If you are the type of person who has never been able to get wrapped up around tennis as a sport, I have some good news for you. While the game is still the same, there might be a new feature that will definitely catch your interest! It comes in the form of stray dogs being trained to be ball dogs. Adorable, furry, four-legged creatures who have recently been given a second chance are now being trained to fetch stray balls on the tennis court. It seems like someone read my diary entry from 2007 and decided to make it a reality (#feelingblessed).
According to CNN, the four dogs had their ball dog debut at the exhibition match this week at the Brazil open after they were saved from the slums of Sao Paulo. The cute pups were dressed for the occasion, some sporting orange bandanas while others even had orange shin-guards on. Andrea Beckert, a trainer from the Association of Animal Wellbeing, shed light on some of the struggles they faced while training the dogs. It seems as though getting them to fetch initially, is much easier than getting the dogs to let go of the balls once they pick them up. To that I say — duh. Dogs will do what dogs want to do. We are just lucky they love us because we are totally undeserving of their love.
I think this is a wonderful idea! According to the ASPCA there are close to four millions dogs in shelters all around America. Out of those dogs, older dogs tend to be adopted less by families who are looking for a long time companion. Wouldn't it be great to see those dogs fill up their days somewhere with more room and fun than a shelter? I think so! Obviously, this wouldn't be a US Open staple, but I can see dogs being used and trained for smaller tournaments and exhibition games. I know of at least seven people off the top of my head that would watch tennis for the first time if it featured ball dogs. Below you can see those canines in action!
Look at these perfect pups! Such a wonderful way to keep them from being in cages. I really respect the resourcefulness of the organization. I also can't help but wonder how many pooper scoopers are kept on hand at these matches. I smell a sponsorship...
As the balls hit the net and become out of play, the dogs are sent in to do the real work. It's like a dream job! They get to play but also help out the humans who are technically also working.
The Real Issue
Like I mentioned before, the real trouble is getting the dogs to let go of the balls. I bet with a little more training they can get that handled right away. Just use a lot of treats and positive reinforcement.
My favorite part of the video is the look of this dogs face, when he looks for the proper place to bring the ball. It's a look I like to describe as "Where is my mom?!".
If you want to see the entire video, you can watch it below!