By JAMES EVANS
Rutherford County Schools
Since the beginning of the school year, Ace has spent much of his time hiding out under the desk of Assistant Principal Mike Messerly.
Ace is the new live mascot for the Smyrna High Bulldogs and was adopted by Messerly and his wife, Kelly, back in the summer.
Ace was rescued from a bad situation which did not afford him much time for exercise or socialization. So his comfort zone is under the desk, although he occasionally pokes his head out of Messerly’s office door whenever no one else is around.
But now, Ace has a new place to spend his time, especially when he’s trotted out under the Friday night lights of football season.
Craig Kuhnle and LP Building Products recently donated Ace a custom dog house, equipped with an air conditioner and specialized materials that help keep the structure cooler.
“I wanted to make sure he had a way to stay cool, because bulldogs, typically their airways are about the diameter of a No. 2 pencil,” said Kuhnle, a territory sales manager for the Nashville-based company. “So they overheat very, very easily, and it’s real important that they have a place to cool down.”
“Ace’s House,” as the sign reads on the side, was delivered the same day as Smyrna’s home opener against LaVergne High School.
Equipped with wheels underneath, the dog house was rolled out on the track before the game with Ace stationed next to it.
While still on the timid side, Messerly said Ace did tolerate being greeted by some students, who can’t resist his cute, flappy face. But eventually, he made his way into the house once he realized it offered him some relief from the attention and the heat.
“Once he figured out the air conditioner was hitting him, he stayed in there quite a bit,” Messerly said. “And of course, he got away from the kids for a few seconds. He’s really gentle. He’s never shown any kind of meanness.”
Kuhnle and his family have three dogs of their own, one of which is an English Bulldog. So when he heard about Ace and his story, he said they wanted to do something immediately.
“My family and I are huge dog lovers,” Kuhnle said. “We have adopted an English bulldog of our own. Bullies are near and dear to our hearts so when I saw that pop up and saw his picture, we just fell in love with him.”
Ace’s house is actually the second dog house the company has donated. LP Building Products also provided the house for Uga, the live mascot for the University of Georgia.
For Ace’s house, the company already had a miniature house structure it used for trades shows and demonstrations. That house was repurposed to build Ace’s house, which features the company’s Smart Side engineered siding and Tech Shield roof sheathing, a product that can reduce temperatures in attic spaces by as much as 30 degrees, Kuhnle said.
An air conditioner and signage were added, and the result is a perfect environment for keeping Ace cool under the collar.
Ace is the fourth live mascot for Smyrna High School.
The original idea came from longtime Smyrna Principal Robert “Bud” Raikes. Big Mac was the first followed by Little Mac. Then came Murphy, who died unexpectedly at a young age.
The Messerly’s have been involved with all the dogs but especially the past three. Mike says it was his wife who pushed for them to adopt another, and she researched a rescue group that specializes in adopting bull dogs.
“My wife’s fallen in love with him,” Mike said, adding that she runs Ace’s Twitter account, which has more than 500 followers already. “She’s the one who basically did the adoption on this one. She did all the leg work.”
And while Ace likes to stay under the desk whenever possible, Mike says they have a long-term plan to build up his relationship with students.
“He’s going to go to our animal care and veterinarian science classes at some point but we’re trying to work him into that,” Mike said.
Kuhnle, who has a child in Rutherford County Schools and likes to support the school district, said he’s simply satisfied Ace has a second chance.
“My biggest concern is that this dog has a much better life,” Kuhnle said. “He’s hit the lottery now with his new owners and being surrounded by loving students and caregivers.”
You can keep up with Ace’s exploits by following him on Twitter @TheSmyrnaMascot.