Jonathan XIII, the snowy white Siberian Husky who represented UConn as its official mascot for almost six years before going into retirement as mentor and best friend to his successor, has died at age 14.
Jonathan XIII was born in December 2006 in Pennsylvania, undergoing socialization and obedience training before making his public debut at UConn during the March 9, 2008 men’s basketball game against Cincinnati.
He died peacefully Wednesday at the host family home he shares with Jonathan XIV. He would have been 15 in December.
“For thousands of our alumni and UConn supporters, Jonathan XIII was ‘their’ mascot over the years, and he remained a beloved presence on our campuses and in the community in recent years with his successor, Jonathan XIV,” says Interim UConn President Dr. Andrew Agwunobi. “He was the epitome of ‘a good boy,’ and he’ll be greatly missed.”
Each UConn canine mascot has been named Jonathan since the beginning in honor of Jonathan Trumbull, the last colonial governor and first state governor of Connecticut. The co-ed service fraternity Alpha Phi Omega has helped to care for the Jonathans since the 1970s.
Described as an intelligent, curious and confident puppy, the blue-eyed, snowy white Jonathan XIII was popular right away when he was introduced publicly in 2008. He quickly took his place among the long line of Jonathans that have represented UConn dating back to 1935, when the university was still known as Connecticut State College.
“The first time I saw him, I was floored at how handsome he was,” Danielle O’Reilly, a member of Alpha Phi Omega, told the Hartford Courant about meeting Jonathan XIII when he was a puppy.
Jonathan XIII made his mark over the years at UConn, a friendly presence during his walks on campus and a source of spirit and pride at athletics events. He continued as the official mascot until 2014 when his growing sensitivity to loud noise and crowds made such events uncomfortable for him to attend.
He became an unofficial mascot emeritus when the black-and-white Jonathan XIV was introduced in 2014, and the two dogs have lived together as de facto brothers throughout the younger pup’s life with a host family off campus.
Although he had continued to take regular walks on campus in recent years with Jonathan XIV, the elder Jonathan – known colloquially at home as “J.J.” — had been slowing down in recent years and had attended fewer official events.
He remained beloved among UConn students, alumni and fans, though, including residents of a Shelton nursing and skilled care facility who dressed in their UConn gear and feted him cake and gifts at a with a retirement party there in summer 2014.
Current and former students who worked as handlers with both Jonathans say they will miss the elder mascot and his endearing personality traits, including his love for the younger Jonathan.
“I only had the privilege of crossing paths with Jonathan XIII in his senior years. He was a sassy, loving, and rambunctious boy,” recalls Taylor Harton ’21 (CLAS), a recent graduate and former handler through Alpha Phi Omega.
“We will forever miss his little tap dance he did when he walked and the way he loved his little brother, Jonathan XIV. He lived a beautiful, long life full of adoration from his family, his handlers, and all the students, staff and UConn fans that had the pleasure of meeting him,” she says.
Some of Jonathan XIII’s current and former handlers shared their remembrances on Wednesday:
“I will miss Jonathan XIII deeply. I have had the opportunity to be a handler for him and Jonathan XIV for over two years, and it has been such an amazing experience during my time at UConn. He has very sneaky when it comes to sniffing out good food — for example, during a walk on campus he found a piece of pizza crust and got really upset with me when I had to take it out of his mouth. The look on his face was priceless, as it was a clear display of sass and judgment towards me. He will be forever in my heart and as well as the heart of UConn.” – Sydney Hyde ’22 (CLAS)
“We will miss our beloved mascot, Jonathan XIII. He was unapologetically sassy, strong-minded, and always down for a good ear scratch. On our car rides to campus, he would begin to moan excitedly as we would near the parking lot, as he became eager to walk on his domain alongside his brother and among students. Jonathan XIII loved UConn as much as we continuously love him. He will never be forgotten.” – Clare Wieduwilt ’21 (CLAS)
“Jonathan XIII was such a great dog, mascot, and companion. I was fortunate enough to be one of his handlers and seeing him would always make my day brighter. I loved when we would come to take him for a walk, and you could always tell how happy he was to see us (and to get some good ear scratches). He was loved by so many including his handlers, the UConn community, and his incredible host family. He had such a wonderful life and will be missed dearly.” – Lucy Stone ’22 (CAHNR)
“Jonathan XIII always had something to say with his trademark howl, never holding back. He felt strongly about naps with his brother and looked forward to them every day. The saying, “respect your elders” held very true with Jonathan XIII — he was our grandfather always telling a story!” – Taylor Coonan ’22 (CLAS)
“Jonathan XIII was one of the kindest souls I have ever met. To earn the trust and respect of XIII was one of the greatest feelings in the entire world. The best part of my week was arriving to take XIII and his brother XIV on their campus walk. Nothing was better than taking the boys to the dairy bar where he would scarf down his ice cream bowl enjoying every lick. Jonathan XIII will be missed by many. I hope there are endless ear scratches and dairy bar pup cups over the rainbow bridge.” – Lauren Lavigne ’21 (CAHNR)