I have, on occasion, given other schools a hard time over their apparent inability to care for a live mascot, but, lately, of course, questions have been raised by the frequency with which recent Ugas have been laid to rest, as a result of which there will be no official Uga at this year’s season opener, and my ability to be critical is hampered; evidently, no one can take care of a live mascot, including us. However, some schools are more colossally incompetent than others.
This brings us to the Louisiana Tech Bulldogs, whose live mascot tradition dates back to 1899, when the animal giving rise to the school’s nickname died in a house fire. In the wake of that ignominious beginning, we should not be surprised that Louisiana Tech has added a new, and sincerely shameful, chapter, but, still, this story is shocking, even by the standards of the horrid care mascots appear to receive on some campuses.
The school’s English bulldog, Tech XX, spent his Sunday nights at a local animal clinic. This past weekend, an employee of the Sexton Animal Health Center left the animal outside too long, and Tech XX died from heat stroke, after which the offending worker covered up the death and reported the animal missing. A reward was offered for the animal’s safe return, and it was not until Wednesday morning that the guilty party confessed what happened. The veterinarian who owns the clinic issued a statement in which he twice described the actions of his now-former employee as “negligence.”
Perhaps it’s because Uga is such a visible and beloved figure in the Georgia Bulldogs’ tradition; perhaps it’s because I pass by the Uga graves on my way into Sanford Stadium each Saturday in the autumn; perhaps I just like dogs, the way a good American should . . . but, whatever the cause, I have to ask what the heck is wrong with this person?
You’re looking after the 20th mascot in a line that goes back more than a century. The animal belongs to a breed that is known for its health problems. It’s hotter than 700 Hells out there this summer. You work in a veterinary clinic. It doesn’t occur to you to take the dog inside?
Then, when your failure to do your job properly results in the death of the animal, you cover it up, let everyone believe the dog is missing, and wait a couple of days while a community frets over the animal’s safety and conducts a manhunt---or, I guess, a doghunt---for the mascot . . . all after you have done, what, exactly, with the remains? (This part may be the most disturbing to me; as a Georgia fan, I believe strongly that a deceased mascot deserves a proper burial like anyone else. Where on earth did he stash the body?)
Obviously, in the world in which we live, this is pretty small potatoes; heck, in the sport that we love, this doesn’t even move the needle after the Penn State scandal. I get that. With less than a month to go until college football season, though, I’d like to be able to look forward to the coming fall with that special sense of hope that only attaches when everyone is 0-0. Instead, I find my anticipation interrupted by outrage over this level of insensitivity and incompetence compounded by this level of cowardice and dishonesty. It may not be easy, but it is very simple; when you’re charged with taking care of a dog, you take care of the dog, and, if you don’t, you man up and admit it!
Our best wishes go out to the Louisiana Tech community in this time of sadness, together with our hopes that the person responsible never works with animals again. If he could stay the heck away from Athens, Ga., that’d be all right, too.