2011 Graduate Portrayed the Terrier for Four Years
Recent graduate Michael Walton didn’t know what he was getting himself into when he said he would work Homecoming his freshman year.
He was a student worker in the Special Events Office, and no one told him what he would be doing – until they gave him a large athletic bag with the Terrier mascot suit inside.
“At first I was like, ‘Yeah right, never again,’” Walton remembers about his first stint as Hiram’s mascot, the Terrier. “But it was actually a lot of fun, and I enjoyed it.”
The thrill of being anonymous – all while dancing and stumbling around – kept him coming back to do different events throughout his freshman year. And before he knew it, he became the special events office’s go-to guy – or Terrier.
Now almost four years later, Walton, who before May 14, already attended commencement as the Terrier three times, walked across the stage in his own cap and gown with the Class of 2011.
Walton said his mascot days will be over when he attends Ohio Northern University for graduate school to study law, but he’s made great memories as the Terrier.
The best one came Alumni Weekend of 2010, ironically, on the one day he didn’t want to be the Terrier.
With temperatures nearing 90 degrees, the weather was obviously less than ideal for wearing a large furry suit. There’s no easy solution for dealing with the heat, Walton said, because you either have to suffer through it or wear a 30-pound frozen vest. He’s always chosen to do without the vest because it makes it difficult to move around.
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But with the sun beating down on the campus, a young girl about three years old – overcome with joy at the sight of an oversized canine – ran up and hugged him, making the heat worthwhile.
“She was enamored with the Terrier,” Walton said. “She called it Mr. Terrier the whole time … she wanted me to play bubbles with her, and she was throwing a Frisbee with me. I think that made the whole weekend worth it, because she was having so much fun.”
Getting others to have fun is Walton’s goal, no matter what the event. He said he doesn’t have a set routine he follows when he’s being the Terrier; a lot of it depends on the crowd. For example, during energetic basketball games, he crowd surfs and shoots hoops with a plush basketball. During football games, he has to work harder.
“(Some students) will sit in the stands and think they’re too cool to be sitting next to anybody,” Walton said. “I’ll mess with their hair, sit by them – just make them as uncomfortable as possible until they loosen up and have fun with it.”
Walton said he’s lost track of how many times he’s portrayed the Terrier; he’s been to every home football game, all but three or four home basketball games, a number of baseball and softball games and many other events. He’s also given the Terrier an online presence that he hasn’t had before – Hiram fans can friend “Hc Terrier” on Facebook and email him at email@example.com.
“People interact, invite him to events, leave comments, post pictures with him,” he said. “He gets two to three friend requests a day … People enjoy it; they treat it like he’s a real person.”
Taking on the Terrier’s persona at different events, Walton said, has broadened his opportunities with Hiram College.
“I’ve gotten to do a lot of things that I wouldn’t have if I wasn’t the Terrier,” he said. “Being the Terrier has brought me to meet people and I’ve had a lot more fun than I would have.”
And even though certain things that come with being the Terrier – dancing, for example – aren’t what he would call his strong points, the walls come down when he becomes the Terrier.
“Maybe that’s the thing,” Walton said, “is that I’m so bad at doing this stuff in real life. I’m so reserved and quiet and shy that being the Terrier is the opposite. It’s a chance to let loose. You can be as silly as you want. It’s nothing I or anyone else would expect from me.”