Pick of the litter

Handsome Dan XVIII was bred to be a bigger, better bulldog.

Kevin Discepolo ’09 via Instagram

Kevin Discepolo ’09 via Instagram

Walter, an Olde English Bulldogge, will reign as Handsome Dan XVIII. This photo is from his Instagram feed. View full image

The new secret weapon in Yale sports, a seven-pound, 0' 6" first-year from Bristol, Maine, arrived on campus just in time for the first win over Harvard in football since 2006. On November 17, the university announced the appointment of a two-month-old puppy named Walter (an homage to Yale football legend Walter Camp) as Handsome Dan XVIII.

The new Dan succeeds Sherman, who died in August after a nine-year reign as Handsome Dan XVII. When Chris Getman ’64, owner and caretaker of Sherman and three previous Dans, decided to retire from the role, the university made some changes. First, at Getman’s suggestion, they looked at alternative breeds to the health-challenged English Bulldog. And second, Yale itself bought the dog from a breeder, rather than outsourcing mascot duties to a friendly alum.

Kevin Discepolo ’09, a former Yale lacrosse player who is now an assistant athletic director, was part of the committee that oversaw the planning and search for the new Dan. He talked to other colleges with live mascots to get an idea about best practices, and he researched breeds, settling on the Olde English Bulldogge, a relatively new breed that harks back to older bulldogs—such as the original Dan of the 1880s. Walter will likely be larger, more athletic, healthier, and longer-lived than his most recent predecessors. (And you can take him to a crew race. “These dogs can swim,” says Discepolo, “unlike most bulldogs, which sink like a rock.”)

Discepolo is the new dog’s caretaker, having signed a memorandum of understanding with the university outlining his duties—and Walter’s. “I need to be at a lot of events for my job anyway,” says Discepolo, “so it makes a lot of sense.” Walter lives with Discepolo in Guilford and has already begun accompanying him to his office in Ray Tompkins House. (Fans can follow Walter on Twitter—@handsomedan18—and Instagram—@handsomedanXVIII.)

Walter’s public appearances will be limited until he completes obedience training at about six months old. But he and Discepolo have already had a taste of celebrity. When the breeders delivered the dog to Yale, Discepolo offered them a tour of the campus. “But we didn’t make it very far,” he says, “because people were swarming around the puppy. It was like the Beatles were here.”

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