The Lady Behind the “Big Dawg” On-Campus

Written By: Matthew Kibby

“Hey look it’s Bruiser!!” says the random Adrian College student who is in the middle of finals week,stressed to the max and running late to their class. Even though they are running late, they head over with their hands outstretched as Bruiser notices them and begins using all of his strength to pull his handler through the snow to go and greet another resident of his kingdom. Bruiser runs up to the student taking his leash and slobber with him and gets all the pets he wants, which is usually pretty quick. 

As the new group of students gives their pets to Bruiser hoping it gives them good luck as they head off to class Bruiser finds his way back to his comfort person, his mom, his best friend, his shadow. 

Janine Grier has the official title of Bruiser’s Caretaker but that just translates to Bruiser’s Mom, a position that she has loved since being asked to take care of the famous mascot in 2009. For 12 years she has stood at the other end of the leash as Bruiser has greeted and welcomed new students to campus, played goalie in front of hundreds and even as he has said goodbye to the graduates. 

A formal dental hygienist for 32 years, Grier graduated from Adrian High School and went on to attend Owens College. She was able to retire from the profession two years ago giving her exactly what you would expect… more time with Bruiser! 

Living just on the outskirts of campus it was a match made in heaven for the Grier family to take in the first live mascot in the history of Adrian College. 

“I was asked by President Docking in a roundabout way. He said he was looking into a live mascot and needed to interview families. I live in very close proximity to the college and I absolutely love dogs so of course I secretly wanted to say pick me,” said Grier. “I suggested that whoever they choose should have prior knowledge and experience with dogs, I knew from reading about English Bulldogs that they require a lot of attention in regards to health, hygiene, training, etc. To my great surprise, he asked me if I was interested…here I am 12 years later with Bruiser II.”

That’s not a typo either, Bruiser II came into the picture on Christmas Day 2017. Sadly, Bruiser I had passed away from osteosarcoma earlier in the year. 

“The college had already picked out Bruiser I when I became involved. When he passed away from osteosarcoma I did get to help make the decision on Bruiser II. It was bittersweet, to say the least, but getting a second Bruiser helped heal many sad hearts. Hopefully, we all have many years with him. He turned 4 on October 13.”

There is a whole support system inside the Grier household that all help “Mom.” It starts up top with Janine and her husband of 35 years, Tom. The two “kids” of the household Taelor, 31, and Zack, 28, also help take care of the beast when they are around. The Grier family also had another family dog that Bruiser was attached to at the hip on their daily walks. Deuce, unfortunately, passed away back in September of this year. 

Although Grier admits that walking Bruiser and taking him to “work,” as they like to call it, is a big part of the daily routine but she also has other hobbies. 

“My hobbies include walking Bruiser, reading, gardening, decorating and walking Bruiser. I love to travel but it’s difficult because of Bruiser. He’s very attached to me! We try to do dog-friendly activities and trips.”

Being in charge of the number one dog on campus comes with a lot of responsibilities but it also comes with some huge rewards. 

“I love having (Bruiser) out and about and seeing people’s reactions,” said Grier.  “(Bruiser) is such a goofball dog and he usually just makes people happy. I hear from students how ‘cool’ it is having him as their mascot. For some, I think he fills the void of the dog they are missing at home. Staff and faculty love to spoil him. He’s a lucky dog.” 

Being in charge of Bruiser also comes with hearing one of Grier’s favorite lines, “If I had a dollar for the statement ‘he’s the whole reason my kid wants to come here’ I’d be buying a new car.” 

When you are the boss, planner and controller of the live mascot on campus it also means that you are going to be going to a lot of different events but that is something Grier loves about the job. 

“I honestly enjoy all of them. There are small prearranged meet and greets, random meet and greets on our walks, athletic events, Admission events, community invites and Graduations. They present different experiences for both of us. But his favorite is playing goalie at the hockey games. He gets so pumped up upon entering Arrington and his record is almost perfect!” said Grier.

With her passion for Adrian College and dogs, Janine Grier has not received a single penny as Bruiser’s caretaker for the past 12 years, she does all of this as a volunteer. She does this for the pure joy that is not only brought to her but for the thousands of students and friends that Bruiser impacts in his daily life. A decade later, Janine Grier may still be in the shadows of the “Big Dawg On-Campus.” However, her work taking care of the best live mascot does not go unnoticed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s