Have you heard the news? It’s a girl!
A big, furry, wrinkly newborn arrived on campus over the summer, and her name is Adelaide. The University of Redlands’ newest mascot-in-training is a six-month old bulldog puppy named after the University’s founding first lady, wife of President Jasper Newton Field. I sat down with “Addie’s” handler, Assistant Director of Alumni and Community Relations, Mary Littlejohn, on a sunny Friday morning in front of the Alumni House to learn more about the newest addition to our mascot lineage: where she came from, what sort of training she undergoes for her position and her place in the history of the school’s animal representatives.
When it came time consider a successor to the university’s current mascot, the beloved Thurber, an on-campus branch of the Student Animals & Society Institute (SASI), an organization dedicated to “providing a forum for education, scholarship, and service relating to the human-animal bond,” called for a rescue animal to be chosen. However, as Littlejohn began her student-aided research, she discovered that there are a number of drawbacks to this approach that could potentially be harmful to the chosen dog and those that interact with him or her.
“Most [rescue] dogs were older, couldn’t be around kids, had a lot of health issues, couldn’t be around other dogs – she sees lots of other dogs at events, and sees kids all the time,” explained Littlejohn. “So that right there was a liability issue.”
The question of health was of particular importance in the selection process, as the university’s mascot would live a life of regular physical activity and interactions with other people and dogs. The bulldog breed, Littlejohn explained, is also prone to spina bifida, a condition in which the dog’s spinal cord does not fully develop.
Just as critical as health was finding a puppy, as obedience training while young is an essential component of a mascot who interacts with strangers on a daily basis.
Their search uncovered two potential candidates who were young, had a calm disposition, and were in good health, but unfortunately were adopted before anyone was able to contact the rescue organization, Littlejohn recounted. Thus, they continued their search for several months.
“We talked to rescuers and they said puppies – even under two or three years old – are really hard to find, and it’s always a first-come-first-serve basis,” explained Littlejohn. “So we could’ve been waiting for years and be mascot-less.”
With the 2017 Fall semester fast approaching, and Thurber set to retire before the 2018-19 school year, Littlejohn sought a compromise. She expanded her search to other sources, while still retaining the spirit of SASI’s original message: “The encouragement of more rescue animal adoptions, especially of bulldogs.”
Eventually, Littlejohn settled on a puppy from a local family in San Bernardino.
“I did my research on finding a dog that was born in a good home with lots of other people and children,” Littlejohn explained. “We chose to adopt a purebred, and a puppy at that, so she could start training young.”
Once the bulldog pup was adopted, an email went out to the University’s community to vote on a name, and Adelaide was selected. It was important that this process be swift, as Littlejohn could not begin training her without a name for her to answer to.
From there, Addie went immediately into obedience training.
“We did a group, so like six dogs, and of course she’s the laziest one of the bunch,” laughed Littlejohn. “She can already sit really well, so she’s learning to walk next to you and follow commands.”
One of Addie’s weaknesses is meeting new people, whom she gets very excited around. Upon first meeting her I crouched to her level and she eagerly leapt onto my lap, a habit Littlejohn is working to break for the safety of smaller children.
“She’s very food motivated too,” Littlejohn shared. Currently Addie is being weaned off of low-calorie treats as her sole form of positive reinforcement, however Littlejohn is looking for a tastier treat students can give her less often, so that she can be more obedient to the entire student body.
Of course, the University of Redlands’ mascot can’t be seen at major events without proper attire.
“University Communications had a cape made for a photo shoot she just did,” Littlejohn said. “We likely will do a blingy-er one for the changing of the collar ceremony.”
Adelaide lives with Littlejohn for the remainder of her training period in a home with two children and two other dogs, where she is able to interact with both children and animals daily, and is also being potty trained.
After our interview, while Littlejohn and I sat and watched the babysitter-on-duty, Caroline Boyll and photographer for the Bulldog, Halie West play with Addie in the grass, we talked about the moment in the university’s history our mascot-to-be finds herself in. Addie will be the sixth official mascot when Thurber retires, becoming Mascot Emeritus, and the first female mascot in University of Redlands’ over one hundred year history. Addie represents a new chapter in our mascot lineage, and will no doubt welcome future students with the same spirit and pride the University community has known our previous beloved bulldogs to represent.
photos courtesy of Halie West