Walter, Handsome Dan XVIII, set to retire in early spring
The mascot’s retirement follows the departure of Kevin Discepolo ’09, Walter’s caretaker and the former assistant athletic director of facilities, operations and events, in early October, though it remains unclear whether the two events are related.
Handsome Dan XVIII, affectionately known as “Walter,” is set to retire after four years of serving as Yale’s official mascot.
Walter, who was born on Sep. 23, 2016 and announced as Handsome Dan XVIII on Nov. 17, 2016, was the first Olde English Bulldogge to serve as Handsome Dan. All previous Dans were purebred English Bulldogs. His retirement follows the early October departure of Kevin Discepolo ’09, Walter’s caretaker who left Yale Athletics for a new position at BSE Global, though it remains unclear whether the two events are related.
“Handsome Dan 18 will remain Yale University’s mascot until early spring,” Associate Athletic Director for Strategic Communications Mike Gambardella wrote in an email to the News. “A formal transition and celebration to Handsome Dan 19 will take place at that same time.”
When asked about the reasoning for Walter’s retirement or an update on the search process for Handsome Dan XIX, Gambardella did not share any further information.
Discepolo, the former assistant athletic director of facilities, operations and events at Yale Athletics, helped lead the search for Walter in 2016 after Handsome Dan XVII, known as “Sherman,” passed away of a heart attack that summer. After an intensive search, Discepolo welcomed Walter to New Haven from a breeder in Maine. For the past four years, he has taken care of the dog, bringing him to work at Ray Tompkins House and parading him around campus and Yale athletic facilities.
But in October, Discepolo left his position at Yale to serve as a capital expenditure project manager, or a CAPEX project manager, at BSE Global, the Brooklyn company that operates and manages the Barclays Center, the Brooklyn Nets and other affiliated teams.
“I found a great opportunity outside of Yale,” Discepolo said. “[But] as an alum, definitely difficult to leave.”
Discepolo said he is not permitted to publicly discuss plans for Handsome Dan at this time, but told the News, “rest assured, [Walter’s] doing fine.”
Although he did not get the opportunity to support any Yale titles this fall, Handsome Dan XVIII will leave Yale after seeing two Ivy League championships in football, a March Madness berth in men’s basketball, Ancient Eight titles in several different Yale varsity programs and national championships in men’s lacrosse as well as in men’s heavyweight crew.
Two days after his formal announcement in November 2016, Yale football snapped a nine-year losing streak in The Game with a 21-14 victory at Harvard. With Walter as Handsome Dan, Yale is 3-1 in The Game.
As an Olde English Bulldogge, a new breed created in the 1970s, Walter is healthier and more athletic than the English Bulldog, which is a breed of bulldog characterized by poor health due to generations of inbreeding. In a January interview with ESPN, Discepolo said that “everyone who comes in contact with him says he’s the most athletic bulldog we’ve had.”
“[English Bulldogs’] longevity is definitely affected by the degree of conformational change and inbreeding, which is reflected by lifespan estimates … with a median of 8.4 years,” Niels Pedersen, professor emeritus of medicine and epidemiology at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, wrote in a 2016 research paper for “Canine Medicine and Genetics.”
Walter was bred by Jessica and Pete Seiders of Wicked Good Bulldogges in Bristol, Maine. The News was unable to reach them for comment as to if Yale had placed an inquiry for Handsome Dan XIX.
As Walter passes the torch to the dog who will serve as the nineteenth iteration of the beloved mascot, the role of Handsome Dan remains an essential part of Yale life. Handsome Dan XIX has big paws to fill.
Handsome Dan’s impact is felt not only in his appearances at sporting events and daily walks around campus, but also in the form of a quarter-ton bronze statue at the Yale Bowl. When it opened in 2012, the New Haven Shake Shack location even had a menu item named after the Yale mascot — the “Handsome Dog,” a Vienna all-beef dog topped with Shack cheese sauce and crispy ShackMeister Ale marinated onions.
Handsome Dan I was introduced in 1889 and was the first live animal mascot in college sports.
James Richardson | firstname.lastname@example.org