Published: February 22, 2014
Centennial High School's Bulldog spirit was dampened recently with the sudden death of its beloved mascot, Kapono.
The popular 7-year-old English bulldog died Jan. 10 after what his handler said was an intentional poisoning.
"He was running and jumping on Jan. 9 and the next morning he was dead in his kennel," said Turene Lombard, who had been Kapono's handler for the past year.
Kapono and another dog at her son's South Side home were intentionally fed rat poisoning, Lombard said.
A police report was filed but no suspect has been identified.
The other dog, a basset hound, was taken to a veterinarian and recovered, Lombard said.
For Kapono, it was too late and he died before treatment could be administered.
The death has left a noticeable void at many Centennial activities where Kapono was a fixture on the sidelines of football games, at pep assemblies, cheerleading clinics and parades for the past two years.
The school also has a costumed mascot named Spike.
"He loved the cheerleaders and the dancers and he loved the kids," Lombard said of Kapono. "There was so many people that he touched. Everywhere we went people knew him."
Kapono became the unofficial mascot two years ago after his previous owner, former girls basketball coach Nathan Sisneros, allowed Lombard and her daughter Jamie Withnell to take the dog to cheer and dance practices.
Withnell is Centennial's cheerleading and dance sponsor and Lombard is her assistant.
"He loved being around the kids. We decided to start taking him to games and pep assemblies. He loved it and the kids loved it," said Lombard, who became Kapono's owner when Sisneros moved out-of-state.
As the Centennial mascot, Kapono wore a special spiked collar that gave him a more fierce face.
"When we put that collar on him, he'd get so excited. He knew we were going to go to a game or some type of event."
At this year's Bell Game, Lombard said Kapono was a major hit.
She said he was trotted around the city to various Bell Game activities, posing for pictures and being filmed by the media.
"He absolutely loved it," she said. "He was a great dog and a wonderful mascot."
Lombard said Kapono has been cremated.
"Our plan is to put it (ashes) in a trophy case in front of the school. That way he'll be at Centennial always."
There was no word whether Centennial will intern Kapono's remains or if officials will look for another live mascot.
Principal Tharyn Mulberry was unavailable for comment Friday.