Sunday, 17 October 2021
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The Bat Dog Strikes Again: 2-year-old Belgian Malinois steals the show during Jackrabbits’ home games

On most days, Navi is a regular, fun-loving dog who likes hanging out and playing with his owners and trainers, Chris and Breanne Altherr.

But then, on some nights, the 2-year-old Belgian Malinois becomes something completely different. On nights when the Kokomo Jackrabbits play inside their home stadium, Navi isn’t just Navi anymore.

He’s the Bat Dog.

Since the beginning of the season, Navi has arrived at every Jackrabbits home game donning his signature red vest emblazoned with the name of his company sponsor, Sit Means Sit. Sometimes he’s sporting stylish glasses with color-tinted lenses that look like skiing googles.

And for three innings, the young canine steals the show doing tricks like jumping off walls, catching Frisbees, running the bases, sitting on his back paws and doing what has become his signature, namesake move – retrieving bats after the players toss them.

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Navi, a Belgian Malinois, entertains the crowd at the Kokomo Municipal Stadium on June 19 in between innings. Navi, who is nearly 2 years old, is enjoying his first year as the Kokomo Jackrabbits’ Bat Dog. Kelly Lafferty Gerber | Kokomo Tribune

In just the four weeks since the season started, all those tricks have made Navi a Jackrabbits all-star. In fact, he already has nearly 500 followers on his Facebook page.

One of those fans is Jenee Harlow, a member of the team’s Get Outrageous Crew, which works to get fans pumped up during games. She said she’s gotten to know Navi since the season started, and now, she loves him.

“Obviously, we’re best friends,” Harlow said. “He’s the greatest.”

And that’s the feeling everyone inside Kokomo Municipal Stadium shares when Navi takes the field, she said.

“The crowd cheers for him more than they do for the Jackrabbits sometimes,” she said with a laugh. “Some of the players are probably jealous that he gets so much attention.”

That passionate fandom was on display during a game earlier in the season when a Jackrabbits player picked up his bat before Navi could retrieve it. That led to forceful booing from the entire stadium – and even some of the other players.

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Navi, a Belgian Malinois, enjoys his first year as the Kokomo Jackrabbits’ Bat Dog at a home baseball game on June 19, 2018. He is almost 2 years old and is Chris and Breanne Altherr’s dog they’ve trained through their Sit Means Sit Kokomo franchise. Kelly Lafferty Gerber | Kokomo Tribune

“It was the deepest boos I’ve heard,” Chris said. “The players’ own stadium was booing him for not letting Navi get the bat.”

During Wednesday’s home game, the crowd was getting restless waiting for the Bat Dog to appear. Chris and Breanne, who own the local franchise of Sit Means Sit and sponsor the team, usually bring him for the first part of the game. But another event forced them to come for the last three innings.

Chris said once Navi didn’t appear during the first few innings, messages started popping up on his Facebook page asking if the dog was alright. People wanted to know: Where’s the Bat Dog?

They got their answer when Navi blasted out to home plate at the top of the 7th inning to grab a bat tossed by a player. The crowd erupted with cheers.

That applause kept up the rest of the game as Navi made appearances in between innings to do tricks.

But behind the scene, calling all the shots, stood Chris with his whistle in hand. And standing behind the scene is just where he wanted to be.

Chris said he’s a strong introvert who doesn’t like the spotlight. Navi, on the other hand, can’t get enough of all the attention showered on him during home games. That makes them perfect partners, he said.

“He likes to work 24-7, all day, every day and never stop. And he’s a clown,” Chris said. “He helps take the attention of the crowd off of me, so it’s great. Everybody knows me as that guy who has the dog. When I show up, nobody says ‘How are you?’ They all ask, ‘Where’s the dog?’ And I’m cool with that.”

Not only does Navi have the outgoing personality that makes him the perfect Bat Dog. Even more importantly, he’s got the proper training, Chris said.

That training comes from a very specific kind of teaching philosophy developed by Sit Means Sit, an international company with locations in the U.S. and Canada.

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After cooling off in a kiddie pool of water to beat the heat, Navi, a Belgian Malinois, enters the Kokomo Municipal Stadium on June 19 with owner and trainer Chris Altherr, of Sit Means Sit. Navi, who is nearly 2 years old, is the Kokomo Jackrabbits’ Bat Dog. Kelly Lafferty Gerber | Kokomo Tribune

Chris and Breanne have owned the local Kokomo franchise for three years. In that time, they’ve become passionate advocates for the company’s training style, which uses a special kind of muscle-stimulator collar that teaches a pet to have laser-focus on their owner.

“It’s not a matter of discipline and it’s not a matter of rewards,” Chris said. “It’s about accurate information being provided by the handler to the dog as many times as needed until the dog understands.”

Watching Navi perform at the Jackrabbits game, it’s clear that training has paid off. The canine doesn’t take his eyes from Chris, who uses hand motions and verbal commands to communicate with his dog.

And that kind of laser-focus developed by the training is critical when performing at a baseball stadium, he said.

“On the baseball field, that focus can be really difficult, because you’ve got the game going on, you’ve got runners running and people cheering,” Chris said. “You’ve got to be able to get the dog to zone in.”

Navi isn’t the only Bat Dog out there. Chris said the company currently has two other dogs that put on shows for baseball teams in Las Vegas and Madison, Wisconsin. All the dogs have become mini-superstars at their stadiums.

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Holding a frisbee in his mouth, Navi, a Belgian Malinois, becomes a superdog as he leaps off the side of the wall at the Kokomo Municipal Stadium on June 19. This is Navi’s first year as the Kokomo Jackrabbits’ Bat Dog. He is almost 2 years old and is Chris and Breanne Altherr’s dog they’ve trained through their Sit Means Sit Kokomo franchise. Kelly Lafferty Gerber | Kokomo Tribune

Chris and Breanne started the Bat Dog show in Kokomo last year with another one of their dogs, but he only appeared in five games and retired at the end of the season. The act last year was an instant hit, but the show has gained a new level of popularity this year with Navi.

Now, Chris said, they’re cashing in on that success. They just released a new line of T-shirts with a picture of Navi holding a bat in his mouth. Just beneath the picture it says, “Da Na Na Na Na Na Na Na Bat Dog!” He said they’re also working on a baseball card and other merchandise featuring Navi.

Jackrabbits’ Go-Team member Harlow said it all goes to show that Navi the Bat Dog has become the “heart and soul of the team.” And the stadium couldn’t ask for a better unofficial mascot than Navi, she said.

“He’s always exciting and fun to watch, and always gets the crowds and kids excited,” Harlow said. “That’s the whole point: to get the kids and families involved, and that’s what Navi is so good at.”

Source: http://www.kokomotribune.com/news/the-bat-dog-strikes-again–year-old-belgian-malinois/article_be406f0c-7648-11e8-af8f-ff52aa30a52b.html

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