Monday, August 31, 2009

Zeke Ready for Game Time

While there will be quite a lot of change on the football field this season - a new quarterback and running back to name two - one of Michigan State's most iconic traditions will be back. Yes, the yellow lab best known to MSU fans as Zeke the Wonderdog will return for another season.

I spoke the other day with Jim Foley, Zeke's trainer, who told me that the dog has made big strides since last season. That's saying something for a dog specifically bred for disc catching that was already capable of 50-yard touchdown receptions.

Zeke III is MSU's fourth disc-catching wonderdog, after Zeke and Keze in the late 1970s and early 80s, and Zeke II, the dog that restarted the tradition in 2001. Zeke II (a black lab known at home as Dexter) retired after two games in 2007 due to problems with cataracts. Zeke II still does guest appearances at a few of Zeke III's shows catching short passes that he can see.

Some other bits of Zeke trivia:
  • The name Keze was picked in a contest run by the Lansing State Journal. She was supposed to be Zeke I's full-time replacement, but got hit by a car and died in 1982.
  • Zeke's green coat cannot be purchased in stores. It is custom-tailored by a lady in East Lansing who does those sort of things.
  • You can schedule Zeke to come to your tailgate party for just $50. The reservation form can be found here.
  • I feel a particular affection for the whole Zeke program in part because when I worked for the Lansing State Journal I broke the news that Zeke II would retire, as well as that a yellow lab named BooCoo (now Zeke III) would replace him a week later. The story was set to run Zeke's last game day Saturday, but we almost got scooped by a producer for Hondo Carpenter's TV show who stumbled across our cover shoot on Adams Field but (thankfully) didn't press too hard with questions about what we were up to.
  • A used disc from that photo shoot, complete with teeth marks, still hangs on my wall.
Zeke III has been making the rounds at canine disc catching competitions this summer (yes, such things exist), as well as NFL preseason games, so he should be in midseason form by the time halftime of the Montana State game comes, Foley said.

Foley told me to expect great things from Zeke this year, including even longer passes and a few more trick shot catches. In fact, the dog is getting so good that his disc touchdown catching may only be limited this season by the strength and accuracy of Foley's throwing arm.

Photo courtesy of MSU Alumni Association

No comments:

Post a Comment