There’s a new pup in town at Arm & Hammer Bark—er, Park—and the Trenton Thunder staff and fans might as well be wagging their tails with excitement.
Rookie, son of current bat dog Derby and grandson of the original Chase, was born on Dec. 15 of last year and is already a social media hit. Derby and Rookie live with Eric Lipsman, the Thunder’s Senior Vice President of Corporate Sales and Partnerships, who says the fan reaction has been “incredible.” Rookie met some season ticket holders for the first time at a recent event, and it was a treat for all parties involved.
“It went really well,” Lipsman said. “He had a great time. Derby was there with him. They interacted with each other as well as with the fans, so it was pretty good.”
It’s been even more of a treat for the staff. Both dogs spend their days at the ballpark, even on non-game days. Many newcomers weren’t with the organization when Derby was a puppy six years ago, but longtime staff members are used to having a pint-sized pooch roaming around the front office.
“I think everybody’s pretty much gotten a really good kick out of it,” Lipsman said. “We have the core people who were here, and it’s like déjà vu because it’s basically a complete repeat performance of what Derby did. The way he and Derby play in the office is the exact same way Derby and Chase did. It’s total déjà vu. All the new people who weren’t here before get to have a puppy here. It’s kind of fun. It’s kind of exciting. He adds a lot of life to the place.”
It’s been just as exciting for Lipsman at home, though it does come with a price.
“He’s now finally getting to the point where he’s sleeping a lot longer, but the first two weeks, I was putting him to bed at midnight, then he’d wake up at 2, he’d wake up at 4,” he said. “He’s still a puppy. You still have to keep an eye on him all the time.”
Lipsman said Rookie is a mirror image of Derby at his age. They both love the snow, and when Derby crawls into his bed, Rookie cuddles up right next to him, something that Derby and Chase did frequently.
Derby even waits for Rookie every morning, tail wagging, in front of the puppy’s crate so the two can play. And when Lipsman brings Rookie to pick up Derby from his trainer, Rookie waits in the hallway and lights up as soon as his dad shows up.
“He’s Chase’s grandson,” Lipsman said. “He reminds me so much of his grandfather, and he definitely reminds me so much of his father.”
There are some differences, though. Lipsman said the dogs like to play tug-of-war with toys, something Chase was never very interested in.
Rookie will start training in April at Shelly’s School for Dogs at The Green Leaf Pet Resort in Millstone. His regimen will start off with basic obedience skills like learning commands and walking with and without a leash. This is especially important, as Derby and Chase before him had complete run of the stadium.
“Derby knows every inch and every door and every place,” Lipsman said. “To be able to walk him around without a leash makes life a lot easier. That’s a key thing.”
After he nails down the basics, Rookie will get into retrieving, though he recently picked up his first mini bat while playing in the office. Training will last through next winter, and the goal is to have him on the field with Derby by spring of 2015.
This year, though, Rookie’s role will be similar to Derby’s when he was a puppy. He’ll be around during games and will spend some time on the field while attending training sessions on weekdays.
“It’s very nice having a third generation here,” Lipsman said.
The Thunder open its season April 3 against New Hampshire with a 7:05 p.m. game at Arm & Hammer Park. For more information, go online to trentonthunder.com