How an Oversized Ivy League Mascot Created a Moment Of Unexpected Neighborhood Empathy

I have a Puggle named Del. Del, while adorable, could be more disciplined. On leash he barks at other dogs across the street. ‘Heel’ is a word he takes lightly, ‘treats’ is not. I could be a better dog parent.

Yale University has a Bulldog named Handsome Dan. Dan, while also adorable, is much more disciplined and representative of his pedigreed institutional parent.

Del does not like Dan. Rather Del does not like the oversized image of Dan that accompanies every Yale shuttle bus. Del barks furiously at the inanimate image of Dan every time he sees him. This has been happening for years. For years I have dismissed the bulldog hate as ‘Del problems’ and to be fair ‘Del’s dad’s discipline problems.’ (For the record: I like Yale very much and believe they are a positive force for NHV . Please don’t dig for symbolism.)

That was my perspective until last week. A new revelation has me lifted from the shadow of an inanimate oversized Dan. No longer will I feel my dog-parenting shame alone.

On 2/17 RobN posted to SeeClickFix,

‘Picture of Handsome Dan on Yale shuttle angers my otherwise docile dog. What could this mean?’

Shortly after Ninky posted,

“Our dog, too, has issues when we pull up alongside a bus. Most amusing.”

Anne Marseille Joined in,

I spend every walk with a plan to avoid the shuttle….. I really should download the shuttle app….. it was rather funny when my dog first barked out of control (2011), not so funny any more…. Sawyer lives to see Dan, and keeps barking at him to get off the bus :)

Paul Bass, Caroline and I discussed the lighter than usual topic on SeeClickFix radio. Paul wrote it up on the Independent and more of Dan’s ruffled canine’s owners chimed including ‘fastdriver’ who posted on the Indy,

WOW, I thought my dog was the only one that did that. Several years ago, while driving through downtown with my Rhodesian Ridgeback, we happened to stop right next to a YALE bus at a traffic light. That massive picture just happened to line up with my rear door window. Right at that point, my Ridgeback just happened to sit up and started barking like crazy when she saw that picture! Good thing my windows were shut or she might have jumped out! That said, my dog gets along with all dogs, but that massive picture sent her over the edge. I don’t think it’s necessary to have a picture of that proportion.

All of a sudden Del and I were not alone. A silly but personal concern that I was having in isolation turned out to be a shared neighborhood concern. I never thought to post the issue on SeeClickFix or anywhere on the Internet. I’m also pretty sure that RobN did not expect to hear from others having this problem as well. I also bet he did not think anyone might talk seriously about trying to solve the problem. He was certainly being a bit cheeky when he posted, and I would have too. But nevertheless the result was a community conversation. Who knows if this conversation will lead to a change to the shuttle. Maybe a change is not needed.

The undeniable outcome was empathy. Empathy feels great. Empathy feels extra great when you are not expecting it. The civic web has tremendous potential to deliver empathy where it is least expected: In a pothole complaint, a request for snow shoveling help or even an oversized inanimate Bulldog. Below is a photo of Dan. Curb yourself.

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