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Duke the dog, famed mayor of Minn. township, retires amid failing health

Duke the Dog has become quite the celebrity since becoming mayor of Cormorant village two years ago. He will try for a third consecutive election victory at the 6th annual Cormorant Daze celebration on Saturday, Aug. 20. Special to Forum News Service1 / 5
Mayor duke and Tammy Odegaard of Cormorant dipped their fingers and paws into the world of daytime television as one of the stage hosts for the Steve Harvey show gets them set up for Duke’s big national debut. He also presented Duke with a doghouse in the shape of the Capitol, pictured behind Duke. Duke’s segment was ultimately cut from the TV version of the show, but can be seen on the online version, likely within the next couple of weeks. Submitted photo.2 / 5
Mayor Duke is retiring at the age of 13 (91 in "dog years"). Rep. Paul Marquart, right, came to wish him a happy retirement. Special to Forum News Service3 / 5
Cookies at Duke's retirement party were a big hit. Tally Miosek was the master mind behind these tasty treats. / Special to Forum News Service4 / 5
Mayor Duke served four terms in Cormorant Township, Minn. He will be stepping down following Cormorant Daze on Saturday, Aug. 18. Brian Basham / Forum News Service 5 / 5

CORMORANT, Minn.—Mayor Duke is over 90 years old in dog years. Now, after four terms in office, the elderly statesman has had about enough traveling, appearing in talk shows and parades, and serving as the small village's ambassador.

"Woof," he said, while reflecting on all the years of hard work and dedication to his community.

Duke, a Great Pyrenees, has been the write-in winner of the mayoral seat of Becker County's Cormorant Township since 2014, but now he's retiring. His plan after leaving office is to lay on the lawn and hang out with his owner, Dave Rick, and his adopted mother, Karen Nelson.

If he feels up to it, he is planning to attend Cormorant Daze as the honorary mayor on Saturday, Aug. 18, with Rick and Nelson.

"He's 91 people age, his health is failing. We don't think he's gonna see winter," Nelson said. "His back end is bad, he is on meds and has arthritis. He's had lyme disease twice, and we think he got hit by a car a couple years ago."

Mayor Duke is a trooper. "His heart's still in it, but his body's just like us. You want to do it, but you can't," she said. "He just looks at me like I just don't want to do this no more, but David insisted he's gonna hang in there a little while yet."

If you miss him at Cormorant Daze, you might witness him lounging on Nelson's front yard in Cormorant where he likes to hang out.

She said his favorite foods are burgers, a little bit of sweet stuff, and jerky treats, which he will be indulging on until the end of his days.

"I just want to thank all the people for supporting him and choosing him to be our mayor," Nelson said. "People have learned a lot from him, like to be chill, because he's always chill, be kind cuz he's always kind no matter to who, big or small, and to join in and get involved."

Cormorant Township is about 20 miles west of Detroit Lakes.

It's no doubt he's been a national sensation and that he is a very special dog that will be tough to replace as mayor. Duke has been a crowd favorite among the people as he certainly made the rounds during his time as mayor, including a trip to Chicago to appear on the "Steve Harvey" show, one to California for the World Dog Awards and was also featured in National Geographic Kids magazine. But he spent most of his time around his own neck of the woods, popping into countless community events around Cormorant, Lake Park, Audubon, Detroit Lakes and beyond.

Nelson said all of his scrapbooks and memorabilia have been donated to the historical society in the township hall. There was also a retirement party held on Tuesday, July 10 for Duke the Dog at the townhall, where Rep. Paul Marquart, DFL-Dilworth, came to say hello.

Her most fond memories during Duke's time as mayor were parades, including the Northwest and Christmas parades in Detroit Lakes, as well as the opportunities to raise funds for causes like the Humane Society.

Duke was able to accomplish a lot, and now it's time to relax.

"He can lay outside, and when he wants to come in he can just put his nose up by the window," she said. "If you're lucky you might see him laying out there."