Meet Wave: NMSU newest edition to the Wonder Dog tradition


Alana Hernandez

Wave: The newest edition to the Wonder Dog legacy

On Sept. 25, Striking passed on the title of “Wonder Dog” to a new dog named Wave. 

Wave is now a part of this New Mexico State tradition from the previous two Wonder Dogs: Smoki and Striking. These dogs are staples of every NMSU home football game. After each Aggie kickoff, Wave sprints onto the field to retrieve the tee on which the ball had been positioned. 

Dr. Steve Stochaj, the Wonder Dog owner, expresses how seeing Wave always brings excitement to the crowd. 

“As I’m walking out of the stadium, people want to take pictures with him all the time,” Dr. Stochaj said. 

The tradition of the Wonder Dog goes back to 1996 with the first Wonder Dog: Smoki.  

“he was owned by a NMSU student named Joel Sims, and Joel had trained this dog, not necessarily to do tee retrieving but to do all kinds of stuff. And I know that… the dog was in several movies…. I think the story is that [Smoki’s owner] was taking a weightlifting class with some football players and somehow used that connection to get smokey a chance at retrieving the tee,” Dr. Stochaj said. 

After Smoki retired as the first Wonder Dog, Striking came on to continue the tradition back in 2012. Now—Wave is pawing his way into the Aggie Memorial Stadium carrying on the Wonder Dog spirit. 

Wave at the Aggie Memorial Stadium. Photographer, Alana Hernandez

Though Wave and Striking are the same dog breed, they each maintain unique personalities. Dr. Stochaj noted Wave is far more social when compared to Striking. 

“Striking is extremely laid-back and only really wants to interact with me. I had to train him to say ‘hi’ to people. Wave is much more outgoing and loves seeing people,” Dr. Stochaj said. 

Although being a Wonder Dog is a lot of fun, it is also a lot of work. Wave’s training consists of many activities from obedience to dock diving to agility. However, Dr. Stochaj claims he is a bit of a perfectionist and ensures that Wave gets his disciplines down to the best of his ability.  

“You want the game-day experience to look as good as possible, and that’s to make it easy and the only way I know to make something look easy is to train, train, train, so you know we go over to the stadium a couple times a week to train,” Dr. Stochaj said. “We go out when the band is practicing on the horseshoe to train. During the summer we went to watch the football team practice, just to get him used to being [in] that environment.” 

Wave is also part of the Mesilla Valley Search and Rescue here in Las Cruces and is trained to use his canine instincts for a variety of jobs. 

“In search and rescue, dogs are used in three different capacities. So one is air scenting dogs so the way I look at it is they search with their nose up, and they’re smelling somebody who’s lost,” Dr. Stochaj said. “There’s tracking or trailing dogs, and they work with their nose down, and they’re basically following footprints to find someone else. And then there’s another thing called HRD (Human Remains Detection) and that is basically looking for people who have died.” 

Whether it’s training, search and rescue or tee retrieving, Dr. Stochaj is proud to be Wave’s handler. 

“It is a great feeling to be a part of an NMSU tradition. Having Wave as the Wonder Dog allows me to connect with a larger part of the NMSU community,” Dr. Stochaj said. 

The Wonder Dogs have become an icon here at NMSU. If you see him at the stadium or around campus, don’t be afraid to give him a good rub behind the ears. 

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