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Liberty, Colonial Williamsburg’s first mascot, may have spent most of her first public appearance nibbling on dog treats, but the living history museum’s officials say they have high expectations for what she’ll accomplish as a therapy dog and champion for a dog-friendly Williamsburg.
The 5-month-old Briard made her debut Thursday afternoon at the Williamsburg Inn, where her master, George Washington – portrayed by actor-interpreter Ron Carnegie – took questions from children in the audience about Liberty’s origins and prospective service to the historic area.
“She’s definitely going to become part of the fabric of Colonial Williamsburg,” said Andrea Sardone, director of marketing for the foundation.
Michael Holtzman, vice president of communications for the foundation, said the idea to adopt a dog as the first mascot came from the foundation’s president and CEO Mitchell Reiss. After observing the dog-friendly Duke of Gloucester Street, known to locals as DoG Street, Reiss suggested finding a dog to represent Colonial Williamsburg.
Holtzman said the foundation sought a breed that was contemporary to 18th century Williamsburg but also one that would interact well with people, especially children with special needs. The Briard fit the bill, he said.
“The idea of having a mascot with therapy training is a very important part of us engaging with that population,” Holtzman said.
Carnegie said there is no way to train a dog to become a mascot, but therapy training comes close.
“The Briard is a very intelligent and trainable breed. It will be a very good choice for that type of work,” Carnegie said. “It will also allow her to have more important roles in the community at large.”
While passersby will only see one dog strolling around Colonial Williamsburg, there are two dogs that will take turns entertaining visitors as Liberty. Each dog has her own handler, Carnegie said.
Sardone said Liberty’s likeness will be a highlight of Colonial Williamsburg promotions – a smiling Liberty marks six shuttle buses already traversing the historic area, she said. Liberty will also have Facebook and Instagram pages and later a website where visitors can track her movements around the historic area.
Sardone said introducing a dog as Colonial Williamsburg’s first mascot has already inspired the historic area to become more dog-friendly: All of the Colonial Williamsburg hotels now permit dogs to stay with their owners, she said.
“We’ve been becoming more dog-friendly overall,” Sardone said. “We know when guests travel with dogs, it’s really hard to leave them behind.”
Residents can see Liberty in person this Saturday when she leads the parade during the free “Dogs of DoG Street” event.
Donations will be accepted during the event to benefit the Heritage Humane Society.