It’s midday on Burnaby Mountain and the air is thin and frosty. With the exam period over and the new semester still weeks away, few of the university’s nearly 30,000 students remain on campus, with most students in residence having gone home for the holidays. The quiet is only broken by the occasional howls and pants of SFU’s beloved mascot, McFogg the Dog.
Inhabiting the offices of SFU’s athletics department, McFogg remains on campus throughout the dead of winter, waiting to serve the school once again when varsity sports return after the holiday break.
By all measures, 2016 was McFogg’s year. In a tumultuous and often hopeless time in human history — one characterised by war, political turmoil, and the always encroaching spectre of death — our mascot has been a shining beacon of light, filling students’ hearts with a much-needed sense of joy and camaraderie.
The laundry list of accomplishments for McFogg this past year is, to say the least, impressive. McFogg competed in the Olympics held in Rio, Brazil, earning gold medals in cheerleading and personal grooming. He led protests against the election of Donald Trump in the United States and police violence against Sioux peoples at Standing Rock. His meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made headlines for months and resulted in McFogg becoming a member of the Order of Canada.
This was also the year McFogg released his New York Times bestselling memoir My Tartan Heart, which is slated to be made into a feature film by Steven Spielberg in 2017 with Chris Pratt in the starring role.
McFogg also had his fair share of run-ins with fellow college mascots, including a much-publicized feud with Albert E. Gator from the University of Florida as well as ongoing competition with his long-time rival, UBC’s the Thunderbird. All of this coincided with a whirlwind romance with film star Scarlett Johansson, which ultimately ended with McFogg being forced to put his career before his heart.
McFogg sat down with PEAK and in this exclusive interview we got his views on the big questions, and learnt more about the most outstanding mascot in a generation.
Growing up in a small, one-story dog house not far from Burnaby Mountain, McFogg never thought he would one day become the mascot who changed the way the world cheers for collegiate sports. In the late ‘80s, his parents left Scotland with nothing but the fur on their backs to try and build a better life for McFogg. His humble background, and at times trying family situation, helped shape the fierce Scottish terrier we see before us today.
“Growing up, my mother used to say to me that ‘the good dog always barks twice’, but I wanted to know what happens when the dog barks three times, or even four,” McFogg says. “As a pup, I wanted to know how far I could push the bone.”
Today, McFogg is met with a very different life circumstance. A series of accomplishments and a growing fanbase has helped McFogg establish a network for him to keep the success going. “I think what defined my 2016 was the non-profit I established. ‘Go Fetch’ is less than one year old, but the organization is already helping pups in urban areas get the tools they need to be successful in whatever career path they choose, be it in mascoting, acting, or medicine.”
With his new foundation, McFogg is hoping that all doggos out there feel they can reach for the stars.
“The life of a university mascot always spoke to me. The road trips, the walking, the jumping up and down. . . I never thought I would be here today, though. I never thought me, McFogg, could be the good dog,” he adds. He points to well known mascots like the A&W Bear and the Kool Aid guy as some of his early inspiration.
It’s every mascots dream to pick McFogg’s brain on what makes a great mascot. As he describes it, an excellent mascot is someone who forgets that they are a mascot at all. “The creative process is so simple, it ends up being extremely complex,” McFogg explains.
“I think what makes me a good mascot is that when I get in front of a crowd, I can’t remember why I’m there or even who I am sometimes. . . I just want to make folks smile and see a victory for the SFU Clan.
“Being a mascot is a social life as well as a professional one,” McFogg notes. There are frequent large gatherings of mascots, both from collegiate sports and from the corporate sphere. “The Pillsbury Doughboy is the life of the party. That guy gets lit,” he adds.
When asked about some of the controversy currently plaguing SFU athletics, as well as some of the hot losing streaks, McFogg declined to comment, adding that “ [he] isn’t here to get political, just wag his tail and cheer for his team.”
However, McFogg did add that “it’s total garbage” to get students to vote yes for a stadium and student union building only to demolish the dreams for a new athletic facility so soon after the special general meeting.
“I love SFU,” McFogg reflects. “I couldn’t leave no matter how much money other schools offer me.” Looking forward McFogg is hoping to find someone to start building a family life with, “I’ve been so focused on who’s throwing the ball, I forgot to find someone to just hold my heart.
“I want all aspiring mascots out there to know that you have what it takes and it will be hard but in you, deep down, you’ll find the energy to cheer loud and keep the wave happening in the crowd for hours. Just go for it”.