Catching up with Walter and Kevin Discepolo ’09
The four-year-old Olde English Bulldogge, Handsome Dan XVIII, is settling into life away from the spotlight.
Courtesy of Kevin Discepolo
Walter, the Olde English Bulldogge known to many as Handsome Dan XVIII, has been settling into a new chapter of his life: retirement.
Kingman — announced as Handsome Dan XIX on March 18 of this year — has spent the past month learning the ins and outs of serving as the Bulldogs’ mascot. The puppy has made plenty of public appearances around Yale’s campus as his uncle and former mascot Walter enjoys newfound retirement.
“I’ve had him since he was eight weeks old,” Kevin Discepolo ’09, Walter’s caretaker and former Yale assistant athletic director of facilities, operations and events told the News. “[Walter and I are] very attached, so fortunately Yale decided that it would be cruel to separate the two of us.”
Discepolo, now a capital expenditures project manager for BSE Global, spoke with the News via Zoom from his new workplace: the Barclays Center. Currently, Discepolo is working on a renovation of the WNBA team New York Liberty’s locker room, a new team store in the Barclays Center and a new VIP club for sideline seats.
Walter has remained in Connecticut while Discepolo has been commuting a few days per week to the Big Apple for work, but the Morse College alum said that they will be moving to a new home in Brooklyn soon.
Adjusting to retired life amid the pandemic has been a stark change for Walter. During his time as Handsome Dan, Walter would be in the athletic offices every day, always surrounded by people, but these days, he has much less human interaction.
Even so, Walter lives a “very good, pampered life,” according to Discepolo. Walter and Discepolo frequently have “bucket time,” when the two go out into the backyard and play with Walter’s favorite toy: a five-gallon bucket.
“He’s very happy,” Discepolo said. “He goes wild for [bucket time].”
When Walter is on a walk, his time as the Blue and White’s former mascot still shows, as he is eager to say hello to everyone he passes on the street. And while official Yale social media feeds are already filled with pictures of Kingman, Walter is still very photogenic himself.
But Discepolo noted that capturing the perfect shot is not always as easy as it seems.
“Behind the scenes, people don’t realize … for every good photo that you’ll see there’s, like, 20 other ones on my phone, trying to get him to look at the camera.”
After the 2016 passing of Sherman, who served as Handsome Dan XVII, Chris Getman ’64 — who had been the handler of Sherman and three other Dans before him — retired. Discepolo noted that he already attended many games through his job with Yale Athletics, and as an alumnus, it “made sense” to take the leash and be the next handler of Handsome Dan.
Over the next four years, Discepolo and Walter would oversee the breaking of a nine-year losing streak against Harvard in The Game and multiple commencement ceremonies. They were also on the sidelines at iconic sporting venues such as Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium, cheering on Yale teams.
Discepolo and Walter built a strong relationship during Walter’s run as Handsome Dan XVIII. Even in large crowds, Discepolo could have Walter off of his leash.
“If we were out at football practice or something and he’d be running around I would always catch him looking back towards me,” Discepolo explained. “If I went to go walk up the Yale Bowl tunnel he would leave everybody else to go chase after me.”
Discepolo told the News that having this connection with Walter — what Discepolo described as a “special bond” — is one of the greatest aspects of being Walter’s handler.
But what Discepolo will miss most is interacting with other Yalies on a day-to-day basis.
“I met so many phenomenal and great people,” Discepolo said. “To see the joy that Walter brought to them … [was] an incredible experience.”
Walter, like Kingman, is an Olde English Bulldogge. In fact, Walter was the first Olde English Bulldogge to serve as Handsome Dan, with the previous 17 all being English bulldogs. Getman noted in an interview to the News that Olde English Bulldogges are much healthier and do not share “a lot of the bad qualities of English bulldogs.”
Both Handsome Dan XVIII and XIX came from Wicked Good Bulldogges in Bristol, Maine. Discepolo noted that he is “very happy” that Kingman came from the same breeder as Walter, noting that the breeders, Jessica and Pete Seiders, are a “phenomenal family and really care for their dogs.”
Current Handsome Dan Handler Kassandra Haro ’18 echoed these sentiments. In a Zoom interview, she told the News that all the puppies in their care are “beloved.”
“Walter was a great dog, so we definitely wanted that same vibe with Kingman,” Haro said.
Handsome Dan XIX’s main office is in the Visitor Center, where he serves as a mascot for the community as well as the athletic teams. This shift from the former mascots, Discepolo noted, arose after Walter’s busy schedule and high demand at a multitude of campus events, not just athletics ones. He added that the “mascot has morphed into a full-time job.” Discepolo emphasized what a great marketing opportunity it is for the University.
Walter’s days as Yale’s mascot may be in the rearview mirror, but once Discepolo’s schedule “settles,” the two will be back in New Haven to meet Walter’s nephew and successor. He added that he is excited about “passing on the leash to the next caretaker.”
“As a Yale alum, I definitely plan on coming back and being at plenty of games,” Discepolo said. “I guess it’s a matter of if a retired Handsome Dan is still welcome to roam around.”
The Barclays Center, home of the Brooklyn Nets and New York Liberty, offers 17,732 seats for basketball games and can house up to 19,000 for concerts.
Dean Centa contributed reporting.
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