Whiskey, the First Dog Mayor of Lakewood, Dies at 9 | Westword

Whiskey, the First Dog Mayor of Lakewood, Dies at 9

He was a politician, a certified bark-ranger and a dedicated big brother. But most of all, he was a good boy.
Whiskey became Lakewood's first dog mayor in 2023.
Whiskey became Lakewood's first dog mayor in 2023. Elizabeth Wanberg
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Lakewood has lost its top politico pup, with the death of the city's dog mayor, Whiskey, in June.

The nine-year-old German Shepherd was the first canine elected as Downtown Lakewood's honorary dog mayor in October. He beat out sixty other dogs for the position, receiving 39 percent of votes from nearly 4,000 people, according to Janet Jerde, spokesperson for the Belmar shopping district, which hosted the election.

Elizabeth Wanberg, Whiskey's owner, says he passed away suddenly on June 8 due to gas buildup and a ruptured stomach, three weeks before his tenth birthday.

"One minute we were playing, and the next minute he stopped moving," Wanberg says. "I had a feeling this was going to be his last year. He ran for mayor because I wanted to share his story. ... He was the light of a lot of people's lives."

Whiskey had long battled several health issues, including diabetes and cataracts. In addition, an inoperable brain tumor on his pituitary gland didn't impact his quality of life but caused him to have an abnormally large head, paws and organs, Wanberg says.

Despite these hardships, Whiskey lived an active and happy life, his owner says. He climbed his first fourteener last August, became a certified bark-ranger with the National Park Service and was a guardian for his younger sister, Roxy, a six-year-old mini Labradoodle. On multiple occasions, Whiskey saved Roxy from dog attacks, and he was known for keeping order at Wanberg's dog training and boarding business, ComPAWssionate Canines.
click to enlarge A woman embraces a German Shepherd dog in a field of grass.
Whiskey with his owner, Elizabeth Wanberg.
Elizabeth Wanberg

"His temperament was always really calm. He was a very, very easy puppy and a very easy dog," she says. "He was so special to a lot of people. He made a difference. Even though he didn't do too much, his presence meant a lot to a lot of people."

The honorary dog mayor contest started last year to celebrate Lakewood's dogs and highlight Belmar's pet-friendly community. Whiskey was inaugurated during the BARKtober Fest by Lakewood Mayor Wendi Strom.

During his eight months as mayor, he became a staple of the Downtown Lakewood community, appearing at the city's Cider Days, Santa Paws and Valentine's Day celebrations in his signature top hat, bowtie and medal.

Whiskey's successor has not yet been selected. The position will remain vacant until the next election in October, Jerde says.

"We are deeply saddened by the passing of Whiskey, the Honorary Downtown Lakewood Dog Mayor," says Andrea Schubert, assistant general manager of Belmar. "Whiskey's presence at Belmar was a heartwarming reminder of the joy and companionship that dogs bring into our lives."

Whiskey was also Wanberg's first dog. She got him from Colorado Springs when he was four months old. He had lived in Lakewood ever since.

Following his death, Wanberg's living room has turned into a memorial to Whiskey, with people across the city — and even pet companies like Chewy and BarkBox — sending her cards and flowers to honor the pup. "It's just nice to know that he touched this many people," she says.

"If you have a furry family member, they're not just dogs, they're part of you," Wanberg adds, saying humans can learn a lesson or two from Whiskey's life. "When life keeps throwing you curveballs...you just have to keep staying positive and keep going, like Whiskey did."

Other Colorado cities have bestowed the honor of dog mayor. Local celebrity Parker the Snow Dog, a Bernese Mountain Dog, has been the honorary mayor of Georgetown since 2020, with his initial election inspiring national media coverage.
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