The Old Trainer: No harm in animal mascots

11/29/2013 9:00 PM

11/29/2013 9:18 PM

D ear Old Trainer: I watched a segment of Real Sports on HBO that dealt with animal mascots for college teams. They had an animal rights spokeswoman on who said it was cruel to the animals to use them this way and one of the mascots she cited as an example was the dog at Texas A&M. Is there any truth to what she said?

Sabrina,

San Francisco

Dear Sabrina: No, it’s nonsense. Misguided concern, exacerbated by a lack of knowledge, and influenced by a burning desire to be interviewed on television.

Millions of dogs desperately need help. College mascots do not. Few dogs on the planet are as loved on and treated as well as college mascots.

Reveille, the dog you mentioned, has a student assigned to care for her 24 hours a day. He is required to have her with him at all times, including when he is in class and on dates. She sleeps with him at night, is brushed daily, and eats only the finest food.

She is designated a cadet general by the U.S. Department of Defense and has the permanent rank of first cadet in the Texas A&M Corps of Cadets.

This is her first year on the job, taking over for Reveille VII, who died last May. Twenty-five thousand students and alums attended the official memorial service.

Reveille VII was buried in the Reveille Cemetery, a graceful, tree-lined plaza costing more than a million dollars. She and all her predecessors lie in individual graves facing the stadium and the special scoreboard erected so they will always know the score of the game. Fresh flowers are always in place on each grave.

But you don’t have to know any of that to know the woman is dead wrong. Reveille is a Shetland sheepdog and they are notoriously nervous and high strung. And yet Reveille is the most relaxed, content dog you will ever see. Any trainer can see at a glance she doesn’t have a problem in the world.

And that is the case with all college mascots. If any one of them was ever mistreated in even the slightest way the college president would be fired on the spot because the mascot ranks way above the president with students and alums.

The “spokeswoman” making the accusation said her dog would be terrified by the sound of 100,000 cheering people. I suppose that is possible, but her mistake is extrapolating that dubious claim into the belief that therefore all dogs will be terrified.

The exact opposite is true. Most dogs enjoy excitement. Every dog I train loves the spotlight and can’t get enough of crowds loving on them. Mascots are chosen precisely because they love to perform for crowds.

If the spokeswoman is sincere she can get out there and work hard, like thousands of others, helping dogs that need the help in order to survive.

But then she wouldn’t be interviewed on TV.

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