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Working Cats: Miscellany 5
Stubbs, Alaskan 'Mayor'
Mayor Stubbs of the small town of Talkeetna, a couple of hours' drive from Anchorage in Alaska, is a mayor with a difference: he's a cat! Stubbs (probably so called because he has only the stub of a tail) was born in July 1997, one of a box of kittens that the owners were giving away outside Nagley's General Store, and store owner Lauri Stec chose him because of his lack of a proper tail.
The story goes that while he was still a kitten there was a mayoral election, and as the citizens were not impressed with any of the humans standing for the job, he was voted for as a write-in candidate and was elected. In fact that isn't quite true; it seems to be a tale invented by certain media and taken up by many more, so it's become a kind of urban myth. Talkeetna doesn't really have a mayor as such, but is run by a community council operating under the jurisdiction of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough; and while there was indeed an election in 1997, Talkeetna residents didn't vote in it and a cat didn't win! There were some write-in votes, but not from there.
However, no one really cares and as far as the citizens of Talkeetna, and much of the world at large, are concerned, Stubbs is actually honorary mayor of the Talkeetna historical district, a position that by 2013 he had held for 16 years. Town residents are said to be perfectly happy with their choice, and have nothing but praise for his record in office. 'He's good probably the best we've had,’ says Lauri. 'He doesn't raise our taxes; we have no sales tax. He doesn't interfere with business, and he's honest.' He's probably done wonders for the tourist industry, too, as people come from far and wide hoping to see him 30 to 40 people on many days; in addition cards and letters for him flood in and he has internet followers in many parts of the world, particularly via his Facebook page (links below).
Although the mayor generally receives positive reviews for his laissez-faire politics, he is guilty of frequently sleeping on the job. 'His biggest political rivals would be other local businesses that might hate that he comes over and takes a nap and leaves fur everywhere. They aren't big fans of his,' said Andi Farrar, local Chamber of Commerce president. 'We usually just say, "You have to deal with it. He runs the town."'
Stubbs does exhibit some diva behaviour, such as drinking water out of a wine glass laced with catnip every afternoon. 'All throughout the day I have to take care of the mayor. He's very demanding,' says Nagley's employee Skye Farrar. 'He meows and meows and meows and demands to be picked up and put on the counter. And he demands to be taken away from the tourists, so he can have his long afternoon nap.' But in spite of his high-maintenance habits, the mayor is well loved in the town. 'When my building burned down in 2002, he was the last to come out of it,' said Todd Basilone, owner of Mountain High Pizza Pie in Talkeetna. 'He's always in the restaurant. Stubbs wanders into every place in town.'
Basilone also remarked that even though dogs run loose and outnumber people in Talkeetna, the canines seem to respect Stubbs' authority, and he'd never seen a dog challenge the cat. Unfortunately that changed early in September 2013 when he was attacked and mauled by a vicious dog on the loose, receiving life-threatening injuries; he suffered a deep gash in his side, a fractured sternum, punctured lung and bruised hips. Luckily he had the strength to crawl away from the attack; his owner received a call about it and after a search lasting several hours Stubbs was eventually found. He was rushed to the local vet for first aid and then to the Big Lake-Susitna Veterinary Hospital near the town of Wasilla, an hour and a half's drive away, where he was made as comfortable as possible, but for a time it was touch and go whether he would survive.
Luckily the mayor is a tough old chap and after little more than two weeks he had recovered enough to be released from the animal hospital. He still needed plenty of rest, and owner Lauri planned to keep him for a few days away from the hubbub of the store where he lives but not for too long; she didn't want him to become depressed and wanted to move him back to his regular bed in the store as soon as he was up to it. He'll need to take it easy for a couple of months. Meanwhile the story of the attack on Stubbs distressed his thousands of fans and donations towards his treatment came in from all over. Any excess funds received will go to a local animal shelter.
We wish Mayor Stubbs a speedy and complete recovery and hope he'll be able to resume his mayoral 'duties' for a number of years yet.
Stubbs isn't the first resident of Nagley's General Store; pictures and brief details of earlier Nagley's cats Gemini, Holly, Squeeker and Charlie can be seen here.
In November 2013 Stubbs himself gave an encouraging update, via his Facebook page, on his progress. 'I have greatly improved over the last few weeks and am beginning to get back to my old self. I may need another surgery to repair a floating septum bone, but otherwise I am doing well. I am watching the elections with great interest and feel ready to dispense advice on any issue. I am roaming more freely (around the store) and extra precautions have been taken to assure I remain safe and well while recovering. I may come out of retirement and claw my way back to the top.'
We're pleased to say that the Mayor made a full recovery from his ordeal. There was a rumour going round Facebook early in 2016 to the effect that he had died, but it was untrue! The old boy is alive and well, had his 19th birthday in April 2016 and continues to live at Nagley's General Store in Talkeetna.
Read about more political felines Tuxedo Stan and Earl Grey of the Tuxedo Party in Canada;
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Our featured feline at the head of the page is Socks, pictured in 2003 surveying his 'estate' in the early morning sunshine. Affectionately known as Soxy, he blossomed from a thin and hungry stray into a substantial and handsome cat who loved life and company, and his gentle ways endeared him to many friends. He is now no longer with us, but you can read more from his human companion here.
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