Chauncey and Linus: The Tom and Jerry of mascots.

Champlain College’s mascot is a beaver. I’m not going to say a word.

(photo by Steve Mease)
(photo by Steve Mease)

Wait, I will say this: It’s a guy beaver. The school’s mascot is a guy beaver and he was (I am guessing) named after some dude on “Masterpiece Theater” or “Downton Abbey:” Chauncey. Not judging, but are we really surprised that when you search “sports” on the Champlain College web site you get a paragraph about dodge ball and Zumba?

Now, I think the Burlington, Vermont school is spectacular – and I’m not alone. “U.S. News & World Report” named it the number one “Up-and-Comer” in the North in its 2014 edition of “America’s Best Colleges.” Recently John Tierney of “The Atlantic” wrote, “While you’re busy designing your version of the ideal [college], I can take a nap or go fishing, because somebody has already built mine: Champlain College.” I’m not saying the school should replace Chauncey, but maybe he needs a mascot pal to help shoulder the load. Or everyone there should start playing cricket, which is what they play on “Downton Abbey” when they’re not hiding from Maggie Smith.

So, I am hereby nominating Linus Hubbell to join Chauncey. The name alone exudes two of the many things that Champlain does well: Graphic design (Linus) and computer science and innovation (Hubbell). I know, the space telescope is spelled differently. I never said the college stands for spelling. But Linus got his name because he loved his blanket when he was young – very much like the iconic Peanuts character.

Moreover, Linus Hubbell is a cat. This means he is already mascot material. Think jaguars and panthers and lions and tigers and. . .catamounts. He’s five years old, weighs 15 pounds, and is that classic black-and-white tuxedo kind of cat. Technically, he belongs to Nick Hubbell and Audrey McManus. Nick sells real estate. Audrey teaches first grade. They live in Burlington in the midst of the Champlain College campus, and figured out soon after they brought Linus home that he was not merely a “people cat,” he was a “student cat.” They would let him out and he would wind up in college classrooms, computer labs, film studios, and dorm rooms. “He does make friends with the ladies,” Audrey told me. “He often comes back smelling of perfume.”1470398_180407958819518_290621658_n

Today he has his own Facebook page with nearly 800 friends. It’s not quite as many as Chauncey, but it’s not shabby. Also, it is four times the size of the beaver’s twitter feed. (So far, Linus has not joined Twitter. He should. Thanks to Grumpy Cat, felines rule Twitter.)

I highly recommend becoming Linus’s friend on Facebook and following the photos. You get a sense of the wonder and weirdness of the cat’s life. Audrey or Nick usually acquiesce to the cat’s demands to be let out early in the evening, and then see where he is from the photos that students – and occasionally faculty – post on Facebook. Even his tag says, “Linus Hubbell/Friend me on Facebook.” Linus returns most evenings around Nick and Audrey’s bedtime.

But not always. Sometimes he returns the next morning if a student has needed the comfort of Linus’s altruistic services as an overnight rent-a-pet. This sort of animal consolation is important because the school has a no-pets policy – except, apparently, for human beings dressed up in six-foot tall beaver costumes. Brandon Jones, a senior majoring in film, recalls how Linus kept him company through the night when he was editing a movie. Linus slept on his sweatshirt and provided moral support. “I’d have my headphones on and look back and find him there,” Brandon said. “It was very comforting.”

Likewise, Brendon Johnson, a sophomore majoring in communications, has found Linus a reassuring presence even during the day: “I would see him last semester when I would have my 8 a.m. marketing class. Sometimes I would see him between classes. He would always make my day.”

So, is there room on the campus for both Chauncey and Linus? I say yes. You just can’t have too many six-foot tall beavers and 15-pound cats in your life.

(This column appeared originally in the Burlington Free Press on February 16, 2014. Chris’s next novel, “Close Your Eyes, Hold Hands,” arrives on July 8.)close your eyes...update

Chris Bohjalian

Chris Bohjalian is the author of nineteen books, including his forthcoming novel, The Sleepwalker. His other novels include the New York Times bestsellers Midwives, The Sandcastle Girls, The Guest Room, and The Double Bind.