I reside in the San Francisco Bay Area. Even though I don’t usually follow baseball, it’s been pretty hard to miss all of the hype around here lately. It brought to mind a baseball game that I attended last summer with my dog. That’s right, with my dog. The San Francisco Giants invite dogs once a year to the AT&T ball park for the Dog Days of Summer ball game.
A portion of proceeds benefited the San Francisco SPCA and dogs had their own bleacher seats. When I learned that they were expecting 600 dogs, I thought it would be great fun for us. After all, Sanchez is a career change dog from Guide Dogs for the Blind and had a great amount of experience in large crowds, in a variety of social settings, when he was in training as a puppy. I hadn’t been to a ballgame since I left New York, over 20 years ago, so I thought I would also enjoy the experience.
Before the game, I took Sanchez for a long off-leash hike, wanting to tire him out before the big event. When I got to the ballpark, I was immediately impressed by the organization. There were very helpful volunteers from the SF/SPCA all around. Kiddie pools were everywhere for drinking water for all the dogs. The parade was very fun. We all got to walk around the outside of the field and sometimes saw our pictures with our dogs up on the large screen. I was pleased with how well-behaved all the dogs were. We then found our seats in the bleachers. (I could speak on the danger of dogs placed too closely together, but I’ll leave that for a dog trainer or animal behaviorist to comment on.)
All was fine, until the game actually started. My last time at a baseball game was at Shea Stadium to see the Mets in 1986. Mets fans are not known to be subdued, so I doubt it was a quieter environment than a Giants game. But I was younger and wasn’t yet aware of sensory overload. When the game started and all of the yelling and screaming and music that augmented it began, I realized that all the dogs were being subjected to a very stressful soundscape. I became concerned that this was not a conducive environment for calm dogs. Because Sanchez is a Labrador, his oral stimulation took over his aural awareness. By appearance, he seemed as happy as can be with his nose searching all the peanut shells and spilled food on the ground. In addition, people were tossing him French fries because “he’s just so cute”. As you can imagine, that’s one of my top pet peeves (pun intended).