Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Remembering Toby

This is off-topic, but I want to mention it anyway.

Before he was Congressman Tim Walberg, he was State Representative Tim Walberg, representing Lenawee County in the Michigan House for 16 years. It was a solid, reliable Republican seat, and Lenawee County is a pretty conservative place that liked Walberg's brand of politics.

But in 1996, Walberg got a surprisingly strong challenge from a local radio host named Doug Spade. When Walberg retired in 1998, Spade won the seat and held it comfortably for six years, until term-limited out of office in 2004. His brother, Dudley, now holds the seat, and was easily re-elected in 2006.

Doug Spade isn't an ordinary politician, though. He was caring and supportive and always focused on helping his constituents. Even when he voted a way you didn't like, you knew he was doing it because it was right for Lenawee County.

He also had the distinction of being the only member of the Michigan House of Representatives that was legally blind. But that physical impediment didn't stop him from representing the district well.

Always active in the community, there's a good chance that if you lived in Lenawee County, you probably met Doug Spade. And you probably also met Toby, his leader dog. Meeting Toby stands out in my memory almost as clearly as my conversation with Representative Spade. By all accounts, he was a good dog, and added a new dynamic to political business in Lansing.

Today, the AP brings us this:

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — State lawmakers are taking time to remember "Representative Toby."

The 12-year-old leader dog was a constant companion of former state Democratic Representative Doug Spade of Adrian.

Toby died on Sunday.

Toby started his political career when Spade won the 57th district House seat, becoming Michigan's second blind lawmaker.

Spade says Toby was a natural at his job. Spade's brother, Democrat Dudley Spade of Tipton, remembers Toby for his incredible personality.

Most lawmakers who were in Lansing during Toby's tenure have a story about him. They brought him treats on the House floor, scratched his ears on the sly and took him for walks during late-night sessions.

For more about Doug Spade and Toby, read this article originally from the Adrian Daily Telegram.

None of this is in any way related to Tim Walberg. I just wanted to take a moment to remember a public servant of a different sort.

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Thanks for that Telegram link on Doug's retirement from state legislature. I literally had tears in my eyes.
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