One of the most popular figures in California politics has fallen critically ill – despite having been a very good boy.
First dog Sutter Brown, a Pembroke Welsh corgi belonging to Gov. Jerry Brown, underwent emergency surgery last weekend to remove masses in his intestines, lymph nodes and liver that were “most likely cancer,” spokesman Evan Westrup said in an email.
“While Sutter pulled through surgery, the vets were not able to remove all of the cancer and his condition remains critical,” Westrup said.
A common sight in the state Capitol, 13-year-old Sutter has done more than bring petting-based relief to overworked staffers. He has also been put to use to advance Brown’s agenda, helping to sell the governor’s tax hike proposal and then appearing on cards, handed out during Brown’s State of the State address, urging lawmakers to “keep new spending on a short leash.”
Judging by social media, Sutter is an extremely well-liked pooch: He has nearly 10,000 followers, more than most lawmakers.
His passing could deal a blow to the other gubernatorial dog, Colusa Lucy Brown, the “deputy first dog” Brown and his wife acquired in 2015. Westrup said her “spirits have been very low” in Sutter’s absence.
“The first dog is a fighter and we’re all pulling for him,” Westrup said.
Tributes and expressions of grief quickly welled up Tuesday as news of Sutter’s condition spread. An official California Republican Twitter account sent a message wishing the dog a “fast and speedy recovery.” One lawmaker recalled Sutter “signing” his bill to facilitate dog park building with a paw print. An Assembly candidate from the San Bernardino area sent along some well-wishes.
Former Brown aide Gil Duran tweeted that Sutter was a furry beacon in troubled times.
“During the darkest days of the budget crisis, Sutter symbolized the pluck, optimism and humor of the Brown Administration,” he wrote.
In the depths of that budget turmoil, recalled former Brown aide Steve Glazer, Sutter’s role could go beyond lightening the mood. Glazer, now a state senator in the East Bay, recounted using Sutter as an emissary to then-Senate Republican leader Bob Dutton.
“We took Sutter up for some diplomacy in his office,” Glazer said, but it was in keeping with the larger political need to “be serious but not take yourself too seriously.”
Glazer added that Sutter’s roving affection-seeking in ways mirrored Brown’s far-ranging intellectualism.
“He had a little bit of the boss’s personality,” Glazer said. “He would engage in an intense but brief way.”
When Jennifer Fearing heard the news, she burst into tears. A lobbyist whose clients include animal advocates such as the Humane Society of the United States, Fearing used to walk and dog-sit Sutter, serving as the celebrity canine’s handler when Sutter traveled for the Proposition 30 campaign. She said she used to keep a list of Capitol staffers who implored her to bring Sutter by for a visit.
“People who are in this otherwise cynical, hard business, they have a soft spot. There’s a need for that kind of human outlet,” Fearing said. “He’s had a humanizing impact on the Capitol.”