After the recent death of UGA VII, the animal-rights organization PETA recommended retiring the highly-bred bulldog mascots of the University of Georgia’s football team and substituting robot dogs. I doubt if many fans endorsed the robot idea; dog-loving members of my own household greeted the notion with derision.
That’s too bad because PETA had another recommendation that makes a lot of sense. The organization suggested the football team adopt future mascots from shelters or humane societies instead of featuring thoroughbred dogs with breathing problems and other unhealthy traits.
Naturally the Georgia Bulldogs do need a bulldog to represent them. Shelters are full of bulldogs, of all sizes, colors, ages and temperaments. Many are pit-bull types with reputations (mostly undeserved) for aggression that make it hard to find them new homes. For a football team, a mascot with a bad-ass reputation might be a good thing.
Poor UGA VII didn’t look bad-ass. He looked sad out there on the sidelines, lurching along on his bandy legs and wheezing just to breathe. He was only four years old when his brave heart gave out.
If the Georgia Bulldogs adopted bulldog-type dogs from shelters and humane societies, a lot of good could come of it. The fame and appeal of the new UGAs could encourage more people to adopt animals that need homes. Bulldogs are natural comics, especially if they’re healthy enough to run and jump and breathe normally, and they’d be great entertainers on the sidelines.
The thoroughbred UGAs have been a tradition of Georgia’s flagship university for a long time and traditions are hard to change. The Chinese once broke and bound the feet of little girls. The proceedure, which conformed to an arbitrary standard of beauty, crippled the girls for life. Even though we’ve all come to love and admire the iconic pushed-in faces and stubby bodies of the UGA dogs, is it humane to continue a tradition that glorifies the breeding of animals guaranteed to have physical problems?
It’s hard to imagine a dog as physically-challenged as UGA VII ever lunging for a player on the opposing team.