The Doctor Dolittle on LSU campus goes by the name of Ginger Guttner.
Guttner, the communications manager for the LSU school of Veterinarian Medicine, learned the language of LSU’s most loved mascot, a 400-pound Tiger named Mike.
In 2009, Guttner found a fake Facebook page related to Mike the Tiger. The LSU Office of Strategic Communications decided to have the page shut down. The next day, LSU’s social media coordinator called Guttner and said, “I think we should run an official Facebook page for Mike.”
“If you would have told me 10 years ago that I would be speaking as a 400-pound tiger, I would have said, ‘Under no circumstances. Why would I do that? Why would I ever do that?’” Guttner said.
Although Mike now has over 31 thousand dedicated followers on his twitterpage, it was not always easy for Guttner to express the thoughts of Mike the Tiger on social media.
“In the very beginning I did a horrible job running it,” Guttner said. “I treated it like a trivia site, it was horrible!”
Guttner would often look up something factual before posting the picture instead of speaking from the first person.
“Doing it form the first person felt awkward,” Guttner said. “I wasn’t going to say ‘I’, because it felt a bit bizarre.”
However, Guttner learned that first person is what everybody loves.
One day everything changed for Mike and his fans. At the spur of the moment, Guttner quickly took a picture of Mikes entire body in a profile view and posted it with the caption “Do these stripes make me look fat?” To Guttner’s surprise, everyone thought it was funny and ironically, the joke made people ask educational questions about Mike.
“I just wanted to post something, I had no grand plan, and this silly thing that I wrote, actually started a discussion about his care,” Gutner said. “This is my favorite post for that reason.”
Guttner has created a new, positive way for fans to interact with Mike. Now, fans can go online and ask Mike questions, and he will answer. Her goal through this journey has been to make Mikes voice playful, while educating people.Every once in a while, someone will go on the page and comment something negative about the Tiger, but Mikes fans will rise up and defend him.
“When people comment negative things on the page, his fans don’t comment back something ugly,” Guttner said. “They start quoting facts that I have put out there, it’s amazing, it’s wonderful, it’s my favorite thing.”
As Gutter continued her journey as Mike on social media, she learned the language that people like most and after all she was teaching Mike the Tiger how to speak. From the response of his fan base, and how many fans multiplied, it was evident that she was achieving her main goal and also bringing appreciation and endearment for Mike the Tiger.
Guttner does not work from her desk. As a communications professional, she is always on her feet. Whether it is bolting through the halls of the LSU Vet school with a news crew, or taking pictures of an intense surgery, Guttner goes in and out of a revolving door circling around every aspect of media relations, public relations, and the web.
“People think my job mostly consists of networking for Mike the Tiger, however it only takes up a small part of my day,” Guttner said.
The small part of her day that is directed towards Mike affects LSU students, staff, and spirit of the campus.
In the midst of Guttner’s challenges in being the voice of Mike, in each part of every day, she gives the Tiger a character that allows people to have a true friendship with him, a character that causes people to show affection towards him, and a character that no other Tiger in the world will ever have. She is like Doctor Dolittle. However, there is something that sets them apart, Guttner only has a place in her heart for one cat.
“I’m not really a cat person,” Guttner said. “I would say I’m not a cat person though I am definitely a Tiger person.”
In a world of animal sounds where birds squawk, elephants rant, and lions roar, there is one Louisiana Tiger that speaks louder than them all. Thanks to Ginger Guttner’s creative imagination, the possibilities of our communication with animals has no limits.