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Shepherd College gets real ram for mascot

September 09, 2002|by DAVE McMILLION

charlestown@herald-mail.com

MARTINSBURG, W.Va. - His name is Livingston, and so far, it looks like he will be leading a dual life.

The 120-pound Dorset ram will spend most of his days quietly grazing at his owner's house with two goats.

But come Saturdays when the Shepherd College Rams play football at home, Livingston will be one of the stars of the show.

Although things are still in the planning stages, one of the ideas being tossed around when Livingston makes his debut Saturday as the school's mascot is to have him run across the field ahead of the team as it prepares for a showdown against Virginia Union, said his owner, Barbara Byers.

"You have to see him with the football team," said Byers, explaining that members of the team have already shared some time with their new comrade.

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Although the mascot for Shepherd College is the ram, there hasn't been a live one on the campus to represent the symbol for at least 10 years, said Byers, director of counseling services at the Shepherdstown, W.Va., college.

It all started this year when there was talk about someone donating a ram to the school to serve as the mascot, Byers said.

After the idea did not materialize, Byers' colleagues began asking her if she would consider keeping a ram and being in charge of bringing it to school events if one could be found.

Being an animal lover and watching her kids raise goats and other animals, Byers jumped at the offer.

She sought out a sheep farmer in Greencastle, Pa., who specializes in raising horned Dorset rams.

Although most sheep farmers have turned to raising polled Dorsets, which have no horns, William Gelbach was still breeding ones with horns, Byers said.

Byers and her husband David picked out 5-month-old Livingston and brought him home to their five-acre spread off U.S. 11 north of Martinsburg.

Since farm animals are typically a little skittish of people, Byers knew Livingston would need some special training for his new job.

While he was still young and impressionable, Byers took the ram to the college's campus four times over the summer so he would get used to being with people.

Three weeks after bringing Livingston home in June, Byers took the ram to Miller Hall on the Shepherd campus to meet with residence hall staff and students.

To sweeten the pot for Livingston, Byers had the students feed him his favorite food - a mixture of sweet grains.

Suddenly, Livingston seemed to be having a good time and anxious to walk about the campus. The two crossed W.Va. 480 by the football field for a long walk through the east campus, Byers said.

In July, Byers took the ram to the main campus during a student registration period and on Aug. 24, the duo returned again for an organizational fair, where students could learn about Greek organizations and other clubs to join at the college.

As music blared from big speakers at the fair, Livingston relaxed with a cud-chewing session, Byers said.

"Now he looks for people to nuzzle up to," Byers said.

At the football games, Byers said she will probably lead Livington around to meet his fellow Ram fans. For a break, he will periodically be placed in a 10-foot-by-10-foot dog pen on the field.

When it's time to go home, he will be loaded into the back of the Byers' pickup truck.

He rides in the bed and loves to stick his head into the cab through a sliding glass door, Byers said.

"This has gotten really comical," she said.

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