File Photo/The Hoya
File Photo/The Hoya

He’s the big man on campus: sitting front row at basketball games, driving flocks of adoring girls into hysterics with his mere presence and strutting around surrounded by a loyal posse. He is not a famous actor or future senator, but John S. Carroll, the most recent embodiment of Georgetown’s affable canine mascot.

While everyone knows Jack as an integral part of campus life and one of the most visible members of the community, not everyone knows the members of his less-visible personal entourage, Jack Crew, a spirited group of roughly 20 Georgetown students that is essential to the care and well-being of Georgetown’s beloved mascot.

In 2003, the current Jack, then a 12-week-old puppy, arrived on campus to fill the void left by the departure of John P. Carroll, the previous Jack, and his caretaker Fr. Scott Pilarz, S.J. In 1999, a student initiative endorsed by Pilarz had brought back to the hilltop the first live mascot since the 1960s.

Fr. Christopher Steck, S.J., a chaplain-in-residence and professor of theology, assumed responsibilities for the new puppy. Steck’s intention in reintroducing a live mascot was to raise a dog that would be shared by the entire community and bolster school spirit. With this goal — along with the taxing responsibilities of taking care of a bulldog puppy — in mind, Steck decided to delegate care to an eager student body through Jack Crew.

Although some form of Jack Crew had existed under Pilarz, the group was smaller and commitment was given on a situational basis. Members of the crew and Pilarz would accompany Jack to the dinner parties ofFr. Otto Hentz, S.J., where the puppy would prowl the floor for stray pieces of food and engage in one of his favorite pastimes, sucking on scotch cubes from Hentz’s glass. Under Steck, the Crew became more structured with formal membership and clearly delineated duties.

Each member of the crew has his or her own responsibility to the dog. They are needed for scheduled walks each day at noon, 5 p.m. and 8 p.m. and act as chaperones for appearances at sporting events and campus functions. Co-heads John Kenchelian (COL ’12) and Iveta Bakalova (COL ’12) are in charge of coordinating responsibilities for the 2011-2012 crew.

To join the crew, prospective applicants must have attended Georgetown for at least one semester, be involved in on-campus organizations and be prepared for an eccentric interview.

“There’s a long wait list. We keep a record of pretty much everyone who’s applied, and it’s about a semester long. Fortunately, it’s not too bad because we have people graduating and going abroad,” Kenchelian said.

Once selected from the list, applicants meet with Steck where they are asked to complete two tasks: sing “There Goes Old Georgetown” from a point of his choosing and put their hand in Jack’s mouth. An act of lion-taming bravery? Not so much, Kenchelian admits.

“The hand in the mouth thing is just in case he chokes on something. That’s a problem with that breed of dog, as they have constricted airways,” Kenchelian said. During one Christmas season, Jack decided to chew on a Christmas ornament, reducing his mouth to a mess of fragmented glass shards and saliva.

Both Kenchelian and Bakalova touched on qualities that are consistent in many members of the group, obvious traits such as school spirit and affection for animals.

Most Jack Crew members were active participants in their high school communities and continue to be involved here at Georgetown. During his time at Georgetown, Kenchelian has been active in Jazz Band, WGTB, Hoya Blue and 1634 Society, while Bakalova has participated in Hawaii Club, Phonathon, Equal Action, GU Energy and various theater productions.

Many members gravitate toward the group due to positive animal experiences in their pasts or withdrawal from their furry companions at home. Bakalova grew up on a farm in Bulgaria surrounded by an array of animals, and Kenchelian spent much of his childhood with a faithful Labrador retriever.

Kenchelian notes that Jack has become something of a family pet for many members of Jack Crew. “People share a passion for the dog, and for most people on the crew, it’s interesting how we would view him not as a celebrity as much as everybody else does. To us, he’s another responsibility that we have and most of us take it as such,” Kenchelian said.

Though, as it is with any celebrity, there is much more to Jack than meets the eye. “A lot of people talk about Jack walking his walker, and that’s definitely what it is,” said Kenchelian.

These 20 personal assistants know the real Jack, for better or for worse.

His pet peeves? Traffic cones, boxes outside of his reach, snapping flags on a windy Copley lawn and the costumed imposter Jack mascot.

But his attendants know how to read the star’s emotions, Kenchelian continued, “You’re taught that a high-pitched bark means he wants something, a low-pitched bark means he’s [angry] and he’s going to attack something.”

His star treatment includes a climate-controlled room, drinks from a water bottle, rides around campus in golf carts and a carefully-monitored diet.

And as it the case with many ailing celebrities, his attendants must be conscious of his health and well-being. He takes eye drops to reduce the risk of eye infections, joint medicine to prevent hip dysplasia and arthritis, and for seasonal allergies, he’s often tricked into a few Benadryl concealed in a tablespoon of peanut butter.

While Jack has maintained his youthfulness over the past decade, Kenchelian noted, “As he gets older, our job will be more and more important.”

Jack gives his crew experience with responsibility and scheduling as well as a great conversation starter with future employers, but the real motivation behind joining the crew is what he does for others. When asked, Bakalova smiled, “You might be having a bad day, and you run into him and it makes your day just a little bit better.”

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