ASHEVILLE, NC – The new bulldog mascot for the University of North Carolina Asheville began his college career as a rescued dog at the Escambia County (Alabama) Animal Shelter.
His name was Rebel when he was rescued along with a female named Dixie in early 2008. Dixie and Rebel were the proud parents of 10 beautiful puppies. Their owners surrendered them to the animal shelter, according to Renee Jones, director of the Humane Society of Escambia County, Ala.
Jones fostered the canine family at her home for nine days before they were moved to the Rockin’ P Boxer rescue in Jackson, Ala.
“I sent her the pics of how adorable the pups were and she agreed to take them. Two of her wonderful volunteers met us in Montgomery and crammed the two adults along with the ten puppies into a small little neon and off they went,” Jone said. Rebel was later transfered to a rescue shelter in Georgia.
For years, UNC Asheville’s bulldog mascot, Rocky, has been known to be tenacious, strong and courageous… now rescued can be added to this list of traits.
The University unveiled its new live mascot “Rocky I,” a white Victorian Bulldog with black spots, at half-time of the men’s basketball homecoming game against Coastal Carolina on February 21, at UNC Asheville’s Justice Center. Rocky I will make his triumphant entrance following the presentation of the 2009 Athletics Hall of Fame inductees.
“Students, alumni, faculty, staff and the entire community are absolutely going to fall in love with this dog,” said Kevan Frazier, UNC Asheville Associate Vice Chancellor for Alumni Relations, who has been instrumental in bringing back the tradition of a live mascot. “At first glance you see an 85-pound bulldog and then you see a very friendly attention-loving pal. And on top of that, he’s just cute.”
The University has had four live bulldog mascots dating from 1948 to the early 1980s. The tradition lay dormant for more than 20 years until recently. About two years ago, students, alumni and staff began working diligently to bring back the tradition.
Alumni couple and dog lovers Alexis and Ed Johnson volunteered to be the mascot’s keepers and trainers. Ed, who is a lecturer in UNC Asheville’s Mathematics Department, began contacting breeders across the southeast. For months he had little luck finding the right dog. On a whim one day, Ed started researching bulldog rescue organizations. In less than 30 minutes he found what seemed like a perfect match in Rebel.
Last November, Ed and Alexis drove to Georgia to meet the rescued Victorian Bulldog and to determine if they could mold him into mascot material. Immediately they knew they had found Rocky I.
“When I met Rocky, I knew that he was the dog for UNC Asheville,” said Frazier. “He was worth the wait, drool and all.”
One student who has met Rocky is Mary Ann Craver, who served on the mascot committee.,/p>
“I was so excited to meet him and wasn’t disappointed,” said Craver, a senior from Lexington, N.C. “Rocky’s energy is great. He’s very friendly and athletic and brings the mascot personality to life. Now the UNC Asheville Bulldog isn’t just a symbol.”
Frazier agrees and sees Rocky’s rescue from Georgia as especially serendipitous.
“From all accounts, this dog didn’t want any part of being a Georgia Bulldog,” he said. “Rocky is a UNC Asheville Bulldog through and through. We’re proud to welcome him home.”