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“Ball Dogs” Steal Limelight at Tennis Open

The U.S. Tennis Open is officially underway in Flushing Meadows, New York! Players like Novak Djokovic, Andy Murray, and Serena Williams are all competing for the coveted grand slam title. But at a recent tournament, these tennis pros weren’t the only ones chasing balls…

A team of four shelter dogs served as “ball dogs” at the 2016 Brazil Open. Rescued from the streets of Sao Paulo, the dogs (Frida, Costela, Mel and Isabelle) “dutifully retrieved the balls” during an exhibition match between Roberto Baena of Spain and Gastao Elias of Portugal. They then surrendered the balls to the players and trainers, although sometimes “reluctantly”.

The initiative was no cost saving measure. According to organizer Marli Scaramella, president of the local ABEAC shelter, the event aimed to “educate people about the charity and raise awareness about all the dogs…looking for a home”. As an added bonus, it “show[ed] people that a well-fed and well-treated animal can be very happy”.

Andrea Beckert, who trained the dogs over several months, confirmed the goal. She explained, “These are dogs that were mistreated. We want[ed] to show that abandoned dogs can be adopted and trained”.

Of course, training the pups was no walk in the park. The dogs were often distracted as they learned their commands (“pick the ball,” “let it go,” “stay” and “come”). Also, because they were abused, they scared easily. “We had to make them adapt, feel the environment, the court, the noise of the balls, and the noise of the people”.

But, in the end, the dogs delivered! In fact, they “got more attention than the players themselves”, sparking frequent claps and cheers. Now, the dogs “just need to work on dropping the ball a bit quicker”…

If you would like to adopt a dog, please consider one of our partners: Animal House Shelter, the Austin Humane Society, City Dog Rescue, Lucky Dog Animal Rescue, the New Hampshire SPCA, and PAWS New England.