Man’s best friend joined professional tennis players on the court of this exciting international tennis tournament. The dogs were shelter dogs who were once street dogs in Sao Paulo, who were specially trained and given a new leash on life. The four pups, Frida, Costela, Mel, and Isabelle, were even featured in the spotlight at the exhibition match between Roberto Carballes Baena and Gasto Elias.
The dogs waited patiently court side as the game progressed, only springing into action when the balls hit the nets or bounced off court. The crowd loved them, cheering the dogs and often paying more attention to them than the game itself.
This out of the ordinary initiative was dreamed up by the local shelter to promote adoption of homeless street animals, which is a common problem in most South American countries. The dogs were trained for months, and did a fantastic job retrieving the balls and entertaining and educating the crowd on the merit of adopting former street dogs instead of condemning them.
“These are dogs that were mistreated,” trainer Andrea Beckert told reporters. “We had 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.” The dogs learned four commands were "pick the ball," "let it go," "stay," and "come."
Marli Scaramella, the organizer of the initiative, spoke to Fox News Latino about the foursome: "The idea is to show people that a well-fed and well-treated animal can be very happy. We have more than 1,000 dogs in our care.” She also explained that all four of the tennis dogs were still residents in local shelters, and were ready and waiting to find their forever homes.