All the best celebrities go by just one name. There’s Prince, Pele, Madonna, and Maradona. And in Atlanta, we’ve got Spike. The adulation for the new Atlanta United icon was on full display at a meet and greet event at Atlantic Station on a soggy Monday night. The line to get in and see the 17-week-old yellow lab stretched around the corner.
As they entered, Spike’s fans ooh’d and ahh’d when they first saw him. Spike was wearing his new gold outfit, which he received after quickly growing out of his original made of previously worn Five Stripes kits. He looked pretty darn cute.
(A quick side note: The key to any celebrity profile is making sure the writer can maintain a certain amount of professional distance, unafraid of asking the most probing questions. Someone who won’t fanboy out, in other words. But I couldn’t help myself. The minute I saw Spike, I caught myself saying, “Oh, what a sweet boy” and, “Look at that little cutie patootie chewing on those socks!”)
“Can we scarf him?” a fan asked as they approached Spike seated on his throne.
“He may or may not chew on it, but sure!” said his handler Lyndsee Newston.
Spike-o-mania kicked off in January when the team announced they’d be co-raising him in partnership with America’s VetDogs, a New York-based nonprofit organization that provides service dogs to U.S. veterans, active-duty service members and first responders with disabilities. He instantly became a fan favorite and has developed quite a following on Twitter and Instagram. (I should know, I faced the wrath of the fans when I tried to gently troll @atlutdpup a few weeks ago.)
He’s even got his own trading card that describes his best features as “puppy dog eyes and soft eyes” and his love of “food, long walks, ice cubes, being pet, naps, soccer.” I was told the club will soon offer Spike stuffed animals and other merch for the team’s dog-loving fans.
Like many Atlantans, Spike is a transplant from New York. He’ll be in Atlanta for the next 14-16 months, then return to New York where he will receive specialized training for assisting veterans and first responders. After that, he’ll be placed with a new owner, who I’m pleased to report will be from Atlanta.
Amy Jurden was the first in line to meet Spike. She brought her brand-new golden kit with Spike on the back, and was able to get a paw print (a “paw-tograph”?) from the popular pup.
When asked why she decided to brave the cold rain to attend, Jurden said, “Well, it’s Spike! He’s adorable and we need some puppy love after what happened to Josef, so Spike’s going to heal our wounds from being sad.”
“Honestly, I think it was a really good PR move on the part of the club plus it gives a lot of good exposure to a good charity,” said Jurden. “I think the community in general likes supporting stuff like that.”
“He loves Atlanta United, he loves soccer, and he loves his fans,” said Newston. “We’re excited for the first match.”
Spike will be there to greet the fans, and yes, he will be sitting in Arthur Blank’s box. Atlanta United will invite vets and their dogs to matches this season from the ADA seating areas. You can support this wonderful organization, and learn more about the work they’re doing across the country, at VetDogs.org.
We bow to thee.