For the second year in a row, an underdog – or, in this case, a spotted dog – earned the title of Pet Mayor in Gulfport. In the final hours of the election, Arabella, an 11-year-old Dalmatian, took the title with a $1,500 donation, nosing ahead of Bigsbee Wells Reese.
The full slate of elected paw-ficials includes Mayor Arabella, Vice Pet Mayor, Bigsbee Wells Reese; Chief of Barks and Recreation, Pickle; Chief Cultural Pawfficer, Mazie Lei, and Chief of Paw Business Development, Blue.
All the candidates for Gulfport Pet Mayor – including a guinea pig, the first-ever time a guinea pig has thrown its hat into the political ring in Gulfport – raised almost $7,000 for the Gulfport Historical Society (which operates both the Gulfport History Museum and the Gulfport Arts Center) and Friends of Strays, making it the highest-grossing election in pet mayor history, according to Amanda Hagood, who shepherds the election every year.
Meet Arabella (and Her Human)
Arabella may serve as Gulfport’s first Dalmatian mayor, but she’s not the first Dalmatian in her family. Her human companion, Nanci Hayes, grew up with Dals.
“I’ve always had Dalmatians in my family, starting with my grandfather,” Hayes told The Gabber.
While not serving as mayor, Arabella works as a therapy dog, certified by Therapy Dogs International. Unlike service dogs, who work with one person (such as a seeing eye dog), therapy dogs can work many different people. Arabella visits with nursing home residents and hospital patients.
The best part for Hayes?
“Just the smiles,” Hayes says, “to see the people who come over and just want to pet her, the joy.”
Arabella has also visited schools, where kids read to her (children who struggle with reading out loud will more readily read to a dog than a classroom of their peers).
Arabella lives in the Jamison building of Town Shores, which is a non-pet building, but Arabella enjoys a special status: In addition to working as a therapy dog, she’s an emotional support dog for Hayes.
One glitch in her role as mayor: She lives in Maine for part of the year. While she’s gone, who will preside over important matters, like best sniff spots in Gulfport and ensuring the availability of dog drinking fountains throughout Gulfport?
This spotted servant has it covered: She’s asked Vice Mayor Bigsbee Wells Reese to step up into the role while she helps Hayes from mid-May through the end of October. The vice mayor agreed, and Arabella told The Gabber she could do a Zoom call from Maine if needed.
“We are a team,” she said.