In keeping with our pet theme this issue (see page 41), we present Jake the Diamond Dog, a golden retriever who's made several appearances this season at Huntington Park for Columbus Clippers games. Most recently, he appeared with his owner, Jeff Marchal, during an early July game, when he entertained the crowd by bringing the ball in a basket to the pitcher at the start of the game, delivering bottles of water to the umpires between innings and fetching dropped bats. Additionally, he caught Frisbees, brought flowers to fans, got hugs from children, posed for photos and "signed" autographs.

Marchal, who describes himself as "the chauffeur, the pooper-scooper, whatever you want to call me," is the owner and trainer of the 3-year-old retriever, real name Deuce, the third Jake the Diamond Dog. The original Jake got his start in the mid '90s as a mascot for a team in southern Florida. Marchal, who currently lives in Allen County, says it grew from there as other teams became interested as well. When Jake died in 2007, Marchal trained a second retriever, Homer, as Jake's successor. But health issues claimed Homer's life in 2009.

Enter Deuce, Homer's backup, so to speak.

Walking into the office of the Tulsa Drillers, a minor league affiliate of the Colorado Rockies, Marchal says he was almost turned away. "They were like, 'This isn't the same dog as last year,' " he says. "I said, 'This is what we got and this is what we're gonna try.' " And Deuce performed beautifully. "He'd never dealt with fireworks, ovations . . . people petting him and hugging him, balloons popping and different smells," Marchal says of Deuce. "He'd never experienced that. That's overwhelming. He's handled it great. I'm real proud of him."

"We really love having Jake the Diamond Dog every time he visits Huntington Park," says Clippers president Ken Schnacke. "This is one of our fans' favorite promotions time and time again." Marchal and Deuce are scheduled to appear at two more Clippers games this season-July 28 and Aug. 22.

What's next for the Diamond Dog? While on the phone with a reporter, Marchal says he was holding a contract from the Cleveland Indians. Deuce has been tapped for his first major league appearance at Progressive Field on Aug. 26, when the Tribe takes on the Oakland Athletics.