She worked 649 consecutive Greensboro Grasshoppers games, gleefully trotting back and forth between her post next to the dugout and home plate for more than nine baseball seasons.
GREENSBORO - She worked 649 consecutive Greensboro Grasshoppers games, gleefully trotting back and forth between her post next to the dugout and home plate for more than nine baseball seasons.
And now, suddenly, Miss Babe Ruth cannot walk on her own.
The 12-year-old black Labrador retriever, the furry face of the franchise, retired from full-time on-the-field work after the 2015 season.
But she has remained a fixture at the downtown ballpark, often on the concourse with owner Donald Moore, the Hoppers president and general manager.
"People love her," Moore said today, pausing to fight back tears. "They loved both of the dogs, but she was the first. She's the original, and she's very special to a lot of people. So I just thought people would want to know she's not doing good."
Babe's younger brother, Master Yogi Berra, died in August after a brief bout with cancer. He was 9 years old.
"Babe's over 12, now, and dogs don't live forever. But this has snuck up on me," Moore said. "It's hard. It's déjà vu all over again. Yesterday was five months since we lost Yogi."
Babe has been diagnosed with spondylosis deformans, a common ailment in older dogs in which bone spurs develop on the spine. In severe cases, the dog can be paralyzed.
"I'm taking her tomorrow to a neurologist at the vet school at (N.C.) State," Moore said. "… Basically, her back legs are like Jell-O. She can't even walk without me helping her."
Moore uses a harness to help Babe walk. A strap goes under the dog's belly, the two ends joining at a handle on top, and Moore can help support Babe's hind legs.
"The bizarre thing is it happened so quickly," Moore said. "She was in the Christmas parade, carrying her bat, walking with no trouble for at least a mile. I let her ride the last portion of it, because I thought she might be getting tired. But she was fine. Then two weeks later, she started having trouble. And it's just gotten worse and worse every day."
Babe started work at Hoppers games as a 9-month-old puppy, delivering a bucket of baseballs to home plate umpire Mike Patterson in the first inning of a game Aug. 2, 2006.
She worked every home game from then until Sept. 2, 2015, when she fetched slugger Austen Smith's bat after he made the final out of the bottom of the third inning on a hard grounder.
The bucket Babe used to deliver baseballs to the plate umpire is part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame's collection now, and it was on display in Cooperstown this past summer.
Miss Lou Lou Gehrig, a niece of Babe and Yogi owned by Donald Moore Jr., has taken over Babe's role as full-time batdog and worked the last two seasons.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.