One of the greatest causes of anxiety when coming to college is who your roommate might be. What if he or she is smelly or slobbish or sleeps all the time? For the last four years, Interim University Chaplain Scott Pilarz, S.J., (CAS ’81) has faced just such a situation. In spite of this, he has opted every year to keep the same roommate; in fact, Pilarz has even invited his roommate home for summer and winter holidays.
Pilarz may be an extraordinary man for putting up with all of this, but then again he lives with no ordinary roommate. His roommate is Jack, Georgetown’s famed 4-year-old English bulldog.
First, a brief history lesson.
Georgetown’s mascots have not always been bulldogs. One of the school’s earliest was a terrier named Stubby. After spending a year and half on the front lines of World War I, Stubby came to Georgetown where he entertained fans by pushing a football around the field during halftime with his nose.
Following Stubby’s death he was stuffed, donated to the Smithsonian and replaced by Hoya, a terrier belonging to Rev. Vincent McDonough, S.J., a faculty moderator of athletics. A Great Dane named Butch succeeded Hoya until Georgetown suspended football in 1951.
In 1962 the tradition of live mascots was reinstated and the name of Jack was first bestowed on an English bulldog. Upon retirement he was replaced by a second Jack, who served as mascot until the early 1970s, when the man in the bulldog suit took the place of a live mascot.
Just prior to Jack’s arrival, the university borrowed a bulldog from a resident of Georgetown. Daisy, as the dog was called, attended a handful of Hoya basketball games in the pre-Jack era.
Fast forward to Feb. 16, 1999.
Pilarz picks up Georgetown’s newest mascot, Jack, at Dulles Airport. The $1,500 puppy was only nine weeks old when he first arrived on campus.
“[Jack] was essentially purchased with money raised by the senior class that year,” Pilarz explains. “They wanted it here for Senior Parents Weekend, which I think might have been the last home basketball game of the year, and they wanted this dog at that game.”
Jack has grown a lot since he first set paw on campus. At least, physically, that is. Jack is now nearly four years old and weighs in at a considerable 60 lbs. At heart, however, he still seems to be a puppy, craving attention almost as much as he craves food.
Jack loves being out among his fellow Hoyas, and students enjoy seeing Jack around campus as well. “He gets very sad in the summer when everyone’s gone. Nobody pays attention to him,” Pilarz said. “[During the year] he hears the people shout his name or pet him on the head. In the summer people walk by him and ignore him; he gets all bent out of shape.”
To keep Jack in the middle of all the action, Pilarz walks him in the mornings and evenings. Georgetown students walk Jack while Pilarz is at work. The exercise also keeps Jack in shape for basketball season; he still makes it to nearly every home game the Hoyas play.
Bulldogs are often prone to poor health, but not Jack. Students who see him walking around campus often think that based on his panting, he is teetering on the edge of death. He is actually the average size for an English bulldog.
“He’s been very healthy. I take him once a year for his shot and the vet’s been telling me he’s in great shape – not due to any exercise regimen, that’s for sure,” Pilarz said with a laugh, “but he is keeping the weight off, which is great.”
Of course, along with exercise comes a healthy diet, and Jack will do just about anything for food. According to Pilarz, Jack has been reared on Science Diet since he was a puppy, though he also admits that Jack occasionally receives table scraps.
“I had some people over for dinner last spring, and had put out a whole smoked salmon for hors d’ouvres on the coffee table. I turned around for a minute and it was gone,” Pilarz laughed. “He was a thirsty dog for a while after that. It’s amazing what he can do when there’s food involved.”
So the big question is, of course, can Jack do any tricks? The answer: Other than failing out of obedience school after only a week and a half, no. Jack attended a local dog school before the owner told Pilarz that bulldogs are by nature stubborn and slothful, and asked him not to bring Jack back anymore.
By that time, however, Jack had already been accepted at Georgetown and grades were no longer important to him.
“The only thing he learned was to sit, which he does kind of when he wants to. If he’s in the mood and you say sit, he might make the connection,” Pilarz said. “Those are the only commands that ever stuck.”
Both Pilarz and Otto Hentz, S.J., are full of other great stories about Jack. They both laugh about the cocker spaniel owned by Pilarz’s mother. Every time Pilarz takes Jack home, the cocker spaniel picks fights with Jack. According to Hentz, Pilarz has taken to calling the spaniel “perfect-dog” because his mother always blames the conflicts on Jack.
Jack would much rather sleep, however, and as any Georgetown student who has petted him knows, he is a very friendly and well-natured dog. He may look intimidating at first, but actually he is just a wimp, according to Pilarz. He is also little more than a puppy at heart.
Both Pilarz and Hentz have become very fond of Jack since his arrival at Georgetown, and Hentz says the relationships are reciprocal.
“We’re friends and I think he’s very loyal to me,” Hentz said of Jack, “because he trained on my rug in Village A. Now, Pilarz will try to deny this, but the fact is he trained on my rug in Village A.”
Despite his popularity with Hentz, Pilarz and Hoyas in general, Jack does not have a girlfriend. Pilarz does admit that he has known male students to volunteer to walk Jack around campus in the hopes of attracting a female for themselves, however.
“Jack has never been spayed or neutered, and we’ve talked about how great it would be to breed him, but we just never found a female,” Pilarz said. “I would guess we haven’t really looked hard, but Jack would probably appreciate it if we did.” The University of Georgia has a live bulldog named Uga as a mascot. The tradition there dates back to 1956 in a continuous line of English bulldogs. The University of Georgia buries its deceased mascots in a tomb at its football stadium.
No such plans have yet been made for Jack, however. Pilarz said he hopes none will have to be made any time soon. English bulldogs have a typical lifespan of about 10 years, so he will probably be around for a while longer.
Regardless, Jack will be honored with a statue placed in the soon-to-be-completed Southwest Quadrangle. The statue was a gift of the Class of 2000 and is residing in the lobby of McDonough Gymnasium until the new residence hall is completed.
“I was sitting in a class that [Pilarz] was teaching and one student said, `do dogs have souls?’ And [Pilarz] said no,” Hentz said, “but if you watched closely, you could see him filling up with tears at that admission. He’s crazy about the dog.”