It’s a beautiful summer morning, and Jonathan XIV is oblivious to his status as the furry standard-bearer of UConn school spirit.
Mostly, he wants to explore the many new sights, sounds, and smells of Fenton River Veterinary Hospital and to nudge his suede-smooth nose into Dr. Heidi Morey’s hand in search of treats.
Jonathan and his de facto brother, the emeritus mascot Jonathan XIII, will soon become very familiar with the Tolland-based veterinary practice, where UConn alums Drs. Scott and Heidi Morey recently became the official veterinarians for both dogs.
“I never imagined in a million years that we’d get such a cool opportunity,” says Scott Morey, whose first memory of the UConn mascot tradition was seeing an earlier Jonathan at a UConn soccer game when he was 6 or 7 years old.
“We hoped when we opened the practice that we’d have UConn people coming in, but never would have believed we’d get to care for the Jonathans,” says Morey, a Tolland native.
Scott Morey ’06 (CAHNR) and Heidi (Claus) Morey ’05 (CAHNR), who met in local 4-H circles as children while showing cows, started dating while they attended UConn. They later wed and graduated from veterinary school at Kansas State University, returning to Connecticut in 2014 and opening the Tolland-based veterinary practice one year later.
They became the Jonathans’ veterinarians and sponsor in June after the previous provider, Dr. Frieda Hottenstine at All Creatures Veterinary Hospital in Coventry, relocated out of state.
As sponsor, the Fenton River Veterinary Hospital covers the costs of both dogs’ routine checkups and preventative care, while any unusual medical issues are covered by Alpha Phi Omega, the co-ed service fraternity that is responsible for the Jonathans.
On that recent summer morning at the clinic, Jonathan XIV instinctively stopped and cocked his head in a regal pose when he spotted a visitor pointing a camera his way. Just as some dogs know that the creak of a particular kitchen cabinet leads to treats, Jonathan knows that the presence of a camera or cell phone means it’s picture time – and he’s known as a bit of a ham, to the delight of the selfie-seeking fans he encounters on campus.
The 80-lb. purebred Siberian Husky, born in October 2013, is still as sociable and energetic as he was when he was introduced in early 2014 as a 15-lb. puppy.
His predecessor, the all-white Jonathan XIII, is more reserved and sticks close to Jonathan XIV, though he’s no pushover when it comes to getting his share of treats, despite being almost six years older and about 25 lbs. lighter.
“They seem to balance each other out well,” says Heidi Morey, as the dogs patiently allow her to check their teeth, occasionally reaching over to lick or nudge her cheek.
Like her husband, she’s excited to be caring for the Jonathans. It’s an extension of her longtime affiliation with UConn through her animal science education and her current role as a 4-H program leader. A native of Willington, she also was part of UConn Rowing as an undergraduate.
The Moreys’ 4-year-old daughter Ashlynn and 2-year-old son Jackson aren’t quite old enough yet to understand the significance of being the Jonathans’ official veterinarians, but the social media world does: The practice’s Facebook page garnered more than 20,000 views of its post when the announcement was made that the Jonathans had become part of its clientele.
The Husky legacy dates to 1934, when the University’s name changed from Connecticut Agricultural College to Connecticut State College, and athletic teams were no longer known as “Aggies.” The first pup to join the school as its mascot arrived in 1935 and was named Jonathan in honor of Colonial-era Gov. Jonathan Trumbull, starting a decades-long tradition of beloved Husky mascots.
The tradition nearly ended in 1970, when the Student Senate declared that the mascot “represented the establishment” and voted to sell Jonathan VII as part of ongoing protests against the Vietnam War. Other students petitioned successfully to save him, and all Jonathans since then have been owned by the Alpha Phi Omega service fraternity instead of the University itself.
The Jonathans traditionally attend a multitude of on- and off-campus events, including athletic games, student programs, and local events.
As the current mascot, Jonathan XIV is usually the official representative at University events, but he and Jonathan XIII live in the same host family home and can often be seen being walked together on campus by Alpha Phi Omega members.
As UConn alumni, becoming part of the Jonathan legacy is particularly special to the Moreys and others at the Fenton River Veterinary Hospital, and they say they look forward to many years of helping the dogs retain their good health and bring spirit and smiles to UConn Nation.
“Some of our veterinary technicians and other employees also graduated from UConn or went through the 4-H program, so several people here feel a strong connection to UConn,” Heidi Morey says. “It’s really an honor for all of us here to have a chance to care for the Jonathans.”