Politics is a dog-eat-dog arena, and that’s why there’s no better top dog for the job than Sally Long Dog. Like a good New Yorker, she loves pizza, walks, and hates stairs.
At a formal “indoguration” ceremony in front of City Hall on Jan. 14, the six-year-old basset hound was given a key-shaped “dog bone for the city” and cooed to baby talk by the adoring attendees.
“It turns out it’s possible to make politics inspiring, fun, to appeal to the masses, and to see politics as something that makes the world a better place,” said Stephen Calabria, creator of the NYC Dog Mayor Elections. “The honorary canine mayor and deputy canine mayor of New York City are exactly the kind of ‘paw Liticians’ we’ve been waiting for.”
Not far from Sally Long Dog’s heel will be Riley the Golden Retriever, who was voted NYC Dog’s Deputy Mayor by voters. Runners-up were Augustus the Greater Swiss Mountain Dog from the Upper West Side and Peanut French Bulldog from the Financial District.
“It was a really tough race to be honest,” said Sally’s owner Cassondra Bazelow. “I feel like there are so many people who love golden retrievers.”
The 16 candidates represented four boroughs, with Manhattan and Brooklyn being the strongest. Staten Island became an underdog district after the unfortunate untimely death of its only candidate, Diesel, before the election.
“I feel like now’s the time for a good gerrymandering joke, right?” Bazelow quipped.
In a March Madness-style bracket that took place last August, voters took part in polls on social media to vote their favorite dogs into power. While the competition shouldn’t be belligerent, Bazelow, who lives in the East Village, kept Sally’s campaign sharp by using her professional work in advertising to create graphics that many New Yorkers would understand at a deep level.
She came up with a catchy slogan: Rally for Sally. She posed with the FDNY at their East Village base. She brought back a viral photo of Sally Long Dog in an Ikea bag on the tube, perched on an overturned bin, and in one particularly cheeky photo, Sally is a good girl and reins in.
Calabria created the New York City canine mayoral election — which he modeled after a similar canine mayoral election in a Colorado city — hoping to push initiatives to address everyday issues like trash, noise pollution and a lack of accessible resources for dog owners underfunded neighborhoods.
“We hope to build this institution to advance city-level initiatives that go beyond politics, which is common sense and has broad public appeal,” Calabria said. “Things like reducing New York City’s ongoing problems with garbage disposal and noise pollution to make poop bags more accessible to New York City’s lower-income communities. If we’re making progress on those fronts, it’s because of the canine mayor.”
Bazelow himself hopes for more dog-friendly shops and parks and longer off-leash times at dog parks. Ultimately, she wants Sally Long Dog’s new mayoralty—which is set to last a year, or seven in dog years—to be simple and pure.
“There is an opportunity to bring joy to people,” Bazelow said. “I think that’s a pretty good initiative in itself.”
NYC canine mayoral elections are scheduled to begin in July each year, with two final candidates up for public voting in late fall. While “dog didate” must live in city counties — perhaps a kennel penalty if they live out of state — voters can live anywhere.
Calabria said, “We hope to use this platform to give people a good feel for politics, shed some light on an otherwise dark period in our history, and make a meaningful difference in the lives of everyday New Yorkers, both in humans as well as in dogs.”