In the early 1940s, a scrappy dog named Throckmorton arrived at Union. Attached to the Navy’s V-12 College Training Program, which was designed to increase the numbers of commissioned naval officers during World War II, the dog immediately bonded with the campus community.
By July 1944, the Concordiensis on its front-page declared Throckmorton as the official College mascot. The paper even launched a penny drive to pay for a collar, license and rabies vaccination.
A year later, however, amid complaints about Throckmorton’s overzealous behavior, the dog found itself in danger of being reassigned.
“I had a habit of chasing everyone not in Navy blue,” Throckmorton wrote in an impassioned plea for mercy in the Concordiensis.
“I'm not sorry for chasing anyone, because the ones I chased who rate an apology don't need one since they understand and the only sorrow I express to the ones who claim I bit them is that I didn't. I would have stopped chasing people, if given a chance. Why, I chased the dean every morning and afternoon and twice on Sundays and all I got was a scolding and an understanding pat on the head.”
Throckmorton is among many four-legged creatures featured in a new exhibit, “Dogs All Over the Place: A Brief History of Union College Canines,” now on display in the Lally Reading Room in Schaffer Library.
Dogs have been a ubiquitous presence on campus for decades. Besides Throckmorton, the grounds have been graced with Heidi and Ginger (guide dogs for Charles Waldron, Class of 1906 and longtime Union administrator) to recent presidential pets Winston, Hershey and Teddy, to Jenna, Union’s first therapy dog.
The relationship between dogs and the campus has been an uneasy one. In response to the number of dogs roaming the campus and the waste left behind, in the early 1970s the college created a dog court. Fines of $50 were imposed on those who failed to register their dogs with Campus Safety.
And the title of the exhibit takes its name from a 1984 headline in the Concordiensis about another crackdown on dogs “infiltrating the library and classrooms, barking outside of classrooms, roaming in packs across campus… and even attacking people on campus.” The crackdown included periodic visits to campus by the city’s animal control officers to round up unregistered dogs.
Decades later, in April 2013, Union instituted a workplace policy regarding the presence of pets in College-controlled buildings and open space areas, recognizing “the benefits of having a pet in the workplace while remaining respectful of others.”
In addition to focusing on live dogs, the exhibit also features selections from the College’s rare books collection, including Arthur Conan Doyle’s “The Hound of the Baskervilles” and “A Dog’s Tale” by Mark Twain. Recent works by Union faculty, such as Chad Orzel’s “How to Teach Physics to Your Dog” and Jordan Smith’s “Cold Night, Long Dog,” are also highlighted.
The exhibit’s curator, Joseph Lueck, outreach and reference archivist for Special Collections and Archives, said the exhibit coincides with the campus’s latest dog celebrity, Charger, a red fox Labrador retriever introduced last fall as Union’s new mascot.
“The exhibit celebrates Charger's arrival and explores the long history of dogs on campus,” said Lueck. “In his introductory speech for Charger the mascot and Charger the dog, President Harris mentioned several beloved campus dogs that have graced the Union grounds with their presence over the years. This introduction sparked our curiosity, and we began our research.”
Meanwhile, the fate of Throckmorton remains a mystery. The only dog to get its own entry in the authoritative “Encyclopedia of Union College History,” Throckmorton didn’t leave without a fight.
“I appreciate the help and consideration given me by the many people who tried their best to give me another chance, and I'm even willing to bury the hatchet with those who didn't,” the dog pleaded in the Concordiensis.
The exhibit runs through March 25.