Twice a day, married couple of almost twenty years, Carol Presho and Stuart Hotaling, walk their two-year-old dog around Sonoma State’s campus. On the surface, this may seem like an ordinary, unremarkable tradition. The reality is anything but.
Incredibly, according to Hotaling, the pair can’t even walk ten feet without someone immediately recognizing Bismarck- their well-loved Newfoundland dog -by his wagging tail, his good-natured personality, and his long, black hair. Indeed, it’s hard to find a student or faculty member who hasn’t yet met Bismarck and fallen in love.
“He’s a legend,” said Sonoma State first year biology major Jonathan Tavenier. “I want a dog just like him when I’m older. Seeing Bismarck was the best day of my life!”
According to Bemnet Okubamichael, a first-year majoring in computer science, “[Bismarck’s] a big boy. If I wasn’t human I’d wish I were Bismarck. He definitely adds to the campus.”
Historically, dogs like Bismarck have been relied on as hard-working lifeguards. When the Titanic sunk in 1912, a heroic Newfoundland named Rigel was able to survive the freezing waters and save the passengers of lifeboat 4 by alerting rescue ships with his bark. Other well-known newfies of the past include ‘Seaman,’ a real-life rescuer who adventured alongside Lewis and Clark on their expedition.
How Bismarck, specifically, became famous on Sonoma State’s campus is a much different story. “Our son graduated from [Sonoma State] and Stuart was a golf coach,” said Presho when asked why they liked walking on Sonoma State’s campus. “So, it just seemed a natural thing to do to bring him here.”
As to how Bismarck’s celebrity status came to exist, she said, “The students started recognizing him and anticipating him. Then they started waiting for him. We sort of became obligated to come. Now it’s become a ritual… He even showed up to the graduation last year- he was invited- and the graduating seniors made him an Instagram page so they could follow him after they graduate.”
Since 2001, Presho and Hotaling have loved and owned 4 Newfoundlands - all named Bismarck. When asked how they came to fall in love with the breed, Presho explained how a fisherman operating near her place of work in Bodega Bay offered her a newfoundland puppy and ultimately how they decided to get one for her husband’s birthday. As for how they settled on the name, Hotaling said that they were searching for something suitable for an impressively large and strong water dog when they came across the name of a “very famous WWII battleship- the biggest ever built.”
Considering his impressive history, intimidating build, and powerful name, it would be normal to not expect such love and gentleness from a dog like Bismarck. Even so, students still see him for who he really is.
Lauren Slotsve, a second year and photography major, said, “He’s just so cute. I would get 7 dogs like Bismark. He’s just full of love, I can feel it when I walk by.”
According to Presho and Hotaling, what makes Bismarck and his kind truly special is that, “they absolutely love their family, their pack, and they love the attention. They’re very smart. As much as the students love Bismarck, he loves being here twice as much.”
To see their page and to stay updated on his adventures around Sonoma State, follow @bismarckthenewf on Instagram.