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Newton resident Mady Engle was first female Marine mascot handler

Madeline Engle, better known as Mady to her friends, made U.S. Marine Corps history during her time in the service, thanks to an English bulldog named Garth.

However, before you find out about Garth, there’s a bit of a background story that needs to be explained. Mady had wanted to be a Marine since she was 14 years old.

“At the time, my mom said, ‘You’ll change your mind,’ and I didn’t change my mind. It was what I wanted to do,” Mady said.

She said became interested in the Marines after seeing some of the corps veterans walking around at a fair. Mady explained what about them caught her eye.

“They were veterans, and they were proud. I wanted to be just like that,” Mady said. “Plus, I always love a challenge.”

Once she was in the service, Mady ended up at the Marine Barracks in Washington, D.C., which she said was a great honor. At the barracks, the Marines conduct a Tuesday Sunset Parade at the Marine Corps Memorial and a Friday evening parade.

Mady said she was honored to be stationed at such a prestigious place and wanted to be a parade Marine.

“The qualifications were that you had to be a grunt, (and) we know women can’t be grunts, and you had to be over six-foot” Mady said. “I couldn’t qualify for those, so I said, ‘What else is there?’ There was bell ringer — which didn’t sound (like) anything interesting — and they had mascot handler.”

This is how she met Garth and made Marine Corps history.  

Garth is probably better known by his official title as Chesty X, the 10th mascot of the Marine Corps. The Marines have used English bulldogs as their mascot since 1922 because the Germans referred to them in combat as “teufel-hunden,” meaning Devil-Dogs. Teufel-hunden were the vicious, wild and ferocious mountain dogs of Bavarian folklore according to the USMC Press.

Mady started spending time with Garth before she auditioned for the role of mascot handler. Developing a rapport with him and being able to keep her composure under pressure enabled her to win the job.

“He did what the typical dog would do: eat, sleep and play,” Mady said. “During parades, he was licking on the kids and giving out lots of loving. Being an English bulldog, a lot of people told me, ‘That was only a face a mother could love.’”

“But he was different. Out of uniform he was a typical dog,” Mady said. “When he was in uniform, it was almost like he knew that he had his job to do.”

Mady said Garth’s behavior changed when he was in uniform. She said he seemed more proud and seemed to comprehend how important his job was.

“He wore uniforms just like I did. He got rank just like I did. He retired as an E-3 (lance corporal),” Mady said.

Just like regular servicemen and women, Garth also was reprimanded for inappropriate behavior.

“Kind of a funny story, the weekend before I got him, a Marine had him,” Mady began. “The weekend I had him, I noticed little blood spots (on my carpet). So, I’m checking his paws and checking everything (out). So, I took him to the vet.”

“It turned out that he had the clap,” she continued. “So, I asked the Marine that had him and said, ‘Hey did the dog …’ and he said, ‘Yeah, he broke his leash, and I went after him. I found him, and he was getting acquainted with a poodle.’”

As a part of his punishment, the higher ups had to punish Garth. Mady had to hold him steady so they could place his paw print on his forms, and they photographed the entire process.

“Needless to say, it took us forever to get that picture and be serious,” Mady said jokingly. “The major and I were just laughing, ’cause he got punished for it. He got (charged with) destruction of government property.”

Mady said handlers usually rotated every two to three years, but she kept the position for five years. Also during this time, she said she met a lot of famous people, appeared on the Today Show and even met President Bill Clinton.

“The mascot did not like President Clinton,” Mady said. “He bent down to pet the dog, and the dog started backing up, and it got real quiet. Then somebody out in the audience yelled, ‘The dog must be a Republican.’”

After Garth was retired as mascot, Mady was allowed to keep him, which was also unheard of at the time. She and Garth remained together until he passed away in 2010. Mady said he is buried in a pet cemetery in Iowa and, ironically enough, he is next to a poodle.

Mady would serve in the corps from 1992 until health problems forced her to step away in 2004 as an E-5 sergeant.

“Unfortunately, I got to do 12 years only, and if it was up to me I would have still been in now,” Mady said. “It would have been 21 years, but I had to get out. It kind of stunk, ’cause the Marine Corps was everything to me. It was a huge crush for me when I had to get out.”

Although things didn’t end the way she envisioned with the service, Mady said she has no regrets.

“Not one. If I could do it again, I would,” she said.

Staff writer Ty Rushing may be contacted at (641) 792-3121, ext. 426, or at

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