His name doesn’t appear on the stat sheet, but an unusual source gave J.R. Smith a big hand, er, paw, in the Cavs’ victory Wednesday night over Charlotte.
They don’t officially give assists to four-legged creatures, but REMINGTON (all caps, please!) deserves one, helping Smith overcome a slump and score 19 points off the bench on 8-of-9 shooting.
REMINGTON, who is a golden retriever and therapy dog for the University of North Carolina baseball team, huddled with Smith, who was in the midst of a slump, and other players at the invitation of Cavs trainer Steve Spiro on Wednesday.
“For me, it was exactly what I needed,” Smith, the owner of two dogs, said (via Cleveland.com). “Took my mind off the game so it could make me feel better.”
Larry Drew, the Cavs’ acting head coach, credited the pooch with helping Smith.
“I walk in the room and there J.R. is sitting on the floor … he’s sitting on the floor petting the [dog],” Drew said. “I think it was the canine that got him going. I can tell he’s very fond of that dog and we’re going to have to get that dog back to more shootarounds.
“We had breakfast and he was there petting the dog and we did our walk-through. After the walk-through he went back over to the dog. I think it was the canine.”
REMINGTON, with an arsenal of about 100 commands he can follow, is more than just a canine, though. He’s a certified celebrity who has been the subject of a number of reports in the media over the past year. A fully trained service dog, his task is to help players deal with stress or recover from an injury. Smith didn’t say what was eating at him, but REMINGTON seems to have an instinct for helping.
“I’m an emotional person,” Smith, who called him “my new best friend” on Instagram, said. “… I don’t really express a lot of things. Let’s just say it was right on time.”
The good doggy’s journey to UNC began in a prison in West Virginia, where PAWS for People, which trains and places therapy dogs, helped inmates train him and other puppies. When his adoption in Maryland fell through, he ended up with Terri Jo Rucinski, the coordinator of the UNC campus health physical therapy department that works with athletes and non-athletes and a trainer for the school’s baseball team. UNC baseball players were thinking about taking puppies to visit hospitalized children, Rucinski told the Raleigh News and Observer last June, and a spark of an idea became reality.
For athletes rehabbing from injury, REMINGTON has made a difference. “There’s a psychological component, as well as a physical component, having dogs lower blood pressure,” she said. “And there’s some stuff in the literature that says if you pet a dog for 15 minutes, it’ll change your whole outlook on the day.”
REMINGTON, who is also known as REMI, will turn 4 in June and has his own Facebook page, fills a permanent position now and is a fixture with the baseball team, standing at attention with his cap in his teeth during the national anthem.
“He tends to go towards people that have higher anxiety,” Rucinski told CBS last year. “When we’re walking through the hallways, sometimes he’ll just anchor, which means he’ll just come and sit in front of them. He’ll just pick a random person in the hallway and I look at their athletic trainer and he’s like, ‘Well, he’s not starting today,’ or, ‘He’s hurt.’”
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