B.A.R.K-Baseball Aquatic Retrieval Korps


Doggies in the Outer Field Portuguese Water Dogs A new era had begun for an ancient breed.Six canine rookies, known as B.A.R.K., Baseball Aquatic Retrieval Korps, were called up to the Major Leagues this July to fetch home run balls from the cold and turgid waters of the San Francisco Bay.

One of the many charms of Pacific Bell Park, the new home of the San Francisco Giants, is the player’s ability to slug a home run into the bay. Hit a towering 450-foot drive over the classic brick wall of right field and the batter can achieve what has become known as a Splash Hit—a homer that touches down in salt water like a returning space capsule.

But someone has to retrieve it.

“This is the first sport to open itself up to another species,” says comic Don Novello, who gained fame as Father Guido Sarducci on “The Smothers Brothers’ Show” in 1975, and later on “Saturday Night Live.” Novello came to the Giants back in 1996 with his vision of homer-chasing canines. “Once I found out that baseballs float and were going to be landing in the water—I thought of dogs swimming out to get them.”

Why not? These highly coveted Splash Hit baseballs have become instant collector’s items. Until recently all the balls were scooped up in nets by a flotilla of small boats and dinghies that wait in the body of water beyond the right field wall known as McCovey Cove. Thus far only five of these spectacular round-trippers have been belted during a regulation game. Giants superstar Barry Bonds has slugged four for the home team, while Dodgers catcher Todd Hundley has the only one for the visitors. Although the Giants’ organization has seen fit to count only San Francisco Giants home runs on its Splash Hits scoreboard beneath the right field foul pole—the B.A.R.K. team will retrieve balls for either side. Hey, these baseballs are worth big money.

“All the home run balls the dogs get will be donated to Pets in Need for fund-raising purposes,” says Brenda F. Barnette, Pets in Need’s executive director. “The Giants will also make a $5,000 donation to our organization at the season’s end.”

This non-profit plans to auction off all the balls to the highest bidder. Hopefully the baseballs will be autographed by the player who hits them and will be accompanied by a paw print certificate from the B.A.R.K. canine team member who fetches it. Pets in Need became the first no-kill animal shelter in the Bay Area in 1965. Its mission is to bring loving, healthy homes within a paw’s reach of every adoptable dog and cat in the community. No dog or cat suitable for re-homing is ever put to death at Pets in Need—no matter how long it takes to place them.

A NEW KIND OF DOG PARK
Although the concept of dogs diving after homers was Novello’s brainchild, it wasn’t until Pets in Need got involved that the whole plan began to really take shape. In the beginning Novello wanted to train his own team of dogs and oversee the operation—but that plan proved to be impractical.

Larry Baer, the Giants’ executive vice president, admits that at first the Giants considered the idea of dogs swimming after home runs to be little more than a joke. “A lot of ideas for retrieving the balls were tossed around,” Baer says. “But after thinking about it, we decided the dogs were a very San Francisco thing to do. Now B.A.R.K. will be another fun feature at Pacific Bell Park.”

Once the idea was accepted, serious thought had to go into every aspect of this daunting enterprise. Since Pets in Need and the Giants were involved, the dogs’ safety would be a major concern. What breed would be up to the rigorous task of fetching balls in the often turbulent waters? Clearly, a very special dog would be needed to swim in the cold and choppy waters of the San Francisco Bay. A dog with the endurance and strength to swim for long periods of time without tiring.

The Northern California Portuguese Water Dog Club quickly offered the perfect solution. For centuries Portuguese Water Dogs—Cao de Aqua—have been used by fishermen to herd fish into nets and send messages from boat to boat. It’s not uncommon for these working dogs to spend hours in the cold water of the Atlantic. With their webbed paws and rudder-like tails they were the perfect choice for this demanding big league chore.

Still, extra training for such a special duty was required.

The animals would need a Doggy Spring Training.

Sue D’Augusta, owner of the eldest B.A.R.K. team member, Shadow, spent months getting her eight-year-old dog ready for her first Pac Bell outing. Shadow had already graduated from various programs like Apprentice Water Dog and Working Water Dog—but more training was necessary before she would be ready to swim in McCovey Cove.

“Baseballs bob in the water in a unique way,” says D’Augusta. “I practiced with Shadow in the San Francisco Marina so she could get the hang of it. The first few times she tried to swim up and grab the baseball it got away from her.”

But like any big league player Shadow was soon snatching them up with the aplomb of a veteran. By the time the Los Angeles Dodgers showed up in San Francisco for a three-game series right before the Fourth of July, all six dogs were more than ready to make their debut.

AROUND THE LEAGUE
Not all dogs are lucky enough to make the major league cut, but for others who would like to catch a game, here’s their chance:

Home Run
The Chicago White Sox will be hosting their Dog Day event on August 20. A pre-game parade around the warning track, seating in the bleachers or in a “pet check” kennel, plus a chance to shake paws with the players’ dogs are just a few of the attractions. Non-profits benefit from the event.

Tampa Bay Devil Rays hosted their first doggy event, which included a pet adoption fair, on July 18; it was such a huge success for the club and the local SPCA that they already are planning for next season.

The Minnesota Twins hosted a Dog Day at the Dome on July 4, with seating in the centerfield “Dog Out.” Proceeds, as with all other teams’ doggy events, went to a local humane organization. Next time, though, the Twins will schedule the event for a “quieter” day.

The San Francisco Giants’ August 19 Dog Days of Summer game is already sold out. This marks the fourth year of this popular event that begins with a dog walk around the new PacBell ballpark—proceeds benefit the SF/SPCA.

Grand Slam
Colorado Springs’ Sky Sox, a Rockies Triple-A club, clear the bases. Their “Bark in the Park” events are held at every Wednesday night game! Dogs and their humans watch the game from the ballpark’s grassy slopes and munch on $1 hot dogs. The team is also scouting around for a rookie St. Bernard to bring baseballs to the ump.

On the Fence
Both Canadian teams, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Montreal Expos are contemplating inviting dogs next season.

Yrrr Out!!

The Los Angeles Dodgers do not have a dog event. When asked about it, a spokesperson replied, “Thank God we don’t!”

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One more win for the ‘underdogs’

See a baseball team can fit in with a dog blog….this has been a team that has been on a losing streak since 93. So they are ‘THE’ underdog team in my book. Even the Canadian Blue Jay fans are hardly paying attention they are so use to them losing. But I hang on to a long ago memory of 1993 when my stepdad had world series tickets and the Jays were playing the Braves. He would call me every now and then during the game and I could hear the Atlanta fans doing their Indian chant. He also called when the Blue Jays won the World Series and the city was going insane….I could hear the cheering and the cars honking and I could literally feel the electricity clear through the phone. It was a proud moment as I sat in my living room in Jacksonville Florida remembering all those after school practices my friends and I went to long before the ‘Superdome’ was built. I guess you could say that is what my love for the Blue Jays stems from…nostalgia.

As much as I love the United States and am proud to have born my four children here, once in a while I still get homesick…for the snow, the Toronto Maple Leafs, snowmobiling, roasted chestnuts, and all my high school friends I left behind…and oh yeah…Doug and Bob Mackenzie ‘Take off eh?”

Go Jays!!!

Celeb’s And Their Pitbulls

My kids are around pit bulls every day. In the ’70s they blamed Dobermans, in the ’80s they blamed German shepherds, in the ’90s they blamed the Rottweiler. Now they blame the pit bull.”– Cesar Millan

Pit bulls get a bad rap because of irresponsible owners. Many people consider the look or popularity of a breed before thinking about whether the dog works for their lifestyle. Please evaluate your lifestyle before taking on the responsibility of a pit bull.

Celebrities Who Own Pit Bulls

  • Jon Stewart of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart owns two pit bulls: Shamsky & Monkey.

  • Ken Howard, award-winning actor from Crossing Jordon, was saved by his pit bull Shadow during a medical crisis.

  • Movie star Alicia Silverstone owns a rescued pit bull named Samson.

  • Adam Brody gave girlfriend and O.C. co-star Rachel Bilson a pit bull named Penny Lane as a birthday gift.

  • Oscar winner Jamie Foxx, TV Personality Rachael Ray and Pittsburgh Steelers Linebacker Joey Porter all own two pit bulls!

  • Jessica Biel has a pit bull named Tina, and Jessica Alba owns a pit bull puppy.

  • President Theodore Roosevelt, President Woodrow Wilson, singer Kevin Federline, radio personality Ira Glass, actor Fred Astaire, General George Patton, actor Michael J. Fox, actor Jan Michael Vincent, actor Jack Dempsy, Thomas Edison, singer Madonna, movie star Brad Pitt, actress Bernadette Peters, comedian Sinbad, actress Linda Blair, actor Humphrey Bogart, musician Usher, comedian Mel Brooks, actress Ann Bancroft, actor Jan Michael Vincent, singer Pink, actress Eliza Dushku and actress Kelli Williams are just a few other celebrities who own or have owned a pit bull.

TV, Film & Print Appearances

  • Petey from The Little Rascals.

  • Grunt from the 1983 movie Flashdance.

  • Tige from Buster Brown shoe advertisements.

  • The dog in the film Snatch is a pit bull.

  • Jennifer Lopez used a pit bull in the music video “I’m Glad”.

  • Veronica Mars from the UPN show of the same name owns a pit bull named Backup.

  • The pit bull was so respected in the early 1900’s that the military chose an image of a dignified pit bull to represent the country on WWI propaganda posters.

  • The pit bull is the only breed to have graced the cover of Life Magazine three times.

Fun fact about the DPC’s famous pit bull, Daddy

  • Rapper Redman was Daddy’s original owner. He gave the four-month old dog to Cesar to care for at the center, because he didn’t feel he could take care of him properly in his environment.

Other Fun Facts

  • Helen Keller had a pit bull as a family pet.

  • Dakota is a pit bull search and rescue who searched for the remains of the astronauts who lost their lives in explosion of the space shuttle Columbia.

  • Popsicle, who received his name after police found him in a freezer during a drug raid, is famous for sniffing out drugs for the DEA.

  • A pit bull rescued in South Los Angeles by County Fire Station 14 during 1985 was the station’s mascot for years.

Please Visit http://www.cesarmillaninc.com/ for more great articles and tips on canines!!!

Build Your Own Dog House – Free Plans

Here are some links to sites that have ‘FREE’ plans and instructions!!! Save yourself $$BIG BUCKS$$ doing it yourself!!!

http://all-about-dog-houses.com/docs/free-dog-house-plans.htm

http://www.thingstobuild.com/doghouse.html

http://www.lowes.com/lowes/lkn?action=howTo&p=Build/DogHuse.html&topic=howToLibrary

http://www.woodzone.com/plans/doghouse/doghouse_plans.htm

http://wayneofthewoods.com/doghouse.html

This One is my personal favorite…’cause it’s pretty 🙂

http://www.hgtv.com/hgtv/gl_wildlife_other/article/0,1785,HGTV_3654_1385537,00.html

Psychic for the Famous, or Rather, for Their Pets

In Brooklyn, a Psychic for the Famous, or Rather, for Their Pets

Andrea Mohin/The New York Times

Christine Agro describes herself as an advocate for her clients’ pets.

Note to Readers: Big City will not be published for the rest of July, while the author is on assignment. It will return in August.

Christine Agro’s career as a pet psychic to the stars started, as so many auspicious events do, with a particularly open chakra. The chakra in question did not belong to her, but to a young woman who happened to pop into one of Ms. Agro’s yoga classes in upstate New York five years ago, and thanked her at the end of class for freeing up that center of spiritual energy.

When Ms. Agro moved to New York to join a boyfriend in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn, a few weeks later, she had barely unloaded her Jeep when she noticed a familiar face coming down the street: It was that same yoga student, who, it turned out, worked most of the time as a dog walker for the famed fashion photographer Bruce Weber.

Some New Yorkers would call it a coincidence; others would call it standard-issue happenstance for Cobble Hill, where yoga instructors and photographers’ assistants probably cross paths 14 times daily. Because Ms. Agro is also a trained clairvoyant natural healer — and yes, that’s what she puts down as her profession on her son’s preschool applications — she calls it kismet.

Before moving to New York City, Ms. Agro had just started, at her clients’ requests, doing readings for their most mysterious loved ones, their pets. Upon arriving, she started focusing specifically on that niche for Mr. Weber, working regularly with him and his wife to help them understand their passel of dogs.

“Animals don’t really have the ability to tell their people what’s going on,” said Ms. Agro, a young-looking 42 (which she attributes to diligent managing of her energy, just as others attribute that good fortune to smart managing of their diets). “This is a way for them to have someone advocate for them.”

Part medium, part mediator, she began doing readings that gave voice to the needs of the Weber family’s dogs. Kindly don’t throw us in the car without telling us where we’re going, an irritated golden retriever named Palomino requested through Ms. Agro. Skye is such a big baby, vented a pup named True about a rival.

Ms. Agro doesn’t need to see the pets to talk to them, just a land line — she communes with the pets while simultaneously relaying the conversation to their owners by phone. She reasoned with the Weber family’s dogs as she might her own 3-year-old son, explaining the basics of compromise, occasionally using her training, she says, to remove some negative energy along the way.

“She does see everything,” said Nan Bush, Mr. Weber’s wife, who works with Ms. Agro weekly, and relied heavily on her when two beloved dogs were dying. “I’ve recommended her to so many friends.”

There are famous people, and then there are people famous to famous people and almost no one else. They are the specialized service providers unknown to the masses, but beatified by the bold-faced names who trade the coveted cellphone numbers among themselves. Into that category (of snowboarding instructors and antique repairers) has Ms. Agro softly landed.

The Weber family introduced Ms. Agro to Grace Coddington, the fashion icon and creative director at Vogue, who referred her to Buffy Birrittella, an executive vice president at Ralph Lauren; both cat lovers are now regular clients. Ingrid Sischy, the editor in chief of Interview, Joan Allen, the actress, and Julian Schnabel, the director and artist — they all got results after seeking Ms. Agro’s help to divine the whereabouts of missing pets. Although she sees the occasional civil engineer or journalist, overall her clientele skews toward the glamorous.

Some might theorize that Ms. Agro’s fashion-heavy followers represent a world already devoted to the power of the convincing fantasy (often a pricey one — in this case, $100 per half hour).

Others might wonder if Ms. Agro simply brings her outer-ether clients the compassion and common sense of a smart Brooklyn mom who shops mostly at Old Navy. And then there are those who would follow her instructions for their Samoyeds or Bengal cats all but off a bridge, either because they were true believers in a gift, or true believers in her impeccable In Style credentials.

Recently, says Ms. Agro, some of her clients have started asking if she’d consider working on behalf of those other creatures who can’t articulate their needs: babies and toddlers. Ms. Agro is now working on developing that business, under the name the Psychic Mom. Since the only caretakers more obsessive than New York pet owners are New York parents, it seems likely that Psychic Mom will find some eager clients. Marketers would call it an untapped niche, but if her business explodes, Ms. Agro would probably just call it kismet.