The Honor Of Caring For ‘Miss Rev’
Dr. Stacy Eckman stays busy teaching veterinary students and interns, while also performing everything from routine checkups to extraordinary life-saving measures for patients as a clinical associate professor and chief medical officer for the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences’ (CVM) Department of Small Animal Clinical Sciences (VSCS).
As an Aggie graduate, Eckman says one patient always stands out—the First Lady of Aggieland and one of the most famous dogs in the nation, “Miss Reveille.”
While Reveille I was a black-and-white mutt (“a fox terrier and mongrel mix,” according to George Comnas, Class of 1935, one of the students who smuggled the injured dog into their dorm in 1932) and Reveille II was a Shetland shepherd, every Reveille since Reveille III took office in 1966 has been a Rough Collie.
Known for their intelligence, obedience, and beauty, Collies originated about 350 years ago in Scotland as a working breed for herding cattle and sheep. Today, they are the 40th most-popular breed in the country and are as likely to be family pets as working dogs.
Unlike the collies that portrayed Lassie on the celebrated TV show that ran for nearly two decades, all Reveilles so far have been female.
And Eckman has known the last three very well.
Since leaving private practice in Corpus Christi 10 years ago to return to Texas A&M as a clinician at the Small Animal Hospital (SAH), Eckman has provided care for Reveille VII in retirement, Reveille VIII while active and in retirement, and, now, Reveille IX.
“I see her at least twice annually, but we often see her or are in contact with her handlers more frequently to answer questions,” Eckman said.
Reveille spends all of her time—24 hours a day—with the Mascot Corporal, a sophomore in Company E-2 of Texas A&M’s Corps of Cadets. The Mascot Corporal (currently, Colton Ray) is chosen from the company each spring, and for the next year Reveille goes everywhere with him or her—to class, on dates, and home for the holidays.
Helping choose one of the most famous dogs in the country
Eckman also served on the committee that selected Reveille IX in 2015—a major responsibility, given Reveille’s high profile and demanding schedule.
“We traveled to several states to ‘interview’ dogs, breeders and owners, and even some rescue organizations,” she said. “It was amazing to see the variety of candidates!”
The search took seven months and the 12-member committee of students, faculty, and staff considered 15 applications from breeders and other Collie enthusiasts from across the country. They picked four finalists and ultimately selected a 16-month-old puppy donated by Overland Collies in Chagrin Falls, Ohio, a well-known kennel in the collie-breeding world.
Her predecessor, Reveille VIII, ended her seven years of service with a well-earned retirement at the Stevenson Companion Animal Life-Care Center, operated by the CVM. She died at age 12 and was laid to rest with her predecessors in Kyle Field Plaza, on the north side of the stadium.
“She was quite the lady,” Eckman said in a Texas A&M news story at the time. “Even sick, she was regal—she just had that air about her.”
Reveille IX was younger when Eckman met her.
“She was more playful and mischievous—she needed more attention and training—but all of them have been sweet and loving,” Eckman said.
These qualities are important in a dog that spends her life in the public eye, and each has had her quirks. Reveille II, for example, had a habit of relieving herself on Kyle Field during games, leading cadets to place bets on which yard line she would choose. And her successor was known as lovable, but not the brightest canine ever.
Preparing a 16-month-old for first lady status
In the decades since, and as the demands placed on Reveille have grown along with student enrollment, her handlers and caregivers have emphasized training that prepares Reveille for crowds and near-constant activity.
“Training early on is foundational for most dogs,” Eckman said. “That means slow introductions to a variety of people and noises and eventually building up to a higher level of crowds and noise.”
She also says her handlers have excelled at learning to read and respond to Reveille’s body language and other physical cues.
“That helps keep the trust in their relationship,” she said. “When she is getting tired or overwhelmed in a situation, they recognize that and change the situation or the approach. Even though her handler changes yearly, they do an excellent job of communicating her training and teaching each other so they remain consistent.”
Eckman says her role as Reveille’s chief caregiver makes her “proud and humbled.”
“As a die-hard Aggie, it is such an honor!” she said.
She also says it was an honor to return to Texas A&M as a faculty member eight years after earning her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) degree from the CVM in 2001.
“That was definitely not in my long-term plan!” she said. “But I couldn’t be more thankful for the education I received here, in and out of the classroom and clinics.
“The CVM has grown, but there is still a deep desire to help students be successful and provide them with the best opportunities,” she said.
Today, that means more access to technology and teaching tools.
A focus on excellence during growth and change
Since being named the CVM’s first chief medical officer for the SAH in 2017, Eckman has intended to maintain the exceptional patient care and exceptional student learning experiences that are at the core of the hospital’s mission, no matter how much the hospital grows or changes.
In her view, this means a focus on process management, or “how we can serve clients and patients to the best of our abilities, while continuing to provide students, interns, and residents with exceptional learning opportunities,” she said.
Despite all of the changes on campus, Eckman emphasizes that “there is just something about how special this place is that it is almost impossible to articulate.”
Without a doubt, Reveille helps make Aggieland special.
“I even follow her on Twitter” Eckman said, “and I am not too Twitter-savvy!”