Trump VP contender Kristi Noem writes of killing dog – and goat – in new book

In 1952, as a Republican candidate for vice-president, Richard Nixon stirred criticism by admitting receiving a dog, Checkers, as a political gift.

In 2012, as the Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney was pilloried for tying a dog, Seamus, to the roof of the family car for a cross-country trip.

But in 2024 Kristi Noem, a strong contender to be named running mate to Donald Trump, the presumptive Republican nominee, has managed to go one further – by admitting killing a dog of her own.

“Cricket was a wirehair pointer, about 14 months old,” the South Dakota governor writes in a new book, adding that the dog, a female, had an “aggressive personality” and needed to be trained to be used for hunting pheasant.

What unfolds over the next few pages shows how that effort went very wrong indeed – and, remarkably, how Cricket was not the only domestic animal Noem chose to kill one day in hunting season.

Noem’s book – No Going Back: The Truth on What’s Wrong with Politics and How We Move America Forward – will be published in the US next month. The Guardian obtained a copy.

Like other aspirants to be Trump’s second vice-president who have ventured into print, Noem offers readers a mixture of autobiography, policy prescriptions and political invective aimed at Democrats and other enemies, all of it raw material for speeches on the campaign stump.

She includes her story about the ill-fated Cricket, she says, to illustrate her willingness, in politics as well as in South Dakota life, to do anything “difficult, messy and ugly” if it simply needs to be done.

By taking Cricket on a pheasant hunt with older dogs, Noem says, she hoped to calm the young dog down and begin to teach her how to behave. Unfortunately, Cricket ruined the hunt, going “out of her mind with excitement, chasing all those birds and having the time of her life”.

Noem describes calling Cricket, then using an electronic collar to attempt to bring her under control. Nothing worked. Then, on the way home after the hunt, as Noem stopped to talk to a local family, Cricket escaped Noem’s truck and attacked the family’s chickens, “grabb[ing] one chicken at a time, crunching it to death with one bite, then dropping it to attack another”.

Cricket the untrainable dog, Noem writes, behaved like “a trained assassin”.

When Noem finally grabbed Cricket, she says, the dog “whipped around to bite me”. Then, as the chickens’ owner wept, Noem repeatedly apologised, wrote the shocked family a check “for the price they asked, and helped them dispose of the carcasses littering the scene of the crime”.

Through it all, Noem says, Cricket was “the picture of pure joy”.

“I hated that dog,” Noem writes, adding that Cricket had proved herself “untrainable”, “dangerous to anyone she came in contact with” and “less than worthless … as a hunting dog”.

“At that moment,” Noem says, “I realised I had to put her down.”

Noem, who also represented her state in Congress for eight years, got her gun, then led Cricket to a gravel pit.

“It was not a pleasant job,” she writes, “but it had to be done. And after it was over, I realised another unpleasant job needed to be done.”

Incredibly, Noem’s tale of slaughter is not finished.

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Her family, she writes, also owned a male goat that was “nasty and mean”, because it had not been castrated. Furthermore, the goat smelled “disgusting, musky, rancid” and “loved to chase” Noem’s children, knocking them down and ruining their clothes.

Noem decided to kill the unnamed goat the same way she had just killed Cricket the dog. But though she “dragged him to a gravel pit”, the goat jumped as she shot and therefore survived the wound. Noem says she went back to her truck, retrieved another shell, then “hurried back to the gravel pit and put him down”.

At that point, Noem writes, she realised a construction crew had watched her kill both animals. The startled workers swiftly got back to work, she writes, only for a school bus to arrive and drop off Noem’s children.

“Kennedy looked around confused,” Noem writes of her daughter, who asked: “Hey, where’s Cricket?”

On Friday, reaction to news of Noem’s description of killing her dog and her goat included satire, the Barack Obama adviser turned podcaster Tommy Vietor calling the governor “Jeffrey Dahmer with veneers”, a reference to a famous serial killer and a recent scandal over Noem’s cosmetic dentistry treatment.

But most responses, particularly from dog lovers and people who hunt with dogs, simply expressed disgust.

Rick Wilson, of the anti-Trump Lincoln Project, called Noem “deliberately cruel” and “trash”. Ryan Busse, the Democratic candidate for governor of Montana, said: “Anyone who has ever owned a birddog knows how disgusting, lazy and evil this is. Damn.”

Noem herself posted a screengrab of the Guardian report – and an admission that she recently “put down three horses”.

“We love animals,” she said, “but tough decisions like this happen all the time on a farm. Sadly, we just had to put down three horses a few weeks ago that had been in our family for 25 years.”

The governor also said her book contained “more real, honest and politically incorrect stories that’ll have the media gasping”.

In the book, however, she sums up her story about Cricket the dog and the unnamed, un-castrated goat with what may prove a contender for the greatest understatement of election year: “I guess if I were a better politician I wouldn’t tell the story here.”

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