Popsicle’s Journey From Craigslist Castoff to Media Lab Mascot


Emily Ito, Guest Writer

Nestled in a private corner of the Media and Communication Center lies a four-legged friend who snores loudly while indulging in a midday nap atop her fluffy pink bed. She has grueling mornings of greeting students and receiving treats, but the little trooper catches a quick snooze to recharge for the rest of her work day. 

Meet Popsicle, a fashion-forward Boston Terrier who has taken on the position as Media Lab Mascot and campus therapy dog. With her irresistible charm and ridiculous antics, Popsicle is a UC San Diego darling whose presence on campus provides students and staff with a humorous distraction from the stresses of life and school. But beneath her endearing pink sweaters and silly demeanor lies a beautiful story of friendship, healing, and the serendipitous embrace of second chances. There is no way to tell Popsicle’s story without also acknowledging the incredible resilience and powerful connection between Popsicle and her human companion, Nicolette.

Popsicle was a 1-year-old pup in a house full of three French Bulldogs who liked to pick on the odd girl out. While the family adored her, they understood the incompatibility of the situation. She was listed on Craigslist to be rehomed and after a few failed situations and a couple weeks online, she was discovered by Nicolette in what could only be a fated encounter.

At the time, Nicolette was caring for Chance, her sick husband who was coping with his cancer diagnosis. He had always dreamt of one day owning a Boston Terrier named Popsicle, so when his health began to decline and Nicolette understood he was going to pass, she began to search for a Boston Terrier online.

During this difficult time, she knew she wasn’t ready to care for a puppy, and thus coming upon the 1-year-old Popsicle was a match made in heaven. Nicolette’s husband got to meet the pooch named Popsicle that he had always wanted and when he passed, Popsicle was there to provide the companionship and solace that Nicolette needed. The bond between Popsicle and Nicolette was cemented as they navigated and guided one another through this journey of loss and grief. When COVID-19 hit a few years later, Popsicle and Nicolette spent even more time together and as campus phased back to in-person, Popsicle began to make appearances on campus.

With one of Nicolette’s co-workers often bringing her dogs, Nicolette was inclined to begin bringing Popsicle along. Slowly, she began coming to campus more and more frequently until it became an everyday occurrence. Given Popsicle’s experience as a canine grief counselor, Nicolette had no reservations about Popsicle’s ability to become a positive influence on the UCSD campus. As Nicolette described, “she brings some joy to the drudgery that can be the quarter system,” and “there is a symbiotic relationship between Popsicle and not only the students, but the staff and fellow colleagues.”

Popsicle’s presence is a delight to students and she is beloved by all, but her recognizability and celebrity status emerges more from her bold fashion sense and ability to command a room. Sporting a number of bright coats and loud sweaters to keep her body warm during the colder seasons, she is easy to spot as she struts around campus and up and down the MCC building. Even when she’s not dressed to impress, she is snorting excitedly or turning heads with her friendly approach. She is a playful delight and a sight for sore eyes after a long day of class. Between sneaking french fries from the staff to throwing her favorite octopus in the air, the goofiness of Popsicle’s demeanor helps bring a wondrous joy to those she meets.

From anywhere in the MCC building, one can recognize the chimes of Poppy’s collars and her little feet as they patter across the floor. Students love to bend down and greet her when waiting in line to check out equipment, and there’s thunderous laughter anytime Popsicle begins to snort.

She comes in like she owns the place and, frankly, she’s not mistaken. But Popsicle’s route extends beyond the immediate surroundings of MCC, going for at least one walk during her workday and exploring the UCSD campus. She’s taken a liking to Copa Vida, engaging in the ritual of bartering with the cashier, flashing a smile and a snort in exchange for a small piece of cheese. Popsicle has become an important and recognizable community member at UCSD, and she has earned some perks with that position. 

Nicolette and Popsicle have developed an inseparable bond that brings so much joy to each other’s lives. During the challenging transition from pandemic to present, Popsicle has been an easy conversation starter and an adorable sense of comfort for even those least inclined in engaging. She is a source of companionship, a beacon of connection, and a compelling creator of entertainment and joy. 

Four-legged friends might be humorous and charming, but beyond their endearing behavior they have the power to be profoundly impactful and deeply important. Popsicle and Nicolette found each other when they needed the other most, and campus has been uplifted by the warmth and care of Nicolette and her dog Popsicle. It’s a special privilege to have an animal on campus.

Photo Courtesy of Emily Ito for the UCSD Guardian