Friday, August 17, 2012

Sepia Saturday: The Great Seal of UVA

Sepia Saturday challenges bloggers to share family history through old photographs.




This week’s Sepia Saturday photo prompt depicts a dog donating bones to the cause.  We have had dog themes before, but I don’t remember any that have focused on "the dog that gives." Calm down, you dog people – I know you are ready to pounce, proclaiming loud and long that man’s best friend gives and gives unconditionally.  In this blog post, I have a story that supports your hypothesis.

My dad used to mention from time to time that when he was a student at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville, there was a mutt that showed up on campus one day in the early 1940s and soon wormed his way into the hearts of students and administrators alike.  The timing was perfect as the first mascot, Beta (named for Beta Theta Pi), had died after being hit by a car on Rugby Road.  The new mascot was named Seal because his sleek black coat resembled that of a seal.  

Scanned from the UVA school newspaper 


From the moment Seal stepped on campus, he was fully involved in the life of the Cavaliers.  He sat in the gymnasium while students registered.  He attended class although he was known to fall asleep during some lectures.  He was even a welcome guest at many graduation ceremonies over the years. 

Even though Seal had no official home, he never went hungry.  Everybody fed him either in the dining hall, in the dorms, or in private apartments.  There were even some restaurants that posted signs:  “No dogs allowed except Seal.” 

Seal possessed a funny kind of intelligence.  One time he broke his leg but managed to hobble to the University Hospital where the doctors took him in and set his leg. (Lucky for Seal, no one asked for his insurance card.)

The story most remembered dates back to 1949, the year that Seal traveled with the football team to the University of Pennsylvania.  Seal was proudly wearing his blue blanket with a large orange “V.”  At half-time, Seal crossed the field and urinated on a UPenn cheerleader’s megaphone.   After that, the Virginia fans dubbed him “Caninus Megaphonus Pennsylvanus.” (Leave it to those Wahoos to throw in some Latin!)

The much loved mascot became very ill in his old age, too old to withstand an operation that would have saved a younger dog.  In December 1953, Seal was put down, but he was not alone.  Campus flags flew at half-staff.  Students arranged for a casket and pallbearers, a hearse, even a police escort.  Seal was given a grand funeral by some 2000 students, faculty, administrators, and community friends who came to mourn.  In the eulogy the varsity team’s doctor said, “I can see Seal now, leading the parade in a celestial stadium lined with giant oak trees, golden hydrants and gilded megaphones at his disposal.… In true Jeffersonian tradition, Seal came from an obscure and questionable beginning, and rose to the highest place of esteem at the University.”

Seal is buried just outside the University of Virginia Cemetery next to Beta, the first mascot. Seal's epitaph reads:

To perpetuate
the memory of Seal
Mascot and Friend 
of the students of the University
Died Dec. 11, 1953


Photo courtesy of Roadsideamerica
Tombstones for Beta and Seal

Grab your pooch and take a walk to Sepia Saturday for more bones and doggie treats.

20 comments:

  1. What a lovely story, a true doggy tale. I bet he was sorely missed.

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  2. Wendy! Another cleverly awesome blog title. (Here, I'll pat you on the back so you don't break your arm.) ;)

    Love your story about Seal the Mascot! Quite the eulogy too--"golden hydrants and gilded megaphones."

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    1. HA - thanks, Jana. I need my arm in good shape for next week's title.

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  3. Wendy, what a wonderful story; A dog man's best friend.

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  4. Bittersweet post, but a fine tribute as well!

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  5. A fine story about a wonderful and faithful dog. I love these stories and as a child had a whole book of them. As a teacher i found them great stories for children to illustrate faith, loyalty etc. I wish I'd had the story of Seal to call upon.

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  6. That's a great dog and a great dog story.

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  7. I love the fact that everyone fed him, all over the place. A much-loved doggie :-) Jo

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    1. I like that too, but my favorite is the restaurant signs.

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  8. Wendy! Once again, such a clever and original story from you ... this time heart-warming. I can clearly picture the whole scene, and I am sure that Seal was sorely and fondly missed by all who knew him. Thank you.

    Kathy M.

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    1. I can't picture 2000 people showing up for a dog's funeral. That amazes me.

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  9. It reads like a real love-story!

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  10. That's a fine dog story, a true one about a community and its admiration of a dog's loyalty. We used to live in Savannah which was the home of Uga the bulldog for the Univ. of Georgia Athens. Uga was actually several bulldogs over generations and lived in Savannah but spent football season Saturdays on the Athens campus.

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  11. A heart warming story. It's so sad when a much-loved dog has to be put down.

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  12. Great story about a great dog and how it became part of the community.

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  13. Fabulous story. Made me smile on a wet Monday morning - quite an achievement

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  14. Love the story and felt a warm spot in my heart for the pooch.
    I jumped though at the "golden" hydrant... I see they spare no expenses in the great beyond...
    ;)~
    HUGZ

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