Nov. 5, 2012
By Parker Moore
My love for all things Georgia (minus Tech) did not come through environmental influences in my geographical culture. I was born in Columbia, S.C. where seldom was heard an encouraging word about UGA. When I was less than a year old, we moved to New York City where indifference and apathy reign supreme when it comes to college football. Phrases like "Hunker Down Hairy Dawg", and "Gooo Dawgs, sic em" could be taught as a foreign language in NYC public schools. "Between the hedges" is where your property line ended, and prophesies like "Man is there gonna' be some property destroyed tonight" were sometimes heard but had nothing to do with a celebrating a win over Florida. The football universe for the average New Yorker starts with the Giants and ends with the Jets who play in the same building across the Hudson in New Jersey.
My love for Georgia football can be traced back to my mother, Anna, who grew up in Armuchee near Rome in Floyd County. She met my father, Ed, in 1982 at Prince Avenue Baptist Church in Athens when they were both students at UGA. At the time, he was on the football team. He didn't grow up loving the Dawgs as my mother did. He grew up in Western Pennsylvania and transferred to Georgia from Pittsburgh as a sophomore. After college, they married and my dad went into the ministry. In 1992, he accepted a call to be the pastor of a small Baptist church in Queens (NYC), and they have been there ever since. We would try to travel to a game each fall where I would get to see Athens in all its glory. It was a thrill to walk out onto the field at halftime when my father's teams would be recognized. But primarily my love for and knowledge of Georgia came from inside the home. In a city of eight million people, we were, to the best of our knowledge, the only family who decorated the house and the yard in Red and Black every autumn Saturday. I am a New Yorker to the core who loves the Georgia Bulldogs.
As a home-schooled student, I never had an opportunity to play football growing up. My sports career consisted of Little League baseball in the spring and touch football in the fall. When I transferred to Armuchee High School for my senior year, I was on the football team and played on special teams and as a back-up defensive end. That was the first time I had ever put on a football uniform. So I find it a bit comical that I am the only one from my high school team that still suits up in full pads every weekend.
I also have the privilege of wearing silver britches with a tail on the back of them, a football #1 jersey, oversized paws with only 4 fingers, and an enormous bulldog head commonly known as Hairy Dawg. Contrary to popular belief, the suit itself has no ventilation system, which means temperatures in the suit rise anywhere from 25 to 30 degrees hotter than the immediate surroundings. There are only a few students that get to assume the responsibilities of Hairy Dawg. One student suits up for the pregame Dawg Walk, another works the first half, and the third handles the second half. We rotate each week.
In addition to UGA sporting events, we are often called to make appearances at private and corporate functions as a goodwill ambassador for the University. From the perspective of the attendees, Hairy Dawg just appears. My highest profile "gig" to date was an opportunity to shoot two commercials in Bristol, Conn., at the ESPN studios. ESPN contacted UGA this past January and asked for Hairy Dawg to make an appearance in a commercial with former Bulldog and current NFL quarterback Matthew Stafford. Also, they shot another one with Hairy Dawg and Robinson Cano from the New York Yankees.
The ESPN gig was a thrill, but it does not rank as my highest honor serving as Hairy Dawg. What brings me the most joy while being the mascot is being able to brighten the day of those who often need it the most. I often get to visit hospitals, assisted living facilities, special education classrooms, and even handicapped sections at sporting events. There is no greater feeling than seeing a little boy in a hospital bed light up, or being able to hold the hand of a child in a special education classroom or hug those in wheel chairs who are unable to stand up; that rare opportunity is the primary motivation for why I am the mascot. Being Hairy Dawg gives me a unique chance to bring joy to so many different types of people. It truly is an honor.
In order to assume the reigns of the great Hairy Dawg, one must try out. A two-minute dance or skit must be performed in front of former Hairy Dawgs, the dance coordinator, the cheerleading coach/spirit squad coordinator and various judges. I have always loved to dance so naturally, my tryout consisted of mostly dancing. The first time I had ever put the suit on was the day of tryouts, and I was scared to death. Fortunately, the judges liked my routine enough to select me as one of the next Hairy Dawgs. The position is not handed down from year to year so I had to try out again this year. Being a returner, I knew my tryout had to top all others (and there were 22 of us trying out). I pulled a few strings and actually recruited 20 members of the Red Coat band to come to the coliseum. For my grand finale, I lead the band in a rendition of "Shout It Out." The judges approved, and I am currently in my second full season as Hairy Dawg.