He begins his preparations five hours prior to kickoff. He must assure that he is expertly groomed because he is often required to make an appearance as he arrives on campus and as game time draws near, one may find him striding confidently along nearby Dempsey Indoor.
This is all just a prelude, though, while he waits patiently to be entrenched in the deafening screams of his adoring fans as he leads his team through the tunnel of Husky Stadium.
His name is Whitepaw’s Arlut Spirit of Gold Dust, but you can call him Spirit.
Since 1999, Spirit has been the live Husky mascot. Some of his fall duties include leading the Dawgs out of the tunnel and patrolling the sidelines at home football games while accompanied by handler Kim Cross.
But perhaps you recognized Spirit’s absence this season.
“This is the first time since we became involved with it that a mascot’s ever missed a football game,” Cross said.
Spirit suffered a season-ending shoulder injury while chasing a squirrel just days before the home opener against BYU.
Unfortunately for Spirit, the season that he is now forced to miss is to be his last. The mascot’s retirement ceremony, set for the final home game against UCLA on Nov. 15, will mark his only appearance in Husky Stadium this year.
When Spirit took over the role of mascot in 1999, he became the 10th Alaskan Malamute to do so. His predecessors include Frosty I (1922-29), Frosty II (1930-36), Wasky (1946), Wasky II (1947-53), Ski (1954-57), Denali (1958), King Chinook (1959-68), Regent Denali (1969-80), Sundodger (1981-91), King Redoubt (1992-97) and Prince Redoubt (1998).
The first mascot, Frosty I, was provided by the Sigma Alpha Epsilon fraternity, who served as the dog’s handlers until 1959, when Harry Cross, a professor of law at the UW, decided to take on the role. Cross’s son, Kim, and his family have walked the sidelines with the Husky mascot ever since.
Spirit’s career has been filled with many highs and lows as the Dawgs have posted a 51-57 record — not including this year’s disaster — since he began his role as mascot. The dog witnessed the Huskies record a remarkable 11-1 season in 2000 and endured an embarrassing 1-10 year just four seasons later. Having attended so many games, one might wonder what the dog’s favorite game-day experience was.
“He had a great time at the Rose Bowl,” Cross said. “Games are all about the same to him, though. A lot of pets and a lot of treats. I think he enjoys the game-day crowd more than anything else. He enjoys being around people.”
As the UW’s director of athletic bands, Brad McDavid has been around since Spirit’s rookie year and recounts seeing the young pup on the field for his first game.
“He was such an adorable little ball of fur,” McDavid recalls. “As soon as the trainer gave a tug on the collar, he just took off. It’s been fun to not only see him maintain that great tradition but to also pull the members of the Cross family across the field with him.”
As Spirit’s pace decreases and with his retirement approaching quickly, the UW recently posted an online contest in which Husky fans could submit their vote for a new, permanent name for Spirit’s successor.
The name will be passed on from generation to generation of Husky mascot and the results of the poll will be announced Oct. 20.
Fans will then be able to vote from a short list of the most popular submissions.
For Kim Cross and Spirit, the name selection is a simple one: Spirit.
Whatever the new mascot’s name, the new dog has a tough act to follow.
Spirit has had a great career leading the Huskies, leaving the position as an old pro. In fact, Cross said the mascot even has a bit of advice for his successor.
“Behave yourself,” Spirit would say. “Don’t bite anybody.”
At the conclusion of the football season, Spirit will no longer be the mascot for the UW and after nearly 63 (dog) years of devoted service, Spirit will retire. But what will the veteran dog do with all of his new free time?
“He’ll lie in the shade,” Cross stated without hesitation.
Without a doubt, it is a rest well-earned.
Reach reporter Ben Foutz at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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