By A. Campbell
Good morning, Puppers! This week we are excited to share an in-depth interview with New York City’s newly-elected and very first Honorary Dog Mayor, Sally Long Dog and Honorary Deputy Dog Mayor, Riley the Golden.
Sally is a six-year-old Basset Hound who resides in the East Village. When Sally isn’t drafting legislation or accepting gentle head pats as she works the rope line, she likes to spend time at dog-friendly establishments in her neighborhood like Boris and Horton. Her devoted deputy and right hand man, Riley, is a five-year-old Golden Retriever who lives in Battery Park. Local pups may remember Riley from his days living on the Upper West Side. After a demanding day of brokering bipartisan deals in City Hall, Riley prefers to destress by eating sticks.
While Sally and Riley are the eye candy in front of the camera lens, the brains behind Dog Mayor NYC is Stephen Calabria. Calabria conceived of the honorary dog mayor initiative in early 2022 as a reaction to general public malaise and disillusionment with national politics. “I thought, ‘What would most of us like for politics to be?’” Calabria recalled. “I never wanted it to be only about the dogs. Ultimately, it was about people and the way people would receive it.” Having previously worked as a polling reporter for the Huffington Post, Calabria’s comfort and familiarity with political jargon and election processes quickly transformed into creative inspiration for a New York City-wide mayoral election in which candidates were dogs and voters were their adoring humans.
In July 2022, the first part of the election kicked off as 16 canine-didates representing all five boroughs faced off one by one through a bracketed system of individual elections until the voting eventually narrowed down to two contenders – Sally Long Dog and Riley the Golden. In the heated final round of voting, Riley received strong endorsements from the Golden Retriever community, but Sally emerged victorious by sweeping not only the loyal Bassett Hound demographic, but also a broad base of short- or stumpy-legged constituents including dachshunds, corgis, bulldogs, and terriers.
Both canine-didates accepted the final results without contention and made a joyful public appearance in front of City Hall to share details about their plans to work together to make NYC better for all. Sally and Riley are a dynamic duo taking NYC by storm. While Sally serves as the brains of the operation and likes to dedicate her time to metrics-driven strategy and goal-setting, Riley contributes high energy and classic American good looks as he shakes hands and takes selfies with fans, ensuring their administration maintains high approval ratings.
For the curious canine who wants to learn more about how Sally and Riley intend to use their political power to benefit New York City, here is a list of their priorities:
Volunteerism: Promote and advance the work of therapy dog teams in New York City. As a proud therapy dog volunteer for The Good Dog Foundation, Sally wants to raise awareness about the opportunity to serve our community and give back through volunteerism.
Adoption: Sally and Riley are strong advocates for dog fostering and adoption through one of the many nonprofit organizations working to place pups in loving homes. Sally is partial to Waldo’s Rescue Pen and Riley likes to follow the work of Bunny’s Buddies.
Park maintenance: Raising awareness about the fact that many amenities dog owners use – like dog parks and runs – are often self-funded and individually cleaned and maintained by the owners themselves. It’s important to build community around these shared spaces so that all dogs can enjoy a clean, safe, and respectful environment.
Support for small businesses: One of the New Yorkiest things about New York is the proliferation of small businesses that imbue so much of the city’s character. Sally and Riley are committed to throwing their publicity and support behind small business owners to ensure they continue to thrive.
And finally, “More poop bag dispensaries stationed along the West Side Highway and throughout the city,” says Riley. “The first rule of being a good citizen and a good dog owner is to always clean up after yourself.”
If you think your pup deserves a shot at neighborhood fame, we encourage you to reach out to Audrey at firstname.lastname@example.org to be considered for a future profile on West Side Rag and follow your fellow Pupper West Sider’s adventures on Instagram at @pupper_west_side_uws
If readers are interested in becoming pet owners, we encourage you to consider adopting or volunteering to be a foster parent with one of the many shelters and nonprofits based in and around New York City. These include but aren’t limited to Muddy Paws Rescue; Animal Lighthouse Rescue; Animal Care Centers of NYC; NYC ASPCA; Humane Society of New York; Bideawee; Social Tees