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Cormorant, Minn., Mayor Duke the dog dies

Duke was voted the mayor of Cormorant villiage and has been a media sensation ever since. Brian Basham / Forum News Service1 / 4
Duke the Dog became quite the celebrity after becoming mayor of Cormorant village two years ago. File photo2 / 4
Duke loved hitting the campaign trail and serving his "constituents," particularly when he visited local schools. File photo3 / 4
Mayor Duke is tired after visiting the elementary students at Lake Park Audubon.4 / 4

CORMORANT, Minn. -- Mayor Duke, the Cormorant pooch who made quite a name for himself in politics, went to doggie heaven Thursday, Feb. 21.

After serving four terms (in dog years, that’s about 28 terms) as Cormorant’s honorary mayor, Duke retired last year due to failing health in his old age.

“He’s 91 people age …. We don’t think he’s going to see winter,” his adopted mother Karen Nelson told the Tribune last year, adding that he was on meds for arthritis, he’s had lyme disease twice, and she and his owner Dave Rick suspected he had been hit by a car a couple years back.

Rick and Nelson were able to be with Duke when he passed Thursday afternoon. That evening Nelson announced Mayor Duke’s passing on Facebook, saying he will be greatly missed.

“They’re like your kids,” Rick said, choking up. “I never had kids, so he was all I had.”

Rick says it was great luck that he and Duke happened upon one another some 13 years ago. Rick was in touch with a couple who was selling dogs up by Devil’s Lake. It was all arranged for him to take a three-year-old from them, when someone returned little three-month-old Duke. Rick bought Duke then and there for $100, and the rest was history.

Many people reached out to express their condolences and remember Duke fondly after hearing of his passing.

“The most honest politician out there,” Ed Melberg commented.

“No one will ever fill his paws,” Donna Lutz wrote.

A memorial for Duke is planned for March or April at the Cormorant Town Hall. Tricia Maloney, who has been very involved in Duke's campaigns over the years, says they aren’t sure exactly when the memorial will be yet. They want to plan it, so the whole community can be involved, possibly during their annual community egg hunt.

The 13-year-old Great Pyrenees became the first and only mayor of Cormorant back in 2014, when he won by a landslide during a write-in campaign that charged $1 per vote and had no limit on the number of votes that can be cast by a single person.

After his first win, Mayor Duke’s popularity skyrocketed. He graced the pages of National Geographic and Scholastic magazines, appeared on television as a guest on Steve Harvey’s talk show as well as in the World Dog Awards, and rode in a plethora of parades. He went on to get re-elected for three more terms before announcing his retirement last year.