Boo barreled across the parking lot and into Dr. Bradford’s office, her pink tongue, as thick and round as a slice of Canadian bacon, flapping with each of her labored breaths. Her prodigious belly and swollen nipples swung slightly a few inches above the floor.
Grunting, Boo waddled on top of the scale: 62.2 pounds.
“Oh my god, Boo!” her caretaker, Mike Groshon, cried. “You have gained a lot!”
Boo X, The Citadel’s esteemed mascot, a paunchy English bulldog with a severe underbite, is pregnant. And miserable, too. She can’t sleep. She’s always hungry. She has diarrhea.
Her Fourth of July due date can’t come quickly enough.
Veterinarian John Bradford poked his head into Boo’s exam room and apologized for the smell. Two of his patients, also suffering from a bout of diarrhea, had made a mess moments earlier.
“Just one of the hazards of having a place like this,” Bradford said. “It’s usually very nice smellin’ in here.”
Bradford, a fast-talking vet in neon green gym shorts, is a self-described “bulldog expert” whose clients come to his West Ashley office from as far as Hilton Head, Columbia and Myrtle Beach, seeking his expertise.
A former Citadel football player, Bradford has been treating the college’s mascots since he graduated from vet school in 1982. Bradford even owned two of the animals back when The Citadel borrowed mascots for games. There was Colonel Ruff, a “terrible pet,” otherwise known as “Killer,” who preyed on cats and birds and (allegedly) poodles — until he met his tragic demise in 1990 before the start of football season. (Even Killer was no match for an alligator.) Bradford replaced Ruff with Patrick, whose heart gave out after six months on the job.
In exchange for his services, he gets a Citadel parking space.
On Wednesday morning, five days before her puppies’ expected arrival, Bradford scheduled Boo for an X-ray. He guessed he’d find three, maybe four puppies in her tummy, like most bulldog litters. He didn’t.
About 30 minutes after her second X-ray, Bradford burst into the exam room carrying Boo’s radiographs.
“I’m afraid she’s got five or six, Mike,” he said.
This is Boo’s second pregnancy. Her first, three years ago, was unexpected thanks to a liaison with General II — the rascal! — her stocky co-mascot from the University of Georgia. She had six puppies then, too.
Bradford propped her radiograph on a light box on the wall in the exam room and pointed out some faint circular shapes. Bradford could make out several small skulls and vertebrae. Boo could deliver her babies naturally, but Bradford doesn’t want to take any chances, so Boo will go under the knife. Groshon doesn’t want to take any chances either.
“If there’s a choice, then the puppies go,” Groshon said. “Because she’s the number one choice.”
Groshon, The Citadel’s assistant athletic director for facilities and equipment, started raising the mascots 13 years ago when the class of 2003 approached former President Maj. Gen. John S. Grinalds about starting the official mascot program. Grinalds had to ask Groshon, who already had two dogs of his own, three times before he agreed to raise the mascots.
Now he chauffeurs them to games, appointments, interviews and charity events in a navy-blue Ford F-150 covered in decals featuring Boo and General. They sleep in their own oversized recliner. Their one-of-a-kind doghouse, a replica of The Citadel’s barracks, is air-conditioned.
Groshon is preparing to take two weeks of vacation as soon as the puppies are born.
He loves these stubborn dogs. And so does everyone else. Groshon guesses Boo and General II have met 100,000 people.
In the waiting room, Tina Coash, one of Bradford’s clients, hoisting her 1-year-old daughter Talia on her hip, squealed when she spotted Boo dragging Groshon out of the exam room.
“It’s The Citadel bulldog! It’s The Citadel puppy!”
Boo trotted toward Talia, tongue wagging, panting hard. The toddler giggled as Boo planted a sloppy kiss on her hand.
Reach Deanna Pan at (843) 937-5764.