Buster may have left Union for a time, but he has come back stronger (and heavier) than ever.
At the end of the spring semester, both students and faculty said goodbye to the university’s beloved mascot, Buster the Bulldog. Although students missed his cute, pudgy face around campus, Buster learned some important lessons while he was away that will positively affect his interactions within the Union community.
For two months during the summer, Buster stayed at Mill Creek Kennel in Lavinia, Tenn. where he received professional dog training by Mike and Shirley Simmons, the owners of the company, leaving Rusty and Susan Tuders, Buster’s caretakers, empty-nesters. Still, Rusty knew that training would ultimately be beneficial for Buster.
“We were really excited to see what they were going to do with him,” Rusty said.
Buster’s training mostly consisted of following orders and working on focus.
“It’s about basic obedience,” Rusty said. “He’s learned to listen to the handler and how to walk next to you on a leash.”
Buster also learned to come when called, sit and lie down as well as how to shake hands with people.
The Simmons have often needed to use physical discipline in order to get the attention of the younger dogs they train. But Buster had a unique experience with his trainers that usually came in the form of delicious doggy treats.
You don’t really have to do much correction with him,” Rusty said. “He did really well with his training.”
Buster will not be returning to the kennel any time soon for further training, but the Tuders still plan to work with Buster so that he remembers the skills he’s learned.
There are some guidelines that Rusty would like the Union community to respect and observe when it comes to approaching Buster.
“The best way to approach him is from a distance, [because] we’re trying to be protective of his training,” Rusty said.
Though Buster will be wearing a training vest as a signal that he’s in training mode, students should still refrain from walking up to him whenever they please. They must remember that gaining Buster’s attention will not only distract him, but it will also make him think that his disobedience can be rewarded with a pet.
“It’s not to punish Buster, but to show him that it’s not a good response,” Rusty said.
Furthermore, Rusty has also asked students to not encourage Buster to bite their hands when they pet him.
Of course, the Tuders love seeing people get excited about Buster. However, students should remember that Buster will not ultimately benefit from his experience and training on campus without their cooperation.
As the university’s mascot, Buster has been the symbol of community and school spirit.
“I think the mascot kind of builds on school tradition,” Rusty said. “I’m excited to bring him to the games. It’s really cool having him back.”
For students who are interested in interacting more with Buster, Rusty will be providing the opportunity for them to apply as dog handlers. Two students from each class will be chosen for the positions, and applications will be available sometime next week.