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Duke, The Beloved Dog Mayor Of Minnesota Village, Passes Away

MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

We're going to take a moment to remember a civic leader, a distinguished Minnesotan and, a rarity in these polarized times, a politician who was universally loved.

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

His name was Duke. He was a dog. He was also the honorary mayor of Cormorant, a tiny village in rural Minnesota.

KELLY: Duke was a Great Pyrenees, big and fluffy and white. And for the first half of his life, he was just a humble farm dog.

SHAPIRO: Then one day back in 2014, the village decided to hold an election of sorts. It was mostly a fundraiser for the community.

TRICIA MALONEY: Let's do a dollar a vote and put a big sign up that says, OK, vote for your favorite person that you would like to have mayor of Cormorant Village.

KELLY: That's Tricia Maloney, who owns The Cormorant Pub. She is one of the people who first came up with the idea. She says Duke, while, OK, yes, not technically a person, was already a local celebrity.

MALONEY: So many people went, oh, you can vote for mayor. Let's vote for Mayor Duke.

SHAPIRO: And Duke won by a landslide, so they swore him in.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: If you accept this challenge and these responsibilities, please raise your right paw and bark.

SHAPIRO: Well, Duke panted, looked out at his constituents and stayed silent.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PEOPLE: Yay.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: Close enough.

(LAUGHTER)

KELLY: That was just the beginning. Karen Nelson helped raise Duke and describes herself as his adopted mom.

KAREN NELSON: When they first said Duke, everybody just kind of thought, oh, yeah, it was just going to be a big joke. But the newspaper got a hold of it and the TV station, and then it just went viral.

KELLY: He made national and international headlines and became an icon for Cormorant. His portrait is at the top of the township's website, wearing his signature top hat. Here's Nelson.

NELSON: He always loved the kids hanging on him and petting him. And when we did the parades, he'd sit on the back of this red convertible, and he just held his head so high and proud.

SHAPIRO: Duke served four one-year terms as honorary mayor, so 28 dog years. When he retired last year...

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

SHAPIRO: ...The village wrote him a song.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) You might think that it's quite strange this dog became the mayor, but Cormorant Village thought it through. It was fair and square.

KELLY: Pub owner Tricia Maloney says she thinks they'll leave his post vacant for now. Duke was special.

MALONEY: Duke probably brought more to this community than any of us ever have. He never barked. He never growled. He never nothing. He will forever be our mayor.

SHAPIRO: Mayor Duke the dog died last week. He was 13 years old.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED SINGER: (Singing) He's Duke. He's Duke. He's the mayor of this town. He's Duke. He's Duke. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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