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"Mayor" Beauregard - Winifred's four-legged icon

Mayor Beauregard: No doubt who's top dog in Winifred
KIM SKORNOGOSKI

WINIFRED — Sheesh. As if proof was needed that politics has gone to the dogs,
Winifred's "mayor" can regularly be seen peeing on short shrubs and even chasing a
little tail — his own.

Beauregard, a basset hound, is both town mascot and Winifred's unofficial mayor.

"He just lays there like, 'Dammit I own this town,'" said human Mayor Neil Rich. "If there
was a vote, I'd hate to say who would win."

Beauregard earned his Top Dog title through years of volunteer work and a lot of
shaking paws and licking babies.

During the day, he acts as town police dog — patrolling the streets, paying extra care
to the students' safety. He's a one-dog public works department, walking down Main
Street's yellow line, and even sleeping in the middle of the road to make sure it's in
good enough shape for drivers.

And he regularly acts as town fire marshal, closely inspecting the hydrants.

So when the town decided to honor its 23 mayors dating back to 1918, of course
Beauregard was included.

To raise money to operate the Winifred Homestead Museum and town library, 150
floor tiles that will line the museum/town hall/library/emergency center hallway are being
sold for $100 each.

At Rich's suggestion, the city agreed to buy tiles engraved with the names of the
mayors and their years' of service. Beauregard's tile in mayors' row may even get
special treatment, surrounded by solid tiles to set it apart.

"Everybody wants Beauregard in there," said museum Curator Jim Arthur. "He's quite
a dog. He just thinks he runs the town."

Born in Billings, Beauregard was barely 8 weeks old when the Heggems brought him
home to Winifred as a Mother's Day present for Connie Heggem.

For some time, Beauregard was content lounging around the Heggem ranch a mile
outside of town.

It was the love of a woman that finally awakened him to the big world of Winifred. Three
weeks after a neighbor introduced Beauregard to his female dog, Beau began to
roam.

"He decided there's a better life out there for him," Ed Heggem said. "There's never
been a puppy out of him, but he's always out romancing."

At first the Heggems chained him up to keep him home, but Beauregard was
miserable and, rather than facing those big sad eyes, they let him waddle to town.

Beauregard's usual route takes him to City Clerk Twila Lunde's house in the morning
before he crosses the street to the Winifred school.

"He whimpers outside my door when he wants in or wants some food," Lunde said.
"The kids love him — he'd be a shoo-in with the younger voters."

There he'll wait for students to play at recess and when the teacher calls the students
in, Beauregard will trot right into the school with the students — if he's in the mood.

Beauregard is not above taking bribes — some teachers pick up steak bones and
other doggie treats to buy the mayor's favor.

Afternoons, he'll trot by the cafe and park at the town hall and post office to make sure
business is running smoothly.

He dedicates many hours to sleeping in the street — begrudgingly moving for the few
trucks that won't go around him, only to return to the road when the trucks pass and the
honking is silenced.

He stops to visit dog friends too, paying special attention to a Welsh Corgi that
belongs to Ed Heggems' cousin.

Jarrett Carr, whose parents own the Winifred Tavern, said Beauregard launched his
political career five years ago when he began showing up for every football practice.

The team had to take a few timeouts when Beauregard scuffled onto the field during
games. Once, someone let Beauregard into the high school gymnasium and he
interrupted a basketball game.

"The other town wasn't sure what was going on, but everybody in Winifred had a good
laugh," Carr said.

After that, someone made Beauregard a red vest and he became the star of the
homecoming parade.

"We never really had a mascot that everybody knows — he's given us that," Carr said.
"He's probably the most famous Winifredite."

The showboating has naturally led many to question whether Beauregard is staging his
run for a higher office.

Could we see a Jag (Gov. Brian Schweitzer's famed border collie)/Beauregard ticket
in 2008?

Beauregard declined comment.