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'You Couldn't Get Elected Dogcatcher!' No, Seriously

Zeb Towne, the elected dogcatcher of Duxbury, Vt. "I'm the only person in the country who gets elected as a dogcatcher. So, I'm awesome, I guess," says Towne.
Amy Kolb Noyes
Vermont Public Radio
Zeb Towne, the elected dogcatcher of Duxbury, Vt. "I'm the only person in the country who gets elected as a dogcatcher. So, I'm awesome, I guess," says Towne.

A couple of weeks ago, NPR's Weekend Edition told you about America's only elected dogcatcher, Zeb Towne. He's held that position in the town of Duxbury, Vt. for 15 years in a row.

Towne told us he had never been bothered by that timeworn political insult: "You couldn't get elected dogcatcher!"

The story really hit home for me, because I cover politics, and I love dogs, so I've put a lot of thought into how you would run a campaign to be elected dogcatcher.

In fact, I've always thought that of all the elected positions out there, dogcatcher was the one I was best-suited to run for. My campaign platform would center around my proven track record of catching multiple neighborhood dogs.

Campaign brochures would feature Otis, a stray who showed up in my neighborhood a few years ago in Sacramento. He was a small, dirty schnauzer-esque mutt who took up residence in a nearby bush. Otis looked friendly and happy, but he'd dash away the moment you got near him.

And, I should clarify, Otis is the name I decided on when I made it a personal pet project to round Otis up and bring him to the shelter. This led to several days' worth of Coyote-and-Roadrunner situations, including one that had me sprinting down the back alley with a leash, a jar of peanut butter and a schnauzer just a few yards ahead of me.

I had a lot of time to focus on this task, since my wife had moved across the country to Washington, and I was still looking for a job out there. After day two or three, she gently suggested that perhaps the Otis mission had just a little bit to do with the stress of a job search, and I conceded she may have been onto something.

A neighbor and I finally rounded Otis up, and I confirmed — after repeated calls to the shelter — that he found a happy ending somewhere in the Pacific Northwest.

But I hate to tell you, America's only elected dogcatcher did not get that same happy ending.

Turns out, it is against Vermont law for a town to elect its own dogcatcher. After our story aired, someone from Duxbury got in touch with the Vermont League of Cities and Towns. A lawyer there pointed out the bad news: dogcatcher is not an official elected position in the state. For now, dogcatchers can only be appointed.

Towne still has a job though. Someone moved to appoint him dogcatcher, and the vote was unanimous. He even got an assistant.

I guess Duxbury has a lot of dogs on the loose. But if the town ever does change its rules and get the OK from the state to bring back elections, I may just have to run a carpetbagger campaign and challenge Towne.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Scott Detrow is a White House correspondent for NPR and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast.
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