A REAL GEORGIA BULLDOG
"DAMN GOOD DOG"
UGA I followed in the paw prints of a couple of brindled bulldogs, the first named Butch and the second, Mike. UGA II claimed two SEC titles and UGA III, the 1980 national championship. But UGA IV was particularly mourned because he was Georgia's winningest mascot. His teams were 77-27-4 and went to a bowl in each of his nine seasons. Before the opening kickoff, he would be pulled to the 50-yard line in a larger-than-life red fireplug, from which he emerged to dart across the field to his climate-controlled doghouse on the sidelines. With his loose skin and mournful face, he looked like a worried Old Testament prophet.
UGA the Wise was hounded by all sorts of civic groups. He served as chairdog of the American Cancer Society's Great American Smokeout in 1984. He did testimonials for the the March of Dimes and volunteer work for the Humane Society. He accompanied Herschel Walker to the 1982 Heisman Trophy banquet in Manhattan. On that occasion, UGA IV forsook his usual letter sweater for a white collar and black bow tie.
About the only places he avoided were flea markets. "UGA IV was the featured speaker at meetings of many of the various Bulldog Clubs," says Swann Brannon, Seller's daughter. He had a splendid voice that rumbled forth basso profundo when he addressed large convocations, a talent that might make Georgia president Charles Knapp envious. That and the fact that the UGAs rate one more page than Knapp does in the Bulldog media guide.
Of course, not everyone is gaga over UGA. "The only reason Georgia even has a bulldog mascot is that the school was founded by a bunch of Yale missionaries," snarls Chris Getman, the keeper of Handsome Dan XIII, Yale's bulldog. "Dan puts UGA to shame. As far as I can tell, UGA just sits on the sidelines and sweats." Dan can stand on his hind legs, jump through a Hula Hoop and sink to the bottom of a pond. Asked if he would rather go to Harvard or die, he plops to the ground, rolls over and plays dead.
According to Yale historians, Dan XIII carries on the oldest official line of college mascots in the U.S.: The Dan Dynasty is now celebrating its 102nd anniversary—714th, if you go by the folklore formula for dog years. The original Handsome Dan was bought from a New Haven blacksmith for five dollars. He led Eli football teams to 125 victories in 131 games and inspired Cole Porter, class of '13, to write Bulldog, a song still howled whenever Yalies gather together.
When Handsome I died in 1898, The Hartford Courant wrote: "He was always taken to games on a leash, and for years the Harvard football team owed its continued existence to the fact that the rope held." Actually, the first Dan is still around. Like Lenin, he was stuffed and preserved behind glass. He presides over the trophy room in the Yale gym.
No successor was crowned until 25 years later, when the ignominious reign of Dan II began. That Dan was kidnapped by Harvard students on the eve of the 1934 Harvard-Yale football game and photographed licking the hamburger-smeared boots of John Harvard's statue. Yale won 14-0, but the humiliation was never forgotten. "The crew team went so far as to adopt its own bulldog, creating a canine Great Schism," wrote Elliot Tannenbaum, a noted Danographer. "Dan was shunned by the campus community until he broke his leg and died three years later, unloved and unmourned."
Getman calls No. 13 Maurice, after Ron Maurice Darling, the former Yale pitcher now with the Oakland A's. When Darling was a sophomore, Getman hired him to paint his house. "Ron painted all the windows shut," Getman says. "This is my revenge." A bluff, barrel-chested New Haven financial consultant, Getman is living proof that alumni come to look like their mascots. The main difference between Getman and Dan is that Getman seldom slobbers in public.
Like many Yalies, Dan XIII has a certain patrician air about him, a look of world-weary resignation that one associates with blue bloods despairing of the foibles of the lower orders. Dan has lunched with President Bush, '48, and corresponds with Millie, the First Pooch. In the dog days of summer, he vacations on the Jersey shore. And though it never made the society page of The New York Times, Dan was once affianced to a greyhound (the dog, not the bus).