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Unfamiliar Land

Bosco Ramos, Dog Mayor

Sunol, CA


Bosco Ramos was elected mayor of Sunol, California in 1981. Bosco is remembered not for what he did in office, but for who he was — a mix of Black Labrador and Rottweiler, and the first dog to be elected mayor of an American town.

At the time he was elected Bosco was already the town’s unofficial mascot. During the day he had free rein to roam around town and visit Sunol’s residents. His favorite place to pass the time was at the town’s pub. He’d wait for someone to order food, and growl at them until they shared a bite.

It was at the bar where his campaign for mayor began. Two of the regulars were arguing about the upcoming mayoral election, when Bosco’s owner interjected that Bosco could beat either of the candidates. He turned out to be right. Once word got out, the town’s residents wrote his name in and Bosco won by a landslide.

Allegedly he ran as a member of the “re-pup-lican” party.

In 1984 the NY Star tabloid wrote a short piece about Bosco, declaring Sunol “the wackiest town in America.” For the rest of the decade his fame grew, first in the US and then worldwide. By 1990 news of Bosco had reached China. The People’s Daily newspaper wrote about him as an example of the failure of Western democracy. “There is no distinction between people and dogs” in America, the newspaper claimed.

For context, the pro-democratic protests at Tiananmen Square had occurred only a year earlier, in 1989.

When a group of Chinese American students from Stanford University and UC Berkeley learned about the People’s Daily editorial, they felt compelled to respond. With the permission of his owner they took Bosco to the Chinese Embassy in San Francisco where they held a 30 hour protest against communism and the Chinese government. One of Sunol’s residents described Bosco as “a symbol of democracy and freedom.”

Bosco passed away from natural causes in 1994. The town hasn’t forgotten his legacy. A statue of Bosco stands proudly next to the Sunol post office. Across the street, the pub where he used to spend his days re-opened in 2005 as Boscos Bones and Brews with Bosco as its mascot. The bar proudly features a taxidermy black lab that dispenses beer when the bartender lifts its leg. It’s not the real Bosco, but it does resemble him. Sunol’s residents are divided as to whether it’s in poor taste or a very funny joke.

Then there are the pups in Sunol that bear a resemblance to Bosco. It hasn’t been proven, but residents believe Bosco had a number of girlfriends he would visit on his evening walks home from the bar.

Being the mayor had its privileges.

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