A long history surrounds Jonathan
Published: Friday, February 22, 2013
Updated: Friday, February 22, 2013 16:02
He is one of UConn’s most well known figures, attends many sporting and school events, and his face is on the floor of Gampel Pavilion.
Jonathan the Husky was selected as UConn’s mascot by a student poll in 1935. The job of taking care of Jonathan has been done by the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity since 1970.
On a normal day, Jonathan will wake up and go for a walk with two members of Alpha Phi Omega’s Husky Committee, the 15-person crew whose job it is to take care of him. “Monday through Friday a handler goes to his host family and takes him for a walk,” said Meghan Colletta, co-chairman of the Husky Committee. “Sometimes he’ll need a walk around dinnertime too because he’s really active.”
If he is going to a game or an event, two members of Alpha Phi Omega will pick him up, deck him out in his UConn vest, and take him to the venue.
The location of Jonathan’s host family is a secret to all but a few members of Alpha Phi Omega, since rival schools have been known to steal mascots prior to big games. “There is a maximum of 20 people who know where he is,” said Colletta.
Even in the busy life of a university mascot, however, Jonathan does find some time to relax. “He listens to 95.7 most of the time. I’ll walk in and he’ll be listening to Justin Bieber and playing with his toys,” said Colletta.
When it comes time for Jonathan to retire, a new Jonathan can come from a variety of places. Some have been donated, such as the current Husky, Jonathan XIII. Others have been purchased, but regardless of where he comes from, certain specifications must always be met.
“There can’t be any wolf in his lineage three lines back, he has to be at least 75% Siberian Husky, and if he is not pure Siberian Husky, he can only be Samoyed or Akita,” said Colletta. “They don’t have to have blue eyes, but they are a plus.”
Special training is also required to learn how to deal with large crowds, something that the current Jonathan is very good at. “He really does know he’s famous,” said Colletta. “We call him sassy, because he does what he wants, when he wants.”
Not all Jonathans have been the right fit for the job. Jonathan V, who served in the early 60’s, became frightened and skittish in the presence of many people, and had to be retired early.
Jonathan is one of the most recognizable symbols of the University, and in the wake of the Sandy Hook tragedy, Jonathan and Alpha Phi Omega made the trip to Newtown to visit some of the children along with the men’s basketball team. “The kids and moms were so excited to see him and pet him,” said Colletta. “They all knew who he was.”