Everywhere a Bulldog

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        While walking to the Bookstore from Royster the other day I noticed –  well, I almost tripped over – a concrete statue of a bulldog where the various sidewalks join together.  It serves the function of a sort of carved welcome mat.  Weathered and a little pale, it is still unmistakably identifiable as our mascot.  Having never paid attention to it before, I wondered how many other canine representations on campus had escaped my notice. So I did a little ambulatory research to count the bulldogs.  The total?

            Forty.  Five sculptures, two major pieces of artwork, various and sundry signs, posters, stuffed animals, and even one live version (whom we shall meet in a moment).  And this is not counting the interior walls of any classroom or office, which would add scores more. Heck, Eric Acra must have ten on the shelves in his office alone.  The areas of highest concentration are predictable – the Bulldog Bookstore and the Burroughs gym complex.  I know we are a big campus, but forty is a lot of bulldogs.  Having done no similar walking tour in other schools, I would still bet that there are not forty dolphins in the halls at Cape Henry or forty cougars at Collegiate in Richmond.  It has to be a dead certain lock that there are not forty oak trees decorating the Norfolk Collegiate campus.

"Tucker" greets visitors to the Wynne Courtyard and Fountain.

 

            What should we make of this surfeit of bulldogs?  Why have we chosen to surround ourselves with such a large pack?  The initial answer is that the bulldog is a symbol of toughness, a character trait that when properly defined is to be much sought after.  The story goes that Teddy Baker ’53, who at age 14 had been given the job as spotter to a WNOR radio broadcast team at a much ballyhooed 1949 football game with Maury High School, supplied the nickname when the announcers grew tired of calling the Academy team “boys,” and demanded an alternative.  “I blurted out bulldogs,” Teddy recalls. To this day he has no idea where that choice came from.  At the time he was more worried about getting in trouble for supplying what was at the time a purely fictitious mascot identity.  But after the announcers repeated it on air, and more particularly when Abe Goldblatt used the name in his Virginian-Pilot article on the game the next day, the name was forever no longer fictitious.  And “fighting like bulldogs” had a very nice ring to it.  To this day we strive to conduct ourselves, like the bulldog, with an unwillingness to compromise or to give up until our work is done.

 

            There’s another, slightly more complex reason for all the bulldog art.  With all due respect to the dogs and particularly their owners, the bulldog is one of nature’s most ridiculous looking creatures.  Jay Rainey and his family are the proud owners of Silas, a standard English bulldog.  He makes it from their home on the circle to the campus proper quite often, always bringing sounds of delight from children and broad smiles from the adults.  You can’t help but love an animal that is so straightforward and self-assured in the light of his unusual appearance.  And if Silas is popular with the kids, the Peccie’s bulldog Churchill is, frankly, a rock star.  He is huge, packing 50 or 60 pounds into his 14 vertical inches.  He is twice as big as Silas, with twice the grunt, twice the drool, and twice the adoration.  On those occasions when he is toted across town to school, his arrival is an event.  After all, he must be pretty strong and confident to go around in public looking like that.

 

Churchill after a particularly challenging afternoon.

    

         Our students are anything but ridiculous looking.  I don’t know one who grunts or drools.  Check out graduation composite photographs if you want to see beautiful groups of young men and women.  But we all want to think that it is not how we look, but how we act that brings us respect and love.  The many images of our mascot serve to remind us of that.  You don’t have to be streamlined or lithe to be successful.  You just have to be a bulldog.

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