MARINE CORPS RECRUIT DEPOT SAN DIEGO — Like many Marine recruits, Pvt. Smedley Butler hasn’t quite grown into his feet, his drill technique could use work, and he eats whatever is put in front of him.
But Smedley is likely the only private who has to be stopped from chewing on shoelaces.
The wiggly, wrinkly, extroverted 14-week-old English bulldog puppy will be the recruit depot’s newest mascot — as soon as he finishes his training.
Smedley, named after the Marine general who first introduced English bulldogs as Marine mascots in the 1920s, was bred in Escondido, Calif., and lives in the barracks with his handler, Cpl. Tyler Viglione. One of Smedley’s brothers is the mascot at Georgetown University.
Viglione, who works in the public affairs office, cared for the previous mascot, Belleau Wood, for nearly a year before the dog “decided not to reenlist.”
Belleau now lives with a Marine family in Temecula, Calif., Viglione and Maj. Neil Ruggiero said.
For now, Viglione is taking Smedley to training and practicing basic tasks at home. Eventually, the Marines hope to teach the Devil Pup to salute, and he’ll be fitted with uniforms at the same tailoring shop that alters uniforms for the new recruits.
Once he graduates from recruit training and becomes a private first class, Smedley will perform at weekly graduation ceremonies and also attend recruiting and community relations events like Padres and Chargers games and adopt-a-school events. He’ll be one of three official mascots in the Corps: Chesty XIV serves as mascot at Marine Barracks Washington and Legend serves at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, in South Carolina.
But Ruggiero and Viglione don’t want to rush the pup: Whenever he’s ready, he’s ready, they said.
Belleau served as the recruit depot’s mascot for about five years, earning the rank of corporal. Smedley has only been at the depot for about a month, but is progressing well — despite a bit of slobbering and a few bathroom-related accidents.
Viglione’s family had several dogs when he was growing up, he said, including an American bulldog. He first met Smedley when he was two weeks old, and went to visit the dog every week until he was old enough to move to San Diego.
But having a puppy in the barracks is “a bit of a learning experience for both of us,” he said.
Smedley has gained almost 15 pounds in a matter of weeks and is expected to grow to about 75 pounds. He “works” in the public affairs office during the day, where he likes to sit in an empty row of a metal bookshelf or take naps in his crate. Marines and civilians from all over the depot come visit and play with him, Viglione said, and he elicited smiles and belly rubs from everyone he passed Wednesday afternoon on a short walk for a photo shoot.
The pudgy private has also proved popular on social media: His personal instagram feed, @mcrdsd_mascot, has only 10 photos so far, but nearly 600 followers.