Victor E. Bulldog II was a dog with oodles of swagger.
“He walked into the Save Mart Center like he owned the place,” recalled Paul Ladwig, Fresno State senior associate athletic director. “He absolutely knew how to ham it up.”
Fresno State’s beloved mascot died unexpectedly Thursday from a severe allergic reaction to a bee sting. By the afternoon, Ladwig’s phone and email was filling up with condolences from the English bulldog’s loyal fans. Victor E. had gathered plenty of them since joining the Fresno State team in September 2012.
“If I had a dollar for every picture someone took with him, I’d be a rich man,” Ladwig said, calling the celebrated pooch the “loving face” of Fresno State athletics.
On Fresno State’s campus Thursday, student Charlie Poloni, 21, tried to imitate it, scrunching his cheeks into a contorted pout. “That bulldog face — he’s perfect.”
The costumed bulldog mascot TimeOut is all fine and well, Poloni said, but no make-believe dog could hold a candle to Victor E. — “the true mascot … the real bulldog.”
Victor E. attended hundreds of Fresno State events, and images of his small white and brown body — pink tongue often hanging from his mouth — adorned scores of college posters, pamphlets and promotional videos.
Poloni described Victor E. as “fierce and compassionate.” The dog represented a lot to Poloni: “never give up … be fair, be bold, be a bulldog.”
Victor E. would have turned 3 next month. When he wasn’t parading around Fresno State, Victor E. lived with Kelly Weaver, a Fresno veterinarian.
Ladwig said Weaver was tending to the bulldog within minutes of the bee sting at her home. He said she did everything possible to try to save his life, administering medicine and even performing CPR. “It rips your heart out, it really does.”
“His unexpected passing has left a huge hole in the hearts of all who loved him,” Weaver said in a statement. “Victor E. loved people, loved attending Fresno State events and was larger than life when it came to being around big crowds. All of us will miss him tremendously.”
Victor E. Bulldog II became the face of Fresno State athletics after the first Victor E. died of cancer in August 2012 at age 8. Ladwig said Thursday it was too soon to think about finding the next mascot.
When Victor E. Bulldog II came onto a football field or basketball court, “students went crazy,” said Fresno State student Brian Ezenwugo. The 19-year-old recalled chanting “Victor E., Victor E., Victor E.” with hordes of other ecstatic students.
“Kelly (his owner) would tell you he would get antsy about going to an event,” Ladwig said. “He knew it was football Saturday.”
But it wasn’t always showtime for Victor E. On hot game days, he spent a lot of time lying on ice packs. And once he was down, Ladwig said, “there was no getting him up again.”
But most of the time, Victor E. was ready for action.
“He was a people person — or people dog, I guess,” Ladwig said with a laugh.
“He absolutely, positively knew how to pose and what to do. It was kind of crazy.”
Among those who snapped a shot with the posing bulldog was Elaine Kok, a 22-year-old Fresno State student from Malaysia.
She said Victor E. made her “happy, like really happy, because he was just really cute. Like, he was sooo adorable.”
Ladwig repeated the sentiment.
“He sure did make a lot of people happy.”