Pet Tales: Dogs have their day at the ballpark




Eddie is Kate Lederman's first dog, and she told baseball fans the 6-month-old beagle was attending his first Pirates game. Usher Natalie Connell heard that exchange and presented the tail-wagging Eddie with an enamel pin that commemorates a first-time visit to PNC Park.

Ms. Lederman, a Shadyside resident, was thrilled.

Eddie was the first dog I met Tuesday night at the event officially known as Pup Night at PNC Park Presented by Dad's Pet Care. There were nearly 200 dogs and 270 people in the special section the Bucs set aside for dogs and the people who love both dogs and baseball. For eight games this season, they let the dogs onto The Pirate Deck, located high up over left field, under the Jumbotron scoreboard.

There were dogs of all sizes, from Halo, a 2.9-pound rat terrier-shih tzu mix puppy, to Mr. Mustard, a 150-pound long-haired English mastiff with Kevin and Justina Honsberger of Dormont.

There were lots of Labrador retrievers and golden retrievers (ranked No. 1 and 4, respectively, in American Kennel Club registrations last year) and some unusual breeds, like Holly Jalapeno, a Boykin spaniel (138th on the AKC list). There was a wide array of mixed breeds.

Although the home team lost the game, it was perhaps the happiest crowd of fans I've ever sat with at a professional sporting event. Tails wagged nonstop as dogs mixed, mingled and socialized. Owners beamed as their dogs were petted and admired by fellow dog-lovers.

The dogs were amazingly well-behaved. There was very little barking, though in the seventh-inning stretch a yellow Labrador retriever barked in time to the music as fans sang "Take Me out to the Ball Game."

Do dogs enjoy baseball games? How would we know? Some actually did keep their eyes and noses aimed toward the action on the field.

A boxer mix named Zeke, 3, was attending his first pup night with Chuck and Angela McGowan of Sharpsburg, and their son Jake, 12.

"At first Zeke was really excited about all the other dogs," Mr. McGowan said, but then he settled down in the shade under a seat while his family watched the game.

Small dogs such as Boston terrier Ramses, 3, sat on the laps of owners. Big dogs stood in the aisles or back behind seats in the "standing room only" section.

"This is Ramses' first Pirate game, but I've been coming to many games every year since 1972," said Bob Bassett of Overbrook, who was also accompanied by his wife, Susan.

Tony and Marisa Greco of Carnegie brought Grizzly, 4, their German shepherd.

"We're season ticket holders, and we come to all of the pup nights," Mrs. Greco said. "It's part of our package. This is a great night. It's great to see so many fans in the ball park and they have everything the dogs need."

The Pirate Deck is covered, keeping dogs out of sun or rain. The Pirates provide dog water fountains. The Dad's company provides free bowls of treats. Christopher DiIorio of Brookline-based Doodle Scoopers spreads pine chips at the canine "relief station," and he continually scoops and cleans up.

Usher Donna Milcarek greets regulars by name. She's been working at pup nights "for four or five years. I love it and have made friends. The fans love it."

Many dogs wore black and gold bandannas or T-shirts with Pirate motifs. Mattie, 4, an Australian shepherd/springer spaniel/Lab mix, wore a black T-shirt painted with the gold Zoltan hands that the Pirates flash at each other after big hits.

"My wife made that shirt," said Vince Rosati of New Castle.

Laurell Rosati held up Halo, the 12-week-old rescue puppy they adopted just one week ago. The hands wouldn't fit on Halo's tiny black tee, so Mrs. Rosati settled for painting a gold Z.

O'Henry, a black and goldish-tan dachshund in a white tee with the words "Pirate Pup Nite," and Honeybear, a wire-haired dachshund, are both certified therapy dogs that visit students at the Cathedral of Learning at the University of Pittsburgh. A Border collie mix got a lot of attention because her gold and black vest said "Adopt Me." Cheyenne, 8, lives at the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society and seemed to enjoy her outing with Dawn Michalski. Volunteers from the North Side shelter were selling raffle tickets for baskets of dog treats, toys and supplies.

When the first pup night on Aug. 29, 2006, quickly sold out, a second pup night was added. Fan demand was great, so there were six pup nights each year until 2012, when the number was upped to eight. Standing room only is available for pup nights Aug. 7 and 28. Seats are available for Sept. 18 and Oct. 2.

Tickets are $25 for one dog and one person. Each additional human ticket is $25. Part of ticket sales benefit local animal shelters. Go to pittsburgh.pirates.mlb.com for further information.

Pet Tales appears weekly in the Saturday Home & Garden section. Linda Wilson Fuoco: lfuoco@post-gazette.com or 412-263-3064.




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