Most of you have probably seen Western’s live mascot, Rocky, an English bulldog. He has become a celebrity on campus. Everyone always wants to take a picture with him and he can’t go anywhere without someone recognizing him. His schedule is full of photo shoots and appearances. I had the chance to talk with his caretaker, WIU alumnus and Director of Residential Facilities Joe Roselieb who told me all about Rocky and how he got to be Western’s mascot.
Rocky was introduced to WIU as a puppy in 2010. Rocky is four years old; his birthday is on March 3rd. He is the third live mascot at Western, but until 2010, WIU hadn’t had a live mascot since the ‘70s. George Visoky, the father of a former WIU football player is the one who got the ball rolling to get Colonel Rock III or “Rocky” on campus. “He (Visoky) thought we needed school spirit because he came to a couple games and saw that attendance was low. He started looking into it and found out that every school that had school spirit had a live mascot,” Roselieb said.
WIU Athletics got on board with the idea. Visoky owns bulldogs himself, so he told his own dog’s breeder from Kansas about the idea and they donated a puppy (Rocky) to the University. Then several other, local entities agreed to chip in and support Rocky and his needs. Dr. Karen Blakely of All Pets Veterinary Clinic provides for Rocky’s health care and the WIU School of Agriculture supplies Rocky’s food.
Roselieb explained to me that it was a long process to get chosen to be the caretaker of Rocky. He had just been hired as the assistant director in Housing and his boss John Biernbaum who works with Athletics knew that Roselieb had a fenced in backyard that would be perfect for a dog, so they kept him in mind for the caretaker position. Two other people were interviewed for the position, but Roselieb was chosen in the end. “It was harder to get my dog than my job, I often joke, because I had to do two phone interviews with George (Visoky) and one interview on campus. After I got his (Visoky’s) blessing, Athletics came back and said we want you to be the guy,” Roselieb said.
Thanks to so many, including Roselieb, Rocky has a pretty great life. He gets to attend many WIU events, meet and greet with so many Western friends and when he’s sent to the “dog house,” it’s a treat! Rocky’s new, giant doghouse is something any pooch would be happy to rest in, complete with A/C and WIU purple and gold graphics on the sides. “(The) first part of the football season, it is pretty hot and we have struggled with him before in terms of where he’s going to cool off at. We have to take him in the Rec Center, then people see him in the Rec Center and he can just never cool down and relax,” Roselieb said. Roselieb’s dad works in construction so they decided to build a doghouse where Rocky could cool off and relax in style.
Roselieb explained that it has been amazing journey to see the amount of people that now know Rocky. “You’ll see young, old, and everyone in between know who he is. He has clearly become a staple of the campus and community. When you see (that) a three-ft.(long), 65 lb. fur ball can bring that much camaraderie or that much excitement to somebody, it’s pretty cool. That has been my coolest, humble memory of him.”
Roselieb hopes to someday have a memorial on campus for each of the Colonel Rock dogs to honor those that have passed.