Whether he’s catching a Frisbee in mid-air at Spartan Stadium for 75,000 cheering fans or proudly walking in a downtown Holland parade, Zeke the Wonderdog III knows how to charm a crowd.
The 11-year-old purebred yellow Lab, also called Bou Cou (pronounced Boo Coo), is famous for catching Frisbees during Michigan State University football halftime shows.
Zeke and his owners, Jim and Terri Foley, are Holland residents. When Zeke is not performing, he loves swimming in Lake Michigan and spending time at West Ottawa’s practice fields.
Sometimes, Zeke’s celebrity status finds him off the job.
“He loves to get his picture taken,” Terri said. “And we’re always willing to stop and let people pet him, talk to him, hug him or get pictures.”
Bou Cou is the current Spartan dog adored by MSU students and fans, but he’s not the original.
The Zeke tradition
The first Zeke the Wonderdog performed at MSU from 1977 until 1984.
“When I was there between ’83 and ’86 doing my graduate work, the original Zeke was retiring,” Terri said. “If anybody would have ever told me I was going to own the next Zeke, I would have told them they were crazy.”
Reigniting the tradition began 18 years after the original Zeke retired. After looking at hundreds of dogs, a talented black lab, Dexter, caught Jim’s eye at Harbor Humane Society. The Foleys reached out to MSU athletic officials, and after tryouts among other top Frisbee dogs, Dexter became Zeke the Wonderdog II.
Zeke II reigned the Wonderdog position from 2001 to 2007. When Dexter retired, Bou Cou was ready to follow in his pawsteps.
The Foleys will enter the 2016 football season with Bou Cou, who remains in good health.
“We’ve never lost a home game to University of Michigan [with Bou Cou],” Jim said.
Jim and Terri hope to see Bou Cou finish his career with that honorable record.
But, an eager pup is ready to carry on the Zeke tradition — and his name is Buckshot. The Foleys are currently training the 15-month-old purebred Lab, who will soon be Zeke the Wonderdog IV.
The training process
To become game-day ready, Bou Cou practiced for a year and a half. The training continues with 40-minute sessions at least three times a week.
One of Bou Cou’s most famous tricks, catching a Frisbee after running and jumping off Jim’s back, only took three weeks to learn.
Along with continuous training, Terri credits some of the learning to “monkey see, monkey do.” She witnessed this as Bou Cou learned from Dexter, and sees the same as Buckshot learns from Bou Cou.
“They learn how to catch Frisbees from each other,” Terri said.
Bio: Zeke the Wonderdog III
Name: Bou Cou (from the French word beaucoup, meaning a great amount of — Beaucoup drive for the Frisbee)
Showname: Zeke the Wonderdog III
Go-to snack: Pupcorn dog treats
Typical hangout: The beach
Pastimes: Eating snow and tailgating
Favorite colors: Green and white
Bou Cou was a ring bearer in a wedding on Windmill Island.
He is a left-pawed dog, similar to a left-handed human — an important thing to know when training.
A serial digger, Bou Cou loves unearthing hosta plants.
Zeke’s local appearances
Bou Cou enjoys visiting local schools and marching in annual parades.
Zeke will make his annual appearance at Petapalooza, June 12 at Quincy Park in Holland. The Foleys and Zeke have been supportive of Petapalooza for 15 years.