Reggie Bee, the University of Michigan’s unofficial campus corgi, has lived a life as rich and fulfilling as any canine companion could aspire to, said Ann Arbor resident and owner Michael Sola. He laughed upon recalling Reggie chasing deer through Zion National Park, swimming in the ocean off the coast of Naples, Florida and being Sola’s ‘personal lucky charm’ in Las Vegas.
Still, more than anywhere else, Sola said the 10-year-old red and white Pembroke Welsh Corgi left his pawprint on the University and in the hearts of its students. Besides his frequent frolics on the Diag, Reggie was infamously entered in the 2018 race for CSG president, portrayed Paulette’s pampered pooch Rufus in Musket’s ‘Legally Blonde’ and made the cover of The Daily’s own The Statement.
“It was just one of those perfect matches, like the marriage you always want,” Sola said. “Reggie and the University students, it’s a perfect marriage.”
With roughly 8,000 friends and followers combined on his Facebook and Instagram pages, Reggie is considered “the biggest celebrity to regularly walk the streets of Ann Arbor,” and taking a picture with him is number eight on the University’s pre-graduation bucket list. The last time Reggie was on campus, however, was Dec. 17, 2020, and he passed away soon after on Dec. 20.
According to Sola, Reggie was clearly not feeling well the night of Dec. 19. The next day, Sola dropped him off at the veterinarian’s office, unable to go into the building with Reggie due to COVID-related restrictions. Ten minutes after he had driven away, Sola received a call from Reggie’s doctor with the news Reggie had just passed away. The cause of death is still unknown.
Sola said he was so shocked and hurt by Reggie’s sudden death that he was unable to publicly break the news until his recent Facebook post on Reggie’s page April 23.
“It was just too hurtful to even announce it because I knew that would lead to talking to people,” Sola said. “I just needed time to myself to realize that it really happened, especially because of the way it happened.”
When asked for a comment about Reggie’s passing, the University submitted a statement from Mary Jo Desprez, Director of Wolverine Wellness. Desprez wrote that Reggie has become a valuable part of the University community and recommends those who knew him take time to reflect on their good memories together in light of the recent loss.
“Reggie was one of a few pets that became part of our campus community,” Desprez wrote. “We are grateful for all the times that Reggie ‘showed up’ and made our community smile — especially during this past year. Reggie was a source of comfort and connection, of unconditional acceptance, of fun and joy.”
Reggie’s charismatic personality and uncanny ability to make people smile dates back to when Sola adopted the then-two-year-old corgi from a woman in Gaylord, MI. When Sola walked in the door, he said Reggie immediately beelined towards him, his tongue hanging out in greeting.
“He saw me and went racing all the way to the door and he had a big, happy look on his face,” Sola said. “All dogs are happy of course, but Reggie just seemed to be always happy.”
As an Air Force veteran who served during the Vietnam War, Sola originally adopted Reggie as a service dog, which allowed him to walk Reggie unleashed. As Reggie increasingly interacted with University students, Sola said he decided to have him trained as a therapy dog as well.
“Because of the type of service dog he was for me, he could legally be off a leash,” Sola said. “That was kind of magic because Reggie would just wander around and people could find him.”
LSA junior Abner Santiago vividly remembers meeting Reggie for the first time during a summer program prior to his freshman year. Santiago said he feels like it was yesterday that he was in the 7-Eleven on South University Avenue and began sprinting to the Diag after receiving a text message from a friend saying Reggie was there.
Over the next couple of years, Santiago said he built a relationship with Sola and Reggie. Having never owned a dog himself, Santiago said Reggie was the closest thing to his own pet. He had to step back from studying the night he heard Reggie had passed away.
“It felt like we had a special bond since I would see him two or three times a week,” Santiago said. “Most students see Reggie maybe twice in their entire academic career, whereas I probably held the record for seeing him the most amount of times (in my time) at Michigan. So it hits close to home that I won’t get to see him ever again.”
Santiago said his friendship with Reggie has inspired him to one day own corgis of his own. When he is retired, Santiago said he hopes to return to Ann Arbor with a corgi named Reggie II to honor Reggie’s legacy and ensure he is not forgotten by future generations of University students.
“When (current students) come back to campus (as alumni) we’ll remember there used to be a little corgi here,” Santiago said. “But I don’t think that same energy will be on campus, unless another Reggie is born. So either his owner gets a new Reggie, or it’ll have to be me some day.”
Though Santiago worries Reggie will fade from memory as the current classes of students graduate over the next few years, recent alumni have continued to follow him on social media and were also affected by the loss.
University alum Nathan Halquist learned about Reggie’s death from messaging with other University alumni. Halquist graduated from the University in 2019 and was the student who originally launched Reggie’s 2018 CSG president campaign on the corgi’s behalf. Halquist said he created the campaign’s Facebook page in the Winter 2018 semester as a joke during the particularly contentious election season and has anonymously run the page since then.
Though Reggie’s political “aspirations” as an ineligible (non-human) candidate may have added to the controversy of the presidential race, it gained the attention of several major news platforms locally and internationally. Even as a write-in candidate, Reggie placed fourth with 1,403 votes. Halquist said he still thinks Reggie would ‘absolutely’ have been a good CSG president.
“(Reggie) was just such an inviting presence for all kinds of different students from all walks of life,” Halquist said. “He connected really well to everybody and I think that would be an excellent quality to have in any CSG president.”
LSA senior Anna Recknagel was an associate marketing director for Musket’s production of ‘Legally Blonde,’ which had its three-day run in March 2019. Recknagel said she has always had an affinity for corgis and the excitement of working with Reggie during the show confirmed that she would like to have her own corgi in the future.
“When he walked out on stage, he was just a happy little camper,” Recknagel said. “The whole crowd went crazy and they were like, ‘Oh my god, it’s Reggie.’ They lost their minds. So that was really fun.”
While the Ann Arbor community is left with a corgi-shaped hole in its heart, Sola said he just feels somewhat lost without his furry companion and best friend. He misses everything, from their cross country trips to watching Reggie howl along with recordings of wolves on YouTube every night to meeting new friends on the Diag.
“I drive down (to campus) a few times a week and I sit in my jeep and I just haven’t gotten out in a long time,” Sola said. “I think it would just make me too sad right now.”
Some members of the University community hope to see Reggie permanently memorialized on campus. Santiago suggested the University posthumously award Reggie an honorary degree and construct a statue of Reggie with the phrase “dog, friend, wolverine” engraved on its base.
Though Reggie does not yet have a statue, University students recently painted the Rock at the corner of Washtenaw Avenue and Hill Street with a depiction of Reggie — smiling, with his tongue out and angel wings — and a message from the U-M community: “Reggie will ‘Bee’ fur-ever in our hearts.”
Sola said seeing pictures of the Rock and the message from students was incredibly touching. He told The Daily he has his own hopes for how Reggie’s legacy will manifest on campus.
“I’d just like to see the University of Michigan become ‘the corgi campus’ where everybody brings their corgis to make everybody else happy,” Sola said. “Reggie did that, so hopefully a lot of people got the idea that ‘Hey, my dogs can go down to campus, we can walk, we can make people happy.’”
Summer News Editor Roni Kane can be reached at email@example.com