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This tennis tournament is using shelter dogs as ballboys

A ball dog at the 2016 Brazil Open tennis tournament. (Brazil Open/Leandro Martins/DGW Comunicação)

For the second year running, a pro tennis tournament in Brazil will kick its ballboys and ballgirls off the court. In their place will be the best tennis-ball-fetchers of all: shelter dogs.

If it’s like last year, the pooches at the Brazil Open in Sao Paulo will wear sweatbands on their wrists — ankles? — and scarves around their necks. They’ll be specially trained for the job, though one imagines that dogs need little prep for ball-retrieving. Giving up the balls? That’s another matter, as a video from last year’s tournament shows.

The dogs won’t be ball-chasers for the whole tournament, which starts next week. Imagine the slobber.

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Instead, they’ll be on duty for an exhibition match aimed at promoting the adoption of homeless dogs. All six being deployed — named Cindy, Nanda, Pretinha, Mia, Arlete and Ovelha — come from two Sao Paulo shelters and will be available for adoption.

“What do these dogs have in common?” Madalena Spinazzola, a spokeswoman for the pet food company that’s organizing the event, asked in a statement. “In addition to a history of abandonment and looking for adopters, they love to run after balls.”

The four ball-dogs that performed at last year’s Brazil Open all found homes, organizers said. One, Isabelle, was renamed by the couple that adopted her. She is now known as Serena.

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