The new "First Lady of Aggieland" is spending the summer training for her first full semester, and her handler has been with her each step of the way.
Reveille IX and Ian Moss will take on the fall adventure together. Moss is a sophomore construction science major, and earned the mascot corporal role in April. Reveille IX assumed the role of the highest-ranking member of the Corps of Cadets on May 9.
"It's new for both of us," Moss says. "We're both continuing the tradition together."
Reveille was born in November 2013 in Chagrin Falls, Ohio. A 12-member committee of A&M faculty, students and staff chose the dog formerly known as "Twix," who was donated by Mike and Marcy Fine, owners of the Overland Collies kennel in Chagrin Falls. Reveille VIII, who spent seven years as mascot, has retired to the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center on the A&M campus.
Moss, a Southlake native, volunteered to stay in College Station for the summer to continue Reveille's training sessions at Puppy Love three times a week. She is expected to pass a "Canine Good Citizen" test by the time the fall semester starts, he said. The 10-step certification program requires dogs to master simple commands (such as "sit" and "stay"), accepting stranger interaction and walking through crowds.
The second-generation Aggie said the 21-month-old Reveille is still a puppy, and has big shoes to fill from the experienced Reveille VIII.
"Reveille VIII is a freak of a dog," Moss says. "Nothing really got to her. She was really solid. That's not Reveille IX at all. Everything is new to her."
The journey to mascot corporal
The 20-year-old Moss had some background knowledge of the Reveille tradition, thanks to a family friend. Hans Meinardus, class of 1987, grew up with Moss' mother, and was mascot corporal for Reveille IV in 1984. Moss said the Meinardus connection helped him to make his college selection.
On a high school visit, Moss spent time with the mascot unit, Company E-2. Moss said he was sold.
"I never really looked at any other company," he said. "Just like I never looked at any other university besides A&M."
Moss vied for the position of handler with five other cadets during his freshman year. Upperclassmen judged their performances based on academics, leadership, physical training and verbal skills.
The eight-week process, Moss said, requires participants to study the history of all eight Reveilles — one per week. At the end of each week, they were tested by Ryan Kreider, Reveille VIII's previous handler. A public speaking segment rounded out the process, and Moss delivered a speech in front of a crowd of cadets, summarizing all the information he had learned in the past year about Reveille.
During Parents' Weekend in April, Moss was named mascot corporal, with his family in attendance.
"My parents knew before I did," Moss said. "My mom said whenever she got the phone call, she was in tears. She knew that the Corps is really tough on character ... mentally and physically. My parents were with me in the struggle all the way through, so for them to see that pay off in the end is really cool. It's something I'll definitely remember."
Corps Commandant Joe Ramirez said he was pleased with the selection.
"They did a great job of selecting him," the retired brigadier general said. "He is a fine young man, a good student and responsible. I have great confidence that he will transition very well into this role."
'It's all about her, all the time'
From class and campus events to cadet roll calls and daily exercise, Reveille and Moss will remain constant companions until next April. This close partnership allows Reveille to become bonded with one person, Moss said, which is important when she is constantly surrounded by strangers.
Although she is a newcomer to celebrity status, Reveille is already taking advantage of the princess-like pampering. According to Moss, she prefers a dish of chicken and rice or scrambled eggs — which he prepares for her — over dry dog food. And she insists that Moss pick her up to get on his bed.
"As the highest-ranking officer," Moss said, "it's all about her, all the time."
Reveille also gets special treatment when being chauffeured to events, Moss said. She sits in the front passenger seat of Moss' car, air bags off, with her own harness.
In her down time away from the public, Reveille acts like any other puppy, Moss said. She barks at the garbage truck and squeaky noises, and plays with his family's dogs when he travels home to Southlake on weekends.
The attention the two will get during the upcoming semester will be significant — whether it's at football games or a walk to class. Moss said Reveille is slowly becoming accustomed to the attention.
"You can definitely tell it's overwhelming," Moss said. "She's a very observant dog. She takes in everything at once. We've been doing a lot of socializing, and she has made a lot of improvement since the beginning of summer. I think she'll have a long career here."
Moss is looking forward to strengthening their bond, but said that he knows the April transition can be stressful.
"Handler withdrawals are very real," Moss said. "In the past, the handlers just kind of drop with Rev, so she knows that she is bonding with the next handler, and that she's no longer with them anymore. You have this dog for a whole year — that you spend all your time with and never leaves your side. Then, you have to give her up. I'm not looking forward to it."
From his own experience, Kreider advises Moss to "soak it in" while the moment lasts.
"It's easy to get wrapped up in the events and responsibilities," Kreider said. "Just enjoy the time with her. Stay motivated, stay excited. Realize what the position really means, and how big of an honor it really is."
Moss plans on allowing 20 to 45 minutes to get to his classes, and said he eagerly anticipates the constant photo requests. He said he loves seeing the excitement and joy that follows Reveille on and off campus.
"It's been a blessing," Moss said. "There are going to be times when I'm going to be busier than I have ever been in my whole life. With that, I'll grow a lot. It's an honor."