- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (AP) - Life has changed for Reveille VIII since the last time she led the Aggies onto Kyle Field for a football game.

She is still treated in the same manner she has been for the past seven years as Aggieland’s first lady, with weekly grooming sessions and semi-daily teeth brushing after her retirement in May as Texas A&M; University’s mascot. Life is quiet now for Reveille at the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center, and, according to those closest with the 9-year-old collie, she’s enjoying it so far.

“I feel like I’ve been wearing a watch all year and now something’s missing,” Ryan Kreider, Reveille’s former handler, told The (Bryan-College Station) Eagle (http://bit.ly/1SmkdKv).

The transition has taken time to get used to, but Kreider said his former cadet general is only 20 minutes away from his home. He visited her last week just to say hello and checked her out of the center a couple weekends before for her birthday at his house, which was complete with presents, balloons and time with Reveille IX. Each time he has gone to visit her, he said he is more pleased with former Interim President Mark Hussey’s decision to choose the center to care for Reveille for the rest of her days.

“From Reveille IV to Reveille VII there was no procedure to who got her,” Kreider said. “Traditionally it’s old Aggies who would take her in, so it’s good to know now there’s a procedure in place. She seems like she’s doing really well in there and I’m happy with the entire process.”

It is not yet certain if future Reveilles will retire at the center, but the Texas A&M; College of Veterinary Medicine and those who staff the center around the clock are doing their best to set the tone for the first ladies. Associate Director Annie Greenbaum said the 16 dogs, 17 cats and one llama under the center’s care are “divas” and receive superstar treatment on par with Reveille’s.

“It makes you feel very good that we’re able to do this here,” Greenbaum said. “We’re in love with every one of them.”

The Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center was established in 1993 within the veterinary college as a place for pet owners to send their animals when they passed away or were no longer able to care for them.

Owners enroll their pets with a $1,000 fee and establish a $50,000 to $100,000 endowment, depending on the age of the owner. According to Greenbaum, there are currently 515 animals enrolled to eventually come to the center between 187 owners representing 28 states. Only 10 percent of owners have Aggie ties.

Once the pets are enrolled, funds go to the animal’s care and scholarships to vet students, including the four active vet students who live at the center to cover evening, holiday and weekend shifts when full-time and part-time staff members are away.

“It’s an invaluable experience especially for the students that live here,” Greenbaum said. They’re all in or hoping to go to vet school and when they get out they’re going to have such a broader grasp of what it is like to care for these pets than their peers because they’ve actually lived with them.”

The center, on University Drive, looks very much like an animal clinic from the outside, but one push of the front doorbell makes it feel like home with the sound of feet on the floor and a distant bark. Since the animals have almost free reign of the facility, Reveille and her new friend, a wire-haired Jack Russell terrier named Cricket, are often the first ones to greet visitors at the door.

When she isn’t spending her time in the front office at Greenbaum’s side, Reveille can be found lounging on one of the couches in one of the center’s two living rooms, staring through a window toward the outdoor animal pen looking for Rusty the llama, chasing down tennis balls and toys in her own room that is marked with her name and service years on the window or playing outside with other dogs in the sun. She seems to be just like any other dog instead of a nationally known mascot until it is time for bed.

Reveille isn’t used to spending much time alone after seven years going to class and sleeping in a cadet’s bed, so the student staffers have happily filled in that role.

Sam McDonald, one of the live-in students, will start his first year at the vet school by the end of the summer but would like to continue living at the center until his third year. When his night shift comes around and the animals start going to sleep, he said Reveille will find her way to him and curl up next to him on a couch while he does homework or find some place comfortable to fall asleep nearby.

“It was pretty strange at first because she was the mascot of the university, so now it’s really cool to see her in a different light when she’s not on the clock,” McDonald said. “She’s so incredibly sweet and loving.”

The center limits who can see Reveille because they say they want to respect her peace and quiet in retirement, but Kreider said he and Company E-2 have been welcomed to visit when they like.

Reveille declined to comment about her retirement, but Kreider said looking after her during the 2014-2015 school year was one of the biggest responsibilities he has had in his life and he is happy she is in good hands.

“They’re doing an excellent job over there,” Kreider said.

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Information from: The Eagle, http://www.theeagle.com

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