07/26/2012 03:05 pm ET | Updated Sep 25, 2012

Town Traditionally Led by Cats (and a Dog)

When looking for amazing stories about dogs, I came upon Shanda, a golden retriever, who served as mayor of Guffey, Colorado from 1993-1998. Sadly, she died in office.

As with most Internet stories, a paragraph about Shanda cycles from site to site with some changes. This is a somewhat old story, so I thought I ought to touch base with the people of Guffey so that I had some new information to share. To begin with, I could not locate Shanda's owner, who no longer seems to live near Guffey. I believe I found him in Florida, but he did not return my call, so I turned to the people of Guffey.

Guffey is a small mountain town (with an elevation of 8,600 feet!) and has its own website, on which I found a telephone number that seemed to be for tourism-type calls. My call to that number was answered promptly by Charlie Morreale, who identified himself as an employee at The Guffey Garage. (The website mentions that The Guffey Garage is no longer a working auto garage; the site says "we can help you with propane, ice and custom welding jobs. We also carry an assortment of new and used plumbing and electrical supplies.") The people at The Guffey Garage also seem to have collected "oddities." If you want to see the museum's collection, "ask for the key at the Garage" and you can let yourself in. Love it... just like a New York museum!

But back to Shanda, the Dog Mayor. I asked Charlie about Shanda, and his reply was a guffaw: "Boy, are you out of touch!"

"I know that Shanda's term ended in 1998," I replied. "I'm calling to find out who replaced Shanda." I had learned from the previous information that Shanda was unique in being a canine mayor. The "Democats" had dominated since 1988, when a cat named Paisley was elected mayor. Paisley died and was replaced by Smudge le Plume. Sadly, Smudge was murdered by an unapprehended owl and a third cat, Whiffey le Gone, was then elected.

Whiffey was forced to step down when her owners moved to a ranch; that left an opening for Shanda, whose owner was quoted as stating that Shanda was against any leash law and "unlike other politicians, she really does listen to you."

About the Current Mayor
After Shanda died, "Monster the Cat" became mayor and is now serving a second term. (Monster is owned by Bill Soux, who also owns The Guffey Garage.)

Charlie added that schoolchildren are the voters for the mayoral election. (Thank you, Charlie, I would have assumed it was the townspeople and would not have thought to ask if there was a different electorate.) Charlie also noted that Guffey's population is about 20 people and that Guffey has a fire department, a public works office, a library, a community center, two bars and three restaurants.

When I asked Charlie to explain the animals' mayoral responsibilities, he said, "You're serious, aren't you?

"Well, Monster shows up here every morning for breakfast and then he goes out and spends the day politickin'."

As nearly as I can tell from the website, Guffey relies on tourism to a great degree, so the idea of having a cat or a dog as mayor is actually brilliant, but I was concerned about the fact that there were still issues like firefighting and trash removal that needed to be taken care of. I made several more phone calls and learned that Guffey is unincorporated and is part of Park County. Tom Locke at The Flume, a website that covers news from Guffey, informed me there are at least two local boards: a school board and a fire department board of directors. The Park County Sheriff's Office provides law enforcement services, and trash removal is carried out by a private company, probably as part of county contract. (I did not get responses from a good number of the people I contacted, but my timing was bad. Fairplay, a nearby community, was having their annual Burro Pack Race last weekend.)

From the people I reached it seems that Guffey's services are well taken care of, and therefore, a mayoral figurehead that attracts publicity is probably a very wise move.

More about the Mayor
While searching for a little more information about the sitting mayor, I came upon Monster's MySpace page. The page gives Monster's age as 22. (I hope the community is grooming a successor.) It notes that Monster serves "with disinterest and occasional violent outbursts against tourists and local animals."

Under music preferences, Monster specifies "No violins!" and notes that television "rots your brain, but I do like Judge Judy."

As to who Monster would like to meet: "Other independent elected officials. Preferably pussies. Dick Cheney." (It's not clear whether or not Cheney is on a separate list or considered part of the former grouping.)

Monster's hero? "The guy with the sardines."

Book preferences? "I can't read, [expletive]. I'm a cat. And don't get smart about how I created this page. I'm dictating."

During July and August, America Comes Alive tells stories of America's past by focusing on American dogs (military canines, first seeing eye dog, etc.) If you would like to receive these stories by email, write me: Put "dog" in the subject line.