The Dog Days of Summer
You’d expect the army of Labs adorned with bandanas, cool as Wil Myers flying first class to Tampa. The Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen? Not so much.
But a defining element of this year’s “Bark in the Park” at the Durham Bulls Athletic Park was the sheer canine diversity of it all. You had your Labs, of course, and more mutts than you could shake a stick at, but also a hundred-pound Newfoundland named Bigley, whose laid-back demeanor attracted kids and their camera-carrying parents by the score.
Also in attendance were Whippets, beagles, Wheaten Terriers, Yorkshire Terriers, Boston Terriers, Black Russian Terriers, Chihuahuas, pit bulls, Dalmatians, Great Danes, Irish Setters, and Yorkiepoos. The event attracted an estimated 500 pooches, each one friendlier than the next, and, according to their owners, all of them diehard Bulls fans.
Well, except for Fenway, the Petit Basset Griffon Vendéen. You can guess where his heart lies.
“Bark in the Park” happenings are popular throughout baseball—the Cleveland Indians, for instance, host an annual “Puppylooza”—with over fifty events each summer. The trend began in 1996, with the White Sox hosting “Dog Days of Summer.” In retrospect, you have to wonder: it really took us that long to figure out dogs and baseball go together like a ball and glove, like peanut butter and jelly, like B.J. and Justin Upton?
It’s a forehead-slap of a realization. What other animal can you actually play baseball with? Like your average outfielder, dogs fetch, they catch, they love a good game of fungo. Okay, so they can’t bat for beans, but you have to believe they appreciate a Louisville Slugger for the beautifully honed and polished stick that it is.
Moreover, baseball is a game for people who take the long view, and so it is with dogs. Like any good fan, a dog sticks with you through thick and thin, through Nolan Ryan’s 5,000th strikeout to Mark McGwire’s admission of steroid use. A cat would have turned up its pointy nose at baseball a long time ago. A dog shrugs its shoulders. We’ll get ‘em next time. Tomorrow’s another day.
A number of people at Bark in the Park admitted they didn’t think their dogs found baseball all that interesting. But let’s be frank: all sorts of folks show up at DBAP who don’t find baseball all that interesting. They’re there for the atmosphere, for the eating and drinking with friends while the sun sets over the Durham Freeway. And, yes, some of them are there because where else are you going to see fake Sumo wrestling?
But it’s nice to think that at least a few of those Labs, maybe a couple dozen of the mutts, and Bigley, the big bear of a Newfoundland, came for the purest of reasons. They were there for the love of the game.