday when asked about a dog he had made ride on the roof of his station wagon during a family vacation.

According to a 2007 Boston Globe profile of the candidate, Romney's oldest son, Tagg, yelled, "Gross!" as he noticed a brown liquid flowing down the back window from the Irish Setter Seamus, who had been riding on car's roof for hours.

"As the rest of the boys joined in the howls of disgust, Romney coolly pulled off the highway and into a service station," the Globe noted. "There, he borrowed a hose, washed down Seamus and the car, then hopped back onto the highway. It was a tiny preview of a trait he would grow famous for in business: emotion-free crisis management."

On Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal asked Romney to respond to New York Times' Gail Collins, who had recently revived the old story.

"Uh...," Romney said, clearly caught off guard by the question. "Love my dog."

"That’s all I’ve got for ya," he added.

Asked about the idea that his treatment of the animal had been cruel, Romney replied, "Oh please. I’ve had a lot of dogs and love them and care for them very deeply."

With that, an aide abruptly ended the interview.

It was one of the first times the former Massachusetts governor had spoken of the incident since PETA criticized him during the 2008 campaign.

"You know, PETA has not been my fan over the years. PETA was after me for having a rodeo at the Olympics, and very, very upset about that. PETA was after me when I went quail hunting in Georgia, and they're not happy that my dog likes fresh air," he reportedly said during a speech.

Earlier this year, PolitiFact verified Collins' version of the tale.

"Seamus was strapped to the roof of the family car, but in a carrier with a protective windscreen," they wrote. "We rate Collins' statement Mostly True."

Watch this video from The Wall Street Journal, broadcast Dec. 21, 2011.