A Dog of the People

Illustrated by Melissa Wang

Yale is a school full to the brim with sacred cows begging to be challenged. There’s Peter Salovey, there’s Directed Studies, and then there’s the glut of Gothic architecture. Of course, far exceeding these in sacredness (if not in degree of annoyance) is the most sacred cow of all: Handsome Dan. The appeal of a well-groomed dog serving as the face of an ostensibly well-groomed institution is an understandable one. But the trouble with Dan is twofold—the current bearer of the title cannot live up to his own aesthetic reputation as the cutest animal on Yale’s campus, nor is he the proper avatar for the air of debauchery adopted by the student body as we collectively recover from the social consequences of a year in isolation. For the traditionalists among us, the problem seems an intractable one; for the enlightened, the solution is currently napping (and, presumably, farting) in my common room.

His name is Jaxon, and his official position is as my emotional support animal. Since he arrived on campus three weeks ago, however, he’s emotionally supported just about my entire social circle. Jaxon, or, among those too lazy for two syllables, Jax (@handsomerjaxyale on Instagram), lacks the dignified air of Handsome Dan, but the last time I associated anything Yale-related with dignity was immediately before leaving for spring break of 2020. If Handsome Dan, particularly in his current iteration, is a symbol of Yale’s pridefulness, I propose the elevation of Jax as an icon of our debasement.

There is no need for any kind of official recognition for this role, of course. In fact, any variety of institutional title for Jax would contradict his entire ethos. Instead, I encourage Yale’s student body, whose decimated social instincts are begging for a common thread to tie them together, to take up Jax as a symbol of a recovering communal ecosystem. 

He is a messy dog, constantly covered in fluids of dubious origins, perpetually willing to plop down on one’s couch and refuse to get up, and always rushing up to others who are scared of him right up until they’re not. His sloppiness is emblematic of an earnest, occasionally awkward approach to social life of which I’ve become increasingly fond of after experiencing the austerity of a life lived on Zoom. Handsome Dan can keep his aristocratic throne, but leave some room for Jaxon on your couch, literally or in spirit.

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