Zeke the Wonder Dog is the performing name for a series of three Frisbee-catching dogs that have entertained fans at Michigan State University's Spartan Stadium during breaks in football play. Originally brought in as fan entertainment in the late 1970s, Zeke's performances have become a game day tradition.
Zeke the Wonder Dog was introduced to Spartan football fans in 1977 after he and his owner, Gary Eisenberg, attracted the attention of the MSU Athletic Department by winning the national disc-catching championships at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California. Invited to do a performance at a home game, the yellow lab became an instant hit, wowing fans with his amazing jumping and catching skills. Zeke I continued to perform regularly at MSU football games until 1984, and was awarded a varsity letter from football coach Darryl Rogers, becoming the only non-human to ever receive that honor.
After an 18-year hiatus, Zeke the Wonder Dog was resurrected by then MSU Associate Athletic Director Mark Hollis in 2002. Hollis, who had been a student during Zeke I's heyday, called for an open audition of candidates for the Zeke II spot, resulting in the selection of Dexter, a black lab and pointer mix. Jim Foley, Dexter's trainer, received guidance from Zeke I's handler, and Zeke II quickly became a huge hit with alumni who remembered the original Zeke as well as those too young to remember Zeke I's performances.
Zeke II performed from the 2002 to the 2007 football seasons, with some interruptions in his final seasons. In December of 2005, he underwent emergency care at the MSU Small Animal Clinic for intestinal surgeries required to remove a substantial amount of green Berber-style carpet that that he devoured at his owner's home. Returning only half time for the 2006 season, Zeke was again sidelined late in the year, tearing an anterior cruciate ligament in his right rear knee while practicing with his owner prior to the Spartan's November 11 game vs. Minnesota. Following two months of therapy at the MSU Advanced Rehabilitation Center for Animals, Zeke II was prepared to take the field for what would be his final season. On September 8, 2007, Zeke II was retired after a two minute performance with the Spartan Marching Band. The dog's age had begun to catch up with him, and developing cataracts were keeping him from being able to see the Frisbees.
Boo Coo, a pedigreed yellow lab, begun training in 2006 with the Foleys, with Eisenberg advising, as Zeke II's retirement came near. The two year old dog took the field on September 15, 2007 during halftime at the MSU vs. Pittsburgh game, as Zeke the Wonder Dog III. Though a "more rambunctious" dog according to the Foleys, Zeke III's youth has allowed him to do a number of tricks that Zeke II was unable to execute (including using his handler's back as a springboard to catch tossed discs), and has taken well to the training.
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Kruth, Cash. "Zeke the Wonder Dog to miss 1st game". The State News. http://statenews.com/index.php/article/2006/11/zeke_the_wonder_dog_to .Published 4/10/06. Accessed 11/4/07.
Paul, Fredericka. "'Wonder Dog' recovers from hospital visit". The State News. Published 12/6/05. Accessed 11/4/07.
Wallbank, Derek. "Wonder Dog's final fling". Lansing State Journal. http://vh10065.v1.moc.gbahn.net/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070908/NEWS01/709080341 Published 9/8/07. Accessed 11/4/07.