Phils’ IronPigs missing a dog named Champ

Champ, a familiar sight around the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, went missing Friday night. He bolted from the ballpark during fireworks.
Champ, a familiar sight around the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, went missing Friday night. He bolted from the ballpark during fireworks. (Peter Mucha)
Posted: April 13, 2009

The search goes on for Champ, the "German shepherd mixed mutt" who bolted during Friday's fireworks at Coca-Cola Park in Allentown, home of the Phillies AAA affiliate, the IronPigs.

Champ is a familiar face at the team's Majestic Clubhouse store, because merchandise director Janine Kurpiel brings him into work each day.

Kurpiel's voice was a raspy whisper - "from screaming his name" all weekend - as she spoke by phone this morning.

"He's either underneath my desk most days or behind the counter greeting people," she said. "Kids absolutely love him."

The search has inspired many people to help, including Kurpiel's mother, Barb, who drove all Friday night from Detroit.

"People she works with, acquaintances and perfect strangers have out scouring the woods, looking along the side streets," Barb Kurpiel said.

This morning, they were in Mom's Ford Escape cruising around the town of Emmaus, about eight miles south of the ballpark, chasing a lead.

But no sign of Champ.

"We have been looking except for a few hours of sleep for the last three days," said Mom.

"We've seen deer, possum, a couple of cats, lots of rabbits ... no dogs, no stray dogs at all," said Janine.

Ironically, the Phillies World Series trophy played a role in Champ's getaway.

The gates opened several hours before Friday's 7 p.m. game, so fans could pose for pictures with the trophy.

That promised to make a long day for Champ, so the grounds crew offered to keep him in an office.

But someone opened the door as the post-game fireworks were going off, and Champ, who gets spooked by thunder, just ran, sometime around 10:30 p.m., Janine explained.

"He's a Shepherd mixed mutt," she said. "He's between 40 and 55 pounds. He has a purple collar on, and he's brown with some black on his back, just a little bit. He's 4-1/2 years old."

There's no way to know where he could be, because dogs can roam pretty far.

"Sometimes they're right around where you are, sometimes they're 30 miles away," Janine said, citing a conversation with the Lehigh County Animal Response Team.

Her bosses - general manager Kurt Landes and team president Chuck Domino - have been very supportive, letting her come in late and leave early, to keep searching, she said.

"They know how much Champ means to me, and therefore he means a lot to them," she said.

"The response from everyone has been so amazing," she said.

Anyone who has seen a stray dog resembling Champ in the Allentown area is asked to call Janine Kurpiel at 610-554-0474.

Whoever finds Champ can expect VIP treatment by the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, as well as a not-yet-declared reward, she said.


Contact staff writer Peter Mucha at 215-854-4342 or pmucha@phillynews.com.

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