How Fr. Steck is searching for Jack Jr.’s new home
With the recent, and surprising, news that Jack Jr. will no longer be a mascot, Fr. Christopher Steck, S.J., J.J.’s main caretaker, now has his work cut out finding a new home for the bulldog.
Steck said that after tweeting about the search, over 100 offers poured in. He has focused on local homes, sometimes visiting up to three a day, so he can help the family and J.J. acclimate to the change. He has been in contact with Janice Hochstetler, the bulldog breeder who donated J.J., to help him make the decision.
Because Steck has taken care of the mascot for over a year, he knows what a good home environment requires. The following is a list he tweeted of preferences, not requirements, for a new home:
- A home with experience raising disciplined, well-behaved dogs.
- Local residence, so that I can see the home and help get J.J. acclimated over a couple of trips (i.e., one short visit, one longer visit, then permanent transition)
- A fenced-in backyard
- Multiple adults living at home, and/or at least one regularly/often at home
- Either no dogs, or a dog that has been shown to work well with J.J.
- If children, would need to discuss
He said it was unclear how well J.J. could get along with other dogs. Steck recently dropped him off at a home in New Jersey that had a labrador to see how they would get along. Though that didn’t work out, he did get to see that J.J. did not suffer from separation anxiety when Steck left him at the home.
Throughout his visits, Steck also began to understand the importance of familiarity with bulldogs. The breed has some special needs, such as anti-flatulence dog food, and “peculiarities,” such as heavy breathing and excessive slobbering, that are unfamiliar to some families.
Steck said he hopes to finish the first round of home visits this week, and will talk to J.J.’s breeder to discuss whether a second round of visits will be necessary. If not, they will focus on one home and do more in-depth visits if that household has another dog.
It seems that any attempts to reverse the decision to move J.J. to a home environment will not be successful. Rachel Pugh, director of media relations, did say the school will continue with the tradition of hosting a live mascot on campus. Until a new bulldog is found and trained, Jack will remain the mascot as long as his health permits.
Pugh said that the University is focusing on finding a new home for J.J. before searching for a new bulldog.
This process has not been easy for Steck, as he has grown close with the dog throughout the past year.
This is easily the hardest thing I’ve done in the last ten years. JJ has been with me since the end of March 2012. He is a dedicated puppy: he waits while I take a shower, he tries to rest his head in my lap while I’m working on the computer, he’s at the door to greet me when I return home, he’s eager to be next to me when I take naps, and loves naps as much as I do. He’s endlessly entertaining: he loves chasing balls, watching football and basketball (because he can see the ball sometimes), tearing apart boxes, and eating ice cubes.
Though he was shocked and even disappointed by the University’s decision at first, he said he will be okay as long as J.J. is happy in his new home.
Photo courtesy Fr. Steck