One of Virginia Tech’s newest members of the Corps is no different than the other 1,127 student this year, or is he?
Call sign Tank has his own dorm room with his own desk, closest and dresser, and shares the room with two other roommates. The difference is that the closest is full of dog food and the dresser has chew toys from the different teams the Hokies have played in football.
This member of the corps of cadets is a full-bred Labrador retriever and is the canine ambassador for the Corps of Cadets.
He marches with the cadets during football games and participates in morning workouts and makes personal appearances throughout campus. But most of the time, he can be found in the courtyard of Lane Hall playing catch with his fellow cadets.
Growley II arrived at Tech in the fall of 2016 from Ciao Bella Retrievers of Troutville, where according to the university, he excelled in extensive service dog training.
His name has a rich history at Virginia Tech.
Documentation shows that a man by the name of “Growley” Schultz ran the mess hall at the school in the early 1900s.
Folklore says the man did not have a sunny disposition, and students called he food he served as “growley,” and eventually first-year cadets announced their time until the morning formation as minutes to growley.
From there, cadets adopted a stray dog, and they would hold back a part of their growley to ensure the new pet had something to eat.
When the new “Growley” came to campus, he adopted the connection to the Growley of the past.
Growley II is cared for 24/7 by a nine-member team of cadets, and Ramalho serves as his Regimental Handler and is one of his two roommates.
“When he first arrived in Blacksburg, he weighed 70 pounds. Since then, he has lost 20 pounds and gotten in shape,” Ramalho said.
Most of the exercise that led to the loss, Ramalho credits to the workouts which her and other cadets have to go through on a regular basis.
“He’s right out there with us most of the time, and when he’s not, he is looking out a window in our dorm room probably wishing he was with us,” she said.
Dr. Lara Bartl of the Virginia-Maryland College of Veterinary Medicine is his personal veterinarian.
According to the university, the Corps of Cadets received special permission from Tech President Tim Sands to allow the animal to reside with hi cadet handlers in Pearson Hall.
Again, he has everything that a normal cadet would receive in the dormitory. There are a few extras like a dog crate, his own cushy bed and a shelf for the heads of the football opponent’s Growley has chewed off. Nearby, a Hokie bird chew toy remains unharmed.
“Everyone loves him. The Growley team trains, walks and baths him,” said Ramalho, who is a junior from Philadelphia.
The animal goes to all of Ramalho’s classes, where he typically just sleeps. But he had gone home with her for holidays, and she even took him to the beach this past summer.
“He has become a member of my family,” she said.
Sadly, Ramalho will have to give up Growley at the end of this school year. Another junior cadet will have to apply for the position.
But Ramalho knows there will always be a bond between her and the dog she simply called her roommate.
Growley II should be seen at one of the last four of Virginia Tech’s home games.