Tennis balls dogs in Brazil are proving once more that abandoned dogs can be rescued, adopted, trained and given a new purpose in life. Having dogs as ball boys is apparently not only fun for tennis fans but also for the players competing in a world championship. Watching the video of the dogs who once lived abandoned on the streets of Sao Paulo is giving hope to animal advocates who believe that most abused dogs can turn into some cherished member of a team – even if that team is just a family.
The tennis ball dogs performing after Thursday’s Brazil Open in Sao Paulo were four rescue dogs named Frida, Mel, Isabelle and Costela, reports CNN on February 27. Even though the tennis match between Portugal’s Gastao Elias and Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena had already been completed, the tennis players were more than happy to hit a few more balls to show off their special tennis ball dogs.
“It was a lot of fun,” said Carballes Baena. “I had never had dogs as ball boys. It was a really nice experience and for a good cause.”
“I think it’s an interesting initiative. It is important that people know about these organisations and I think it is a good way to promote them,” added Gastao Elias. “I had a great time because it was a unique experience and I would for sure do it again.”
The special event was hosted by Premier Pet, which supports animal shelters in Brazil by providing pet food to thousands of dogs and cats. Frida, Mel, Isabelle and Costela, who shined by wearing their orange bandannas and chasing after the tennis balls were cheered on by Baena, Costela, and fans alike.
“We want to show that abandoned dogs can be adopted and trained,” said Andrea Beckert, a trainer from the ABEAC (Associação Bem-Estar Animal Amigos da Célia) charity, which shelters more than one thousand dogs and cats. “After all, it’s not easy to get a dog to only pick up the lost balls, and then to give them up!”
Andrea Beckert said that the four tennis ball dogs were once street dogs that were abused and starving. When now tennis ball dog Costela (meaning “rib” in Portuguese) was found, he was so skinny and ravaged by ticks that it seemed impossible that he would ever trust anyone.
Beckert said that getting all the animals back to health, building up their trust, confidence, and playfulness was a challenge and took time.
“These are dogs that were mistreated,” she said. “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.”
Whether one agrees with dog trainer Cesar Millan or not, Andrea Beckert certainly agrees with the “Dog Whisperer” in one thing: Every dog needs a purpose. Whether that purpose is protecting a home from intruders (thus barking), carrying a doggy bag pack during walks, or catching tennis balls, everyone needs a purpose – and the time and patience to exercise that purpose.
As for tennis ball dogs Frida, Mel, Isabelle and Costela, their next purpose is to shine when they take part on Sunday’s tennis championship awards ceremony.