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Tag: baseball

Yogi Berra, the Greensboro Grasshoppers “ball dog,” is put down as cancer worsens

yogi

Master Yogi Berra, the black Labrador retriever who delighted fans between innings at Greensboro Grasshoppers games, died yesterday — the day before his planned retirement party.

The 9-year-old dog served as the minor league baseball team’s “ball dog,” fetching balls from the outfield during between-inning promotions.

He was diagnosed with cancer this summer and, amid declining health, made his last appearance Tuesday in the Hoppers game against the Hickory Crawdads.

“I think he did it only because he wanted to make me happy,” Donald Moore, team president and Yogi’s owner, told the Greensboro News & Record.

“I don’t think he had any desire to do it, and that’s just not Yogi,” Moore added. “I didn’t shoot the ball very far. He went and got it, and he brought it back, and I could tell. The next morning he seemed so much worse than he had just the night before.”

The Hoppers had planned a retirement party for Yogi during tonight’s game. Instead the team will hold a ceremony in his memory.

“I really thought he would make it through the season. I wasn’t worried about losing him for another couple of months. But, oh my gosh, when it started happening, it happened fast,” Moore said. “He was ready to go, and you don’t punish the dog by putting it off. You don’t keep him in pain just to have a party.”

Moore found a lump on Yogi’s neck in June. A specialist at N.C. State’s College of Veterinary Medicine in Raleigh, diagnosed an inoperable malignant tumor that originated in a salivary gland and had spread down the neck and into the chest.

Yogi was one of three dogs the team has featured over the years. His older sister, Miss Babe Ruth, fetched players’ bats and took baseballs to the home plate umpire from 2006 until her retirement at the end of the 2015 season.

Miss Lou Lou Gehrig, a niece of Yogi and Babe, is the current bat dog for the team.

Yogi was a little more free spirited than those two, and never mastered the bat dog job.

Instead, for eight years, he fetched balls shot into centerfield during a between-innings promotion.

Three weeks into his job, Yogi made national news when an umpire kicked him off the field him for leaving a mess in the outfield, becoming the only dog ever ejected from a professional baseball game.

“People love that dog,” Moore said. “A lot of people are going to be just as heartbroken as we are… We knew it was coming. Unfortunately, everything we tried didn’t work. … It’s hard to pinpoint exactly when things changed, but he started slipping last week and every day he was declining more and more.”

Moore made the decision Wednesday to have Yogi put down.

(Photo: By Nelson Kepley / Greensboro News & Record)

UNC baseball team starts season with a service dog in the dugout

The University of North Carolina baseball team has welcomed a new teammate this year — a 2-year-old golden retriever named Remington.

Remington isn’t there to be a mascot, though he has learned some mascot-like tricks, like holding his cap for the national anthem, taking balls to the ump, and high-fiving his teammates.

But his larger role is as Carolina’s first athletics training room assistance dog (and the first in the ACC).

UNC reports that the dog’s official title is “psychiatric medical alert facility rehabilitation service dog,” which sounds like a lot of responsibility.

But, cutting through the mumbo-jumbo, what Remington does is help players recover from injuries.

He works with Terri Jo Rucinski, coordinator of the physical therapy clinic and staff athletic trainer for the team.

remingtonRucinski says student athletes who underwent surgeries in the fall seem to be bouncing back more quickly since Remington joined the team. “I’d like to think he had something to do with it,” she says.

Rucinski, who has worked with the team for 12 years, met Remington through paws4people, a Wilmington, N.C., nonprofit agency that places customized assistance dogs with clients at no cost.

He began his training when he was just 3-days-old. By 16 weeks, he was learning obedience and disabilities skills training. He also learned basic command sets, and knows more than 100 commands, including written commands from cue cards.

He joined the team last August after passing a series of certification tests.

Miss Babe Ruth retiring after nine years as “bat dog” for the Greensboro Grasshoppers

missbaberuth

Miss Babe Ruth, the 9-year-old Lab who has retrieved more than 5,000 bats as the official bat dog of the Greensboro Grasshoppers, is retiring this week.

She’ll be around for the rest of the season, but will retrieve her last bat in Wednesday’s home game against the visiting Durham Bulls, according to the Charlotte Observer.

After her full retirement, she’ll be replaced by a new bat dog, Miss Lou Lou Gehrig, but team members will still have her teeth marks — left on many a bat — to remember her by.

Miss Babe has been the bat and ball dog of the Grasshoppers since 2006. She delivers a bucket of baseballs to the umpire in the first and fifth innings, retrieves Grasshopper bats in the third inning and runs the bases when the game is over.

Her Wednesday appearance will be her 649th consecutive home game in a career that saw her deliver about 4,000 balls, retrieve 5,000 bats, and gain national media exposure.

She has generated more than $200,000 in sponsorship fees since her first game on Aug. 2, 2006, has her own “Babe’s Buddies” fan club, and has a burger named after her at the concession stand.

“She loves it. She gets excited when the crowd gets excited,” said Grasshoppers President Donald Moore.

A retirement party was held for her at Saturday night’s game, where she received a key to the city from Mayor Nancy Vaughan and walked down a red carpet from the pitcher’s mound to home plate to deliver the game ball to the umpire.

Both Miss Lou Lou Gehrig and Master Yogi Berra, both related to Miss Babe, are also fixtures at the Grasshopper’s downtown stadium. Moore brings all three along on game days.

Grasshoppers manager Kevin Randel said the players enjoy their canine teammates: “The only knock on it is they get little teeth marks on the bats.”

Babe’s designated successor, Miss Lou Lou Gehrig, is owned by Moore’s son, Donald Moore Jr. Lou Lou is already adept at fetching bats and delivering balls. “She’s perfectly capable of taking over from Babe,” Moore said.

Miss Babe Ruth’s legacy will live on after she retires. Her ball bucket will go to the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum in Cooperstown, N.Y.

(Photo by Jack Horan / Charlotte Observer)

A pit and some mitts

A spectator’s pit bull dashed onto the field during a women’s softball game last week, and snatched the mitts off the hands of two players, but nobody seemed too mad, or too scared.

dog_glove_140501_DG_16x9_992During a game Sunday between Simon Fraser University and Western Oregon University, the dog ran on the field in the middle of a play, took the shortstop’s glove first, then ran around the field before snagging an outfielder’s mitt.

A grounds crew member finally retrieved the glove from the dog’s mouth, allowing the teams — if not the pit bull — to resume play.

When the Most Valuable Player is a dog

hankdog

It’s a wonderful story — what the Milwaukee Brewers did for Hank.

By taking in the stray dog that wandered into their spring training camp in Arizona, and bringing him back with them to Milwaukee, they assured the little bichon frise mix of having food, shelter, medical care and the love of not just a whole team, but hordes of fans.

hankapWhich brings us to part two of the story — what Hank is doing for the Milwaukee Brewers.

As anyone who has rescued a dog knows, you generally get far more out of the deal than you put in.

That’s quickly becoming the case with the Brewers — a team whose fans didn’t have too much to cheer about last season, in terms of wins, attendance, or highly adored superstar players, like the great Hank Aaron, after whom Hank the dog was named.

The summer of 2013 saw the Brewer’s biggest star, Ryan Braun, the National League’s Most Valuable Player in 2011, suspended for most of the season for using performance-enhancing drugs.

hankmerchHank, we’re certain, won’t fall into that trap. And already he has given fans something to feel good about, judging from the turnout at a Hank “meet and greet.” Hundreds lined up to say hello to Hank, or pick up a souvenir from the Brewer’s new line of Hank merchandise.

The Brewers front office is making the most of the fluffy little mutt. As team spokesman Tyler Barnes noted, one couldn’t have dreamed up a more effective publicity stunt.

“I wish I was smart enough to have thought of this as a stunt,” he said at a recent event held to introduce Hank to Brewers fans. Hundreds lined up to meet the dog in the stadium gift shop.

“The Brewers have promised not to exploit Hank, though they didn’t say anything about making a few bucks along the way,” wrote Journal Sentinel sports columnist Jim Stingl. “You know a bobblehead is in his future.”

Some readers of the paper are saying enough with all the Hank coverage:

“Still with these DOG STORIES,” bemoaned one reader. “It’s sad I know more about the happenings of a dog that is a ‘Stray’ then I do of the Brewers and how their Spring Training went. This Dog got more coverage, and still is, then the actual team. And I applaud the Brewers for their great marketing tactic while removing the spotlight from the status of the team and cloud of Braun. Can the Newspaper please report about Baseball and not a dog, millions of dogs everywhere are offended they are not getting the same treatment, and once someone or something is offended things must change.”

We don’t entirely follow the logic toward the end of that reader comment — especially the part about millions of offended dogs. Dogs aren’t spotlight-seekers. That’s just humans.

But the newspaper did, for some reason, feel the need to say, in a blog post, that it might not be reporting on every single thing that happens in Hank’s everyday, non-official, non-Brewer related life:

“That everyday life doesn’t generate stories every day. We’ll have Hank Watch updates when events happen — but there will be days when they don’t,” the post read.

Meanwhile, Hank is living his new everyday life at the home of Marti Wronski, vice president and general counsel for the Brewers, and how often he’ll be making appearances in the stadium is still being figured out.

Wronski said that while “we’re giving Hank a home … it’s very clear this dog is the fans’ dog.”

hank crowdHank flew to Milwaukee earlier this month on a chartered flight with Brewers executives, and several hundred fans showed up to greet him at the airport, including the mayor of Milwaukee, bearing peanut butter treats, according to the Brewers.

Hank merchandise went on sale last week, including T-shirts, buttons and pennants.

The team is giving a portion of proceeds from those sales to the Wisconsin Humane Society,

(Photos: Hank dozes off during his meet and greet at Miller Park; by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel; Hank in Arizona, by Morry Gash / Associated Press; fans line up to meet Hank at Milwaukee’s Miller Park, by Mike De Sisti / Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Puck, yeah: Dog-friendly hockey games

We’ve written a lot about dog-friendly baseball — days (or nights) set aside by Major League and, more often, Minor League teams for fans to bring their dogs to the ballpark.

But dog-friendly hockey matches?

At least three teams have them, including the Charlotte Checkers, an American Hockey League franchise that will be holding its fifth annual Pooch Party this Sunday (March 23) at 1:30 p.m. at the Time Warner Cable Arena.

Tickets for the “Pooch Party” are $15 with $5 going back to Project HALO, a local no-kill animal shelter which focuses on rescuing and adopting stray and abandoned dogs.

The video at the top of this post is from last year’s Pooch Party.

On Sunday, the Checkers will be playing the San Antonio Rampage, another AHL team that holds dog-friendly games. The Rampage claims to hold the dog attendance record — 842 dogs attended their 2012 event, which also featured a “Smooch the Pooch Cam.”

At least one other AHL team, the Milwaukee Admirals has held dog friendly nights.

For the Checkers game, all participants bringing a dog to the game must fill out the Pooch Party liability and registration form. You can print the form out here, complete it and bring it to the Pooch Party entrance, located on Trade Street.

While baseball and dogs strike me as a more natural pairing, I’m all for dogs being allowed into sporting events — even when it’s only once a season, and especially when it’s for a good cause.

My only worry is that, hockey being hockey, the dogs might pick up some bad behavior from watching the humans on the ice.

If so, I would hope their owners take a more proactive role than the referees at this recent semi-pro game did.

The stray that showed up at spring training

hank

A walk-on has joined the Milwaukee Brewers during spring training in Arizona, and there’s a good chance he may go back to Milwaukee with them — as a mascot.

A small stray dog who appears to be a bichon frise, or mix thereof, wandered on to the team’s complex Feb. 17, with an injured tail and other signs he might have been hit by a car.

After team employees took him to a veterinarian for a checkup and a bath, he was brought back to the stadium and has been there almost every day since.

They’ve named him Hank, after baseball great Hank Aaron, who began his career in Milwaukee.

hank3“Yeah, he’s making a pretty big impact, which I’ve got to say is pretty cool,” pitcher Yovani Gallardo told Newsday

Believed to be around 2 years old, Hank was assigned No. 1 for his team jersey, and team reports about him on social media have made a local celebrity.

The team has posted signs in the area reporting the found dog, but no owner has stepped forward yet, and different members of the Brewer’s organization are vying for a chance to adopt him.

Team owner Mark Attanasio said his wife wants to adopt the dog, and some players have voiced a desire to keep him on the roster and have him travel with the team. “We want to do what’s right for the team,” Attanasio said. “I think he’s really an asset.”

Meanwhile, staff members are taking turns housing Hank for the evening.

During the day he watches practice from the stands at Maryvale Baseball Park in Phoenix, or from the dugout, and sometimes he takes to the field.

“Most of the guys here I’m sure we all have dogs back home and not everyone can bring em out because were out were working, pitcher Gallardo told Fox 10 News in Phoenix, “but to have this little guy out here running around with us it’s fun, spring training gets long and this makes us enjoy it a little more.”

(Photos: Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)