There may not be another dog in the world that lives as comfortably as Georgia’s mascot does on Saturdays.
Former interim Bulldog mascot Russ was officially collared as Uga IX in front of a sold out crowd at Sanford Stadium this past weekend.
While the rest of Athens was buzzing in anticipation before the evening kickoff, Russ was relaxing in his private suite at the Georgia Center for Continuing Education, with the Seiler family who has provided the University with mascots since 1956.
Dog handler Charles Seiler makes sure that Russ is as peaceful as he can be even though the doghouse outside the door tends to attract unexpected visitors.
“We try to keep him as docile as possible before the game because he can wear himself out and then all he does is sleep in his doghouse and people don’t like that,” he said. “A million kids will come by and bang on that door so we normally let them just get a glimpse [from the doorway].”
Seiler says that the toughest thing for Russ is not being able to have a fixed schedule on game days, since kickoff times vary on a week-to-week basis.
“The hard part is getting him acclimated to a certain time,” he said. “Since today’s game is at 7:30 it’s kind of difficult because some games are at 12, some games are at three and some games at 7:30, so Russ really hasn’t accepted any kind of schedule. We just play it by ear.”
But the wise dog knows what’s coming when his jersey comes out.
“We try to hide his jerseys the best we can because when he sees the jersey, [he knows] it’s game time,” Seiler said.
Russ has already done quite a bit of traveling during his two stints as the interim mascot.
He flies with the team when they play on the road, and a lot of the time he tries to talk strategy with the coaches in the first class section.
“When he gets on the plane he tends to want to dive off and get in the first row so that’s first class, and that’s where coach [Mark] Richt is and he can’t hang with coach Richt,” Seiler said. “I pick him up and carry him all the way to my seat which is usually halfway because I sit in the exit seats because it’s got more room and he’s got to be under my feet.”
When Russ and his family arrive at the stadium, they follow a protocol of checking up on any scheduled spikes in noise that may spook the dog.
“When I get to a stadium I have to ask about flyovers, fireworks and cannons,” Seiler said. “Different dogs handle it all in different ways. [Russ’s] deal is that he went six and a half years before he had to go to a ballgame. He grew up on a cotton farm – he’s just not used to it.”
For the first part of the season, Seiler says that the mascots are usually more docile than they are towards the end of it.
“People think he’s real inactive; well there’s reasons for that. One – he’s hot as hell. Two – he really doesn’t like the noise. And three – he knows that his doghouse is a refuge,” he said. “It’s got foam [padding], it’s got air conditioning running all the time and when he’s in there he can’t hear anything.”
Swann Seiler, the oldest sibling in the family and a Grady graduate, has been impressed with Russ’ transition into celebrity status.
“For a dog that grew up on a farm and all of a sudden be cast into the limelight like he has, he’s been an exceptionally good dog,” she said. “He takes the crowds very well. He seems to like the petting and the attention. I wish I could say he had embraced the red coat band like we wanted him to, but it’s growing on him.”
Russ’ unlikely promotion from farm dog to mascot certainly makes him the most unique Uga to ever wear the distinguished red and black collar for Georgia.
“He’s certainly been a trooper,” Swann said. “Who would have ever thought that he would go from substitute to Uga IX?”