Sunday, February 28, 2016

Shelter pups used as 'ball dogs' during Brazilian tennis tournament (VIDEO)

Four lucky shelter dogs that once roamed the streets of Sao Paulo found themselves center stage at a Brazilian tennis tournament this weekend and became instant stars.

The four canines were used as 'ball dogs' at the Brazil Open exhibition match between players Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain and Gastao Elias of Portugal. The trained dogs — Frida, Costela, Mel and Isabelle — amused onlookers by picking up any balls that went out of bounds.

The shelter dogs, wearing orange bandanas, had trained for months. They spent almost a half-hour tracking down errant balls often intentionally missed by the 122nd and 140th ranked players. Baena and Elias will play for real Friday in the ATP tournament's quarter-finals.

And the furry fetchers even had custom wristbands.
The biggest difficulty, said trainer Andrea Beckert, was to make the animals more confident and playful.

"These are dogs that were mistreated. We have to make them adapt, feel the environment, the court, the noise of the balls and the noise of the people. Some are doing well, others are still a little scared," she said. "The basic commands that the dogs learned were pick the ball, let it go, stay and come."

The organizer of the ball-dog idea — an initiative to promote street pet adoption — said that all four still live in shelters.

"The idea is to show people that a well-fed and well-treated animal can be very happy," said Marli Scaramella. "We have more than 1,000 dogs in our care," she said.

 All in favor ... speak!

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