Courtesy of Kassandra Haro

For the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic, the Yale Bowl is ready to welcome old and new faces — and in some cases, snouts.

Yale football’s home opener against Holy Cross this Saturday marks a new chapter not just for the team and the Bowl, but also for Kingman, who will be attending his first football game as Handsome Dan XIX. While he has made an appearance at a recent women’s soccer game and a football scrimmage against Brown, an event of this scale is unfamiliar territory for the 8-month-old puppy. Still, Kingman and his handler Kassandra Haro ’18 are up for the challenge.

“He was born to be a mascot,” Haro said. “He loves crowds and people and watching sports — even at the risk of wanting to join in. But obviously, he’ll stay attached to me during the game.”

A proven natural with the fans, Kingman always draws a crowd making his rounds across campus. In fact, it is easy to find him running from group to group of Yalies studying and relaxing in the University’s many courtyards, eager for playtime and pets. Quick to follow is Haro, sometimes carrying a pack of Handsome Dan stickers for the lucky students.

With Kingman, the goal is to get students to regularly experience the excitement of meeting Handsome Dan — and not just at athletic events, Haro said.

This has already come true for the residents of Silliman College, which Kingman and Haro call home. 

“I saw Kingman a lot while living in Silliman this summer,” said Jeff Pham ’24, who attested to Kingman’s ability to energize people wherever he goes, especially when it is time for the big day at the Yale Bowl. “A big draw of live sports is the crowd atmosphere, especially when everyone is cheering for the same thing. Handsome Dan will definitely be an exciting and important part of gameday.” 

Still, there will be a lot to learn from Kingman’s first big football game, which Haro sees as a “trial run” for future events. Even with his experience interacting with smaller groups of the Yale community on campus, it is impossible to replicate the gameday spectacle of horns blaring from the Yale Precision Marching Band, let alone the roar of a stadium packed with fans.

According to a representative from Bark Busters Home Dog Training, a company with dog trainers across the country including New Haven, a college football game can be a huge source of stress for young dogs. Too many things happening at once can lead to high anxiety and a lack of focus, depending on how he has been trained so far. Should Kingman find himself uncomfortable or stressed, a good solution for the long term, according to Bark Busters, “is to look for a root cause or trigger behind what causes symptoms of distress at the game and focus on that with positive reinforcement like treats.”

Haro already has a plan in place so Kingman can be his best self this Saturday. Between going on the field during warmups and meeting with fans in the stands, Kingman will have a cushy place to nap and rehydrate in one of the Yale Bowl’s air-conditioned luxury suites, if not his comfy outside bed Haro intends on bringing.

“We’ve done a lot of work on noticing cues,” Haro said. “So we’ll know when he’s tired or irritated, when we need to take him out. Kingman’s wellbeing is my top priority.”

The Saturday game will commence at 12 p.m.

KYLIE VOLAVONGSA