Mascot of the Year

Police pups and vomit collection.

“My God, is there a job you haven’t done?” a friend commented on my Facebook. Before responding I compared the comment to the corresponding photo that I was tagged in. I had just spent the evening helping a young Quebecer collect candy for Halloween. “Trick or Treat?” translated to “Des bonbons, s’il vous plaît.” No tricks in French, just treats with a pretty please.

The photo captured was that of the mother of my petit ramasser des bonbons, the collector himself, and a giant dog mascot dressed in a police uniform (aka Chase from the animated Canadian television series PAW Patrol ). It took me a second to realize that my friend had assumed it was perhaps me dressed up as this police pup. I laughed at the thought, then abruptly remembered I was once a dog; I was once Clifford the Big Red Dog.

Indeed there are some jobs I haven’t done. ie. Brain surgery, vomit collection, professional snuggler.

Staring at his comment, I reflected further. Indeed there are some jobs I haven’t done ie. brain surgery, vomit collection, professional snuggler. Although, I wouldn’t rule out the latter especially mid-month when my car payment comes due but one thing I couldn’t deny was that my friend was right. There are many jobs I have done, and being a mascot, specifically a dog mascot is one of them.

I can clearly recall, at almost thirty, sitting behind a divider in a headless dog costume, sweating, and having someone pour water into my overly parched mouth. The first rule of mascot training was to NEVER LET THE PUBLIC SEE YOU CHANGE. One would assume engaging with kids would be the golden rule, but to never let anyone see you change in or out of your costume was the most important above them all. One could never ruin the illusion. Behind the stark grey divider I could hear kids cheering, parents asking when Clifford would come back out again. Clifford by this time was tired, and hungry.

Just a day before, I was sitting at my desk, in the Communications department at CBC. I would listen to complaints, comments, and direct people to where they could find Coronation Street in the event of a pre-emption due to a curling broadcast earlier in the day. Today, Mascot day was different. I was looking for a change and my boss saw an opportunity for me to assist with the Special Events team.

From volunteering at TVCogeo, I assumed I would be working with the live television crew, directing the floor, or getting coffee for some of our esteemed nightly news guests. Instead, I ended up in a fluffy red suit with sweat rolling down my back into my underwear. I tried to brush my hair out of my face with one of the giant red paws but ended up, to my dismay, with glorious a Justin Bieber comb over. I couldn’t see anything and it was almost time for me to skip out and entertain the mass gathering of kids and parents.

The event was CBC Kids Days, hosted by CBC Kids. It was a free event where you could meet characters from your child’s favourite CBC Kids shows. I, Clifford was one of these characters. Back out in the embrace of the public, with kids humping my leg, and grabbing for my attention, I continually reminded myself of the coaching I had in the morning before. Don’t speak and no fast movements. Weighted down in the suit, I wondered how anyone could move faster than a drunk trying to walk a straight line. Yes, and absolutely no alcohol.

I never got to battle the Toronto Raptor, or participate in a slam dunk contest, but I did learn, mascots have to connect with other mascots.

To be a mascot required more serious skill than I thought. A good mascot combines acting, athleticism, miming/ clowning (on my resume also is a brief stint as Tiny Bubbles the Clown). Mascots play an important role in building brand recognition, loyalty, and interest. In my case it was a chance to be involved with the CBC Community; Engage our audience, children and adults alike.

In the spirit of Clifford I was to be consistent, loyal to the brand. Scholastic’s official mascot and a formidable character once aired on CBC TV. Since I, unlike Clifford, couldn’t talk, I could only communicate with body language. If I was happy I would skip; If I was sad I would drop my head. I tried to wag my giant tail by shaking my bum inside the costume but through the eyes of the public, Clifford was dancing. Now that’s something, a dog that can dance! More people gathered. I could see it now, Mascot of the Year! Dance battle with the Toronto Raptor.

I never got to battle the Toronto Raptor, or participate in a slam dunk contest. But I did learn mascots have to connect with other mascots. My epic day was coming to a close and I was to be relived by a colourful pop band, known as the Doodlebops. A black limousine arrived out front of the broadcast station and I anticipated the likes of the Jonas Brothers exiting the vehicle. To my astonishment a trio: two male, one female, fully clothed and painted faces in neon colours marched down the red carpet through the front street entrance of Toronto CBC and straight towards me. One of the members, Rooney Doodle, looked like he was a rejected member of the Blue Man Group, rejected for his joker like hair I’m sure. This was not a group I wanted to connect with, I said to myself while titling my head side to side in curious observation. “Oh, look,” a parent exclaimed “Clifford enjoys their music too!” I took a look at the parent and back at these horrific acid tripping hippies and imagined swallowing each of them whole, the parent included. After all the Toronto Raptor famously devoured a cheerleader and if I was to connect with other mascots the Raptor would be my first choice.

Toronto Raptor and I have similar features: red and black colouring and giant carnivorous teeth so it was obvious we were akin. I imagined the Raptor and I would high-five and slap our tails. We’d playback our YouTube videos and compare the crowd’s reactions. We’d unleash on this town, that is until we get arrested by Chase the pup from PAW Patrol (again not me).

Janine Parkinson

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