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Laying the University’s Dogs to Rest

Students mourn the death of Seal, the dog who served as the football team's unofficial mascot from 1947 to 1953. Donald Scott (Col '54) submitted these photos, which he took of Seal's funeral in 1953. Donald Scott

While there were other University dogs before Beta, he is the earliest whose name survives. He first became known around the University in 1929 and lived at the Beta Theta Pi House on Rugby Road, hence his name. He was kidnapped during Easters Weekend of 1935 and taken to the University of Georgia. During his brief sojourn in Athens, he was called "Opium." But he was soon rescued and resumed being Beta upon his return to Charlottesville.

Beta died in 1939 after being hit by a car. His funeral, by all accounts, was a state occasion. He was transported in a hearse from the Beta House to the University Cemetery, where an estimated 1,000 people attended his last rites. Beta's tombstone—and that of his successor, Seal—may be seen there, enclosed by a low wire fence.

Seal's funeral procession (top) and graveside ceremony (bottom). Donald Scott
Seal became a kind of unofficial mascot of the football team from 1947 to 1953, and as such attended all the games in the care of the cheerleaders. His great moment of glory came in the fall of 1949 in Philadelphia, at our game with the University of Pennsylvania. It may seem hard to believe nowadays, but in 1949, Penn was a collegiate football powerhouse. At some point during the game, Seal wandered over to the Penn sidelines and inspected the megaphones, set on the ground, of the Penn cheerleaders. After a lot of snuffling around, he raised a leg and tilted on one of the megaphones—to the roar of the Virginia fans, of course. And wonder of wonders, UVA beat Penn.

Seal died as a result of various ailments at the University Hospital in 1953. Grice Whiteley (Col '54), who was captain of the boxing team, organized his funeral. Seal was transported in a hearse, and a big car carried the captains of various teams during the funeral procession. The University Band—a predecessor, though much smaller and less competent than today's Marching Band—played Handel's Dead March as it marched up University Avenue and McCormick Road. A large crowd of mourners, estimated at around 2,000, proceeded from the hospital to the University Cemetery, where Dr. Charles Frankel, athletic team doctor, gave the eulogy.

An estimated 2,000 mourners marched during Seal's funeral. Donald Scott

"I know of no other individual at the University, or animal, who could attract as many mourners to his funeral," Frankel said. "Of course, none of us had ever had the same opportunity with a megaphone."