RALEIGH — After giving a second wolf-like Tamaskan dog a tryout at its home football game Thursday night against Cincinnati, N.C. State University officials were pleased and said they hope they have found the right live mascot.
"We had a really good experience," said Chris Kingston, NCSU's senior associate director of athletics, who is overseeing the live mascot project. "I think he did really well with the crowd, and the crowd really liked him."
Fans had been clamoring for a live version of "Tuffy," NCSU's strutting wolf mascot, and student leaders discovered the Tamaskan, a rare Finnish breed that is people-friendly but looks remarkably lupine.
Taking it slow
Athletic Director Debbie Yow wanted to move carefully to ensure the safety of the animal and to make sure everything went smoothly. Another Tamaskan appeared in an unannounced trial run at the season opener Sept. 4.
It was owned by a kennel, though, and Kingston said the university decided to find a dog owned by a family that might be better able to monitor how it was handling any stress from the job.
He declined to identify the new dog's owner, who wants to remain anonymous for now.
Kingston said he wanted to get feedback from the owner about how things went before deciding whether this will be the permanent Tuffy. But he said the search could be over if the owner thinks things worked OK.
"I hope we can move forward," he said. "We don't want to change mascots every game."
When university leaders decided to revive the tradition of a live mascot, they nixed the idea of a wolf hybrid, in part because the shy, nocturnal creatures proved unsuited to large crowds in several attempts in the 1950s. One was sold to a traveling animal show after it had to be dragged across the football field, snarling and scrabbling, in its lone appearance. The next died almost immediately, and the third wolf reportedly had a nervous breakdown after being exposed to the crowds.
A fourth wolf, purchased in 1966, didn't have the same problems, but turned out to be a coyote.
That's not a problem this time, said a highly placed source.
"I patted it," Chancellor Randy Woodson told the university's board of trustees the morning after the game. "It's not a coyote, I can guarantee you that."
Given the history, though, it should probably be noted that Woodson is a plant scientist.
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