On Sunday night, Louisiana Tech's English bulldog mascot, Tech XX, went missing from the Ruston, La., animal clinic run by his caretaker, veterinarian Patrick Sexton. Four days later, Tech XX's whereabouts have come to light. Unfortunately, it is not a happy ending.
According to a statement released by the school Wednesday, Sexton learned that an employee at his clinic allowed Tech XX to remain outside in the suffocating heat too long. (English bulldogs have narrow breathing passages and do not do well in oppressive temperatures.) When the employee realized his mistake, he attempted to cover it up, which set off a days-long search led by community members and Louisiana Tech students. Sexton's statement:
"Regretfully, I learned this morning that through negligence of an employee, Tech XX was left outside too long on Sunday evening and passed away from a heat stroke. That employee unfortunately chose to handle it the wrong way and attempted to cover it up. Due to this negligence, the employee is no longer employed by Sexton Animal Health Center.
"My family, my staff and I are extremely upset at this tragic turn of events as I know the entire Louisiana Tech Family is as well. Tech XX was a member of our immediate family and a daily part of our lives for the past four years. We are devastated over the circumstances of his passing and there will be a large void in our hearts for some time to come. As with any family member, we will spend considerable time grieving his passing."
Louisiana Tech added the following:
“Louisiana Tech University was saddened to learn of Tech XX’s passing this past Sunday evening. He will be remembered for being a fan favorite and a symbol of the spirit of Louisiana Tech.
"Since becoming our official mascot in 2008, Tech XX received superior care and a loving home from Dr. Patrick Sexton and, despite the unfortunate circumstances of the past few days, we are grateful for all he and his family have done for our beloved mascot. Tech XX was a cherished member of the Louisiana Tech Family and, together, we will all grieve his passing.”
The immediate response is anger. Allowing a heat-averse animal to perish in the sweltering heat seems almost unconscionable. Even worse is the cover-up, and the frenzied search it propelled an entire community to undertake. When the innocence of animals is violated in any way, it inspires some of the deepest anger our culture can express.
But once the anger fades, and the realization that mistakes do happen begins to seep in, surely the overriding emotion is just pure sadness. For the Sextons and Louisiana Tech fans and Ruston and anyone who knows that special brand of wide-eyed canine companionship, it's just ... sad, you know? What else can you really say?