Meet Hudson, college football’s newest baby and unofficial mascot

Jen Rahne sat in on her son Jake’s lacrosse practice and a familiar scene continued to play out. Brooke Corson, whose son Silas is also on the team, went to practice with a puppy. After a few practices, she came in with another pup.

And it kept happening.

“Talk about brilliant marketing,” Rahne said.

Finally, Rahne had to start the conversation and figure out where all these chicks were coming from. And where were they all going?

Corson explained that she is the founder of Mutts with a Mission, a group that trains puppies for a two-year program — 18 months in a foster home and six months with Corson and the organization — before placing them permanently as service dogs. with disabled veterans, first responders and law enforcement agencies dealing with disability issues, mobility issues, PTSD or other illnesses at no cost to the dog’s buyer.

Rahne loved what he heard. Sons Jake and Ryder were on board. But her husband, Old Dominion head coach Ricky Rahne, resisted. The family already has a 10-year-old Old English Bulldog named Lady and a Saint Bernard named Kodiak.

Hudson committed to Old Dominion during training camp. (Courtesy of Naoma Doriguzzi / Mutts with a Mission).

Ricky Rahne vetoed the third proposal.

“My husband didn’t say anything more vivid,” Jen Rahne said.

But he claimed they could sponsor a dog to support the organization. Thus began the relationship between Corson, Mutts with a Mission and Old Dominion.

Corson and Rahne took nine puppies from two different litters into the OSU weight room in late July, when the puppies were seven weeks old.

“A bunch of players were coming out of the building as we were walking in, and a lot of them turned around,” Rahne said. “They said, ‘We don’t know what’s going on, but we’re watching the puppy train.’

After the players completed the day’s conditioning and weights, Corson let them loose in the weight room. The puppets went wild for a few minutes before returning to Corson. All but one.

“He was chilling with all the guys sitting under the weightlifting equipment and he was wearing light blue and we were like, ‘That’s our dog,'” Rahne said.

They narrowed the names down to either King or Hudson and let the ODU players vote. The name Hudson comes from former sports information director Carol Hudson, who also coined the name Hudson Blue, a color worn by OSU’s sports teams from time to time. Hudson won over the players and the team started calling him “Lil’ Huddy” often.

Hudson lives with Corson but is sponsored by the Rahne family. Over the next two months, he became the team’s unofficial mascot.

A veteran and fan of college football himself, Corson often takes Hudson to practices and team events when he’s not busy with his day job: training to be a service dog. Learns to perform tasks such as going to get help, reminding the owner to take medication, and picking up dropped objects. He learns to ride public transportation and the ferry, as well as go through TSA checkpoints at the airport and fly before being paired with his forever home.

“He’s got a whole list of things to do before the pairing,” Corson said. “But this experience, after all, it’s going to be bombproof. … He overcame everything. It didn’t bother him when they hit the Howitzer in the game. He is insufferable.”

The top performers at practice earn the honor of being that week’s “Hudson Handler,” or the player who will lead Hudson into the stadium from the team’s Monarch Walk. For his first game — OSU’s upset win over Virginia Tech — cornerback Tobias Harris earned the honor.

“I was a little nervous because I said, ‘There’s going to be a band and a drum section and tubas.’ It’s going to freak out my dogs,” Rahne said.

But Hudson took it seriously. Along the way, he became a local celebrity and his fame is growing. During the opening of Old Dominion, she got significant screen time on social media, which paid off.

Naoma Doriguzzi is a local photographer and social media consultant who works with Mutts with a Mission and realized early on that she didn’t have a good answer when players cornered her and asked where her photos with Hudson would end up. And he figured his audience wouldn’t be interested in nonstop Old Dominion football content.

So he opened an account for Hudson.

He added more than 1,000 followers during the game, giving fans a place to follow his daily exploits.

“We started it before the season and we were going to practice, but it blew up. In the first game, people would come up and say, “Is that Hudson? It’s Hudson!” Doriguzzi said.

Hudson made his first trip to OSU’s game at East Carolina this weekend and plans to be out for Saturday’s game at Virginia. As for Hudson’s most eye-catching signature outfit, at least half of it was born out of necessity.

Turf can be as hot as asphalt, especially early in the season and in preseason camp. So many service dogs wear shoes against their will.

“We’ve been doing this for a long time and our dogs have been through every boot imaginable,” says Corson, who founded Mutts with a Mission in 2009. will convert them or something.”

One of their team members found a pair of dog Crocs online and texted Corson, joking that since he often wears Crocs, the dogs might match him. Out of curiosity, they bought a couple of pairs and struck gold.

“Dogs love them. We have dogs that object to the boots and they will wear them,” Corson said. “I think it’s the stuff.”

Many of the dogs Corson trains will have to travel long distances on Virginia Beach sidewalks or battleships and will require some form of protection to prevent burns. Now it’s easier. And in Hudson’s case, it made him stand out even more.

“We’re lucky they’re the color they come in,” Corson said.

His glasses are sunglasses made specifically for dogs from a company in Wyoming called RexSpecs. However, players say Lil’ Huddy rocked his Pit Vipers. They check out for $84.95 each.

Corson and Rahne hope to make Hudson the first in a series of Mutts with Mission dogs covering the OSU program. They have already seen copycats. Virginia hosted the “Champ” and the two will meet this weekend in Charlottesville.

“The smiles the players put on their faces were everything I hoped for,” Rahne said. “Everywhere we go, people ask me about him and his mission, Mutts. It’s turned into something spectacular.”

Finally, Hudson’s training time will be over. Whether he will pass the torch to another cub or retain his position is a question that will be answered another day. But Corson and Rahne hope for the same for his forever home.

“It’s sad for me now that he can only be with us for two years and I really hope that after two years he goes to an ODU fan or someone who can keep him in our lives,” Rahne said.

(Top photo: Naoma Doriguzzi / Courtesy of Mutts with a Mission)


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