He may get paid in treats instead of checks, but Dubs is a hardworking member of the University of Washington. And just like many faculty and staff, our mascot works with UW students.
The main job of student handlers is to accompany Dubs wherever he goes, whether it’s a Husky football game or The Whole U Scavenger Hunt. But it’s not only about keeping Dubs on schedule. These handlers are highly trained to recognize the different behaviors of Dubs, like knowing when he is stressed or tired and needs a break.
To find out a little bit more about our favorite canine colleague, I talked with Kelsey Wallach, a recently graduated handler.
What was your favorite part about being one of Dubs’ handlers?
Kelsey Wallach: My favorite part about being a mascot handler was helping little kids overcome their shyness and fear and muster the courage to come pet Dubs. It was always fun for me to use some of Dub’s tricks — high fives and roll over — to help the kiddos come out of their shells and interact with a big dog! I like to think that I helped inspire some future dog lovers!
I also really loved to do the run at the start of football games. With the crowd cheering, the football team thundering behind me and the cheer squad sprinting alongside me it’s quite the adrenaline rush! And Dubs is SO FAST. It feels like my feet are just barely touching the ground for balance as he pulls me along. He’s so powerful!
What was something difficult about being a handler?
KW: The most difficult part of being a handler was when we had to leave behind a line of people who were waiting to pet Dubs. We often have time commitments or Dubs just needs a break, and it was always heartbreaking to walk away from people who had been waiting patiently to see him! Another difficult but very important duty was ensuring that people petted and interacted with Dubs in a way that he was comfortable with. Sometimes this meant pulling him away from rough hands or having to ask people to step away from him and give him more space. This could be awkward at times, but I really valued the opportunity to teach people how to interact with a dog in a way that both parties could enjoy.
What was the most interesting event you ever attended with Dubs?
KW: One of the best events I went to with Dubs was a wedding! We dressed him up in a bow tie (it was adorable) and got to take photos with the wedding party and guests. Everyone was thrilled to see him, and the atmosphere was so happy and relaxed. I think Dubs really enjoyed it too!
What does Dubs do in his spare time?
KW: A fun Dubs fact: Dubs LOVES to walk on ledges! Anytime we’re by a curb he’ll walk on it like a gymnast on a balance beam. He’ll even hop up to walk on top of barriers in parking lots if we give him the chance! I have no idea why he likes it so much, the little weirdo.
What will you miss most about being a handler?
KW: I’m really going to miss being a part of Husky Spirit at sporting events and, of course, spending time with Dubbers!
Now a little on the dawg himself: Dubs is a six-year-old Alaskan Malamute (the largest and strongest of all Husky breeds) from Burlington, and he lives with his family in Seattle. He’s actually the University of Washington’s 13th live mascot, following greats like Frosty 1 & 11, King Chinook, and King Redoubt. In his free time, Dubs is a social media guru, so make sure to check out his blog or follow him on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.