RICHLAND -- If you asked the Apple Cup tailgaters shivering outside Pullman's Martin Stadium today to name their favorite animal, the answer would likely be, "Butch."
No, not Washington State University's Cougar mascot -- the yellow Lab that goes berserk at the mere mention of Huskies.
The canine football fan -- well-trained by owner Mark Showalter of Richland -- has gained a following among the crowd at WSU home games. His good looks and docile nature helped with that, sure.
But really -- it's the bark.
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Butch lets out an explosive bellow whenever Showalter says "Husky" -- the mascot of cross-state rival University of Washington.
The trick came about by a mixture of chance and super-fandom. Almost six years ago, when Butch still was a pup, the Lab took to barking at the landscape visible from Showalter's back porch.
"I'd ask him, 'What's going on, Butch? You see a Husky out there?' " Showalter said.
That's when it clicked -- why not train the seemingly intelligent dog to protest whenever the rival team's name comes up?
Things didn't work out as planned at first. Showalter would repeat the word "Husky" whenever Butch went to the back window to bark, so that the dog would associate one activity with the other. But when Showalter tried using the word as a command to bark, the dog would just go to the window and anxiously peer out.
One day, Showalter pointed a flashlight at the ceiling during play. Butch went nuts, angrily barking at the spot above his head.
"I knew I'd found a training tool," Showalter said.
He had a way to trigger the sound while saying the magic word. It worked, and Butch became a parking lot sensation.
The space where Showalter and his wife Mary Ann set up for home games is close to the main stadium entrance. Students passing by have come to know and love the dog. He's become many students' surrogate pet.
"When they come (to Pullman), they leave their pets behind," Showalter said.
The dog's a lady's man, too.
Butch got a cut on his foot right before a rain-soaked home game last year. To keep the bandage dry, Showalter kept the dog inside the motor home.
When the cheerleading team came by for its regular pre-game sweep through the parking lot, they hesitated to leave after they had done their cheers. They didn't dare ask what had happened to the canine legend.
Finally, one girl stepped forward.
"She said, 'Where's Butch?' " Showalter said. "When I told them it was just a cut on his foot and brought him out, everyone huddled around and gave him big scratches."
When the Showalters prepare their motor home for football trips, Butch gets in and stays in it for hours while they load up. He refuses to come out until they arrive at the stadium.
"He loves coming to Pullman," Showalter said. "He's such a people person."
A people person with a loud bark.