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Fido and Me

July 10, 2011

I am trying to teach Fido baseball.

He’s doing pretty well since April, but he’s got a ways to go.

There is no set way to teach a dog baseball. For that matter, there’s no set way to teach a human, either. It’s an acquired thing, based on repetition.

“Wanna learn baseball?” I says to Fido as the season began. Snow was falling outside.

Fido says,”Hey Hey Hey Hey!”

So we began.

My idea was to latch on to one team, and one set of broadcasters. Me, I subscribe to mlb.com audio. My team is Oakland. The broadcasters are Ken Korach and Vince Cotroneo.

There is a cadence to a baseball broadcast. I figured if Fido could become familiar with the sound of the announcers and the cadence, he might learn to pick up on the exciting bits, and we’d go from there.

There wasn’t a lot that was exciting about the Opener. The A’s dropped a 6-2 game to the Mariners. One hundred, sixty-one games to go.

Fido stretched out on The World’s Largest Dog Bed (the couch) and kept his eyes closed the whole time. But when there was something afoot, I reached across the couch and lifted his head by the withers.

“Fido! Fido!” I says, “Something’s up!”

Fido says, “Umm.”

It’s not like Fido’s actually sleeping when he has his eyes closed like that. It’s that his eyelids just get too heavy for him. He’s paying attention, but in that dog kind of way.

I slipped a hand under his jaw and lifted him further up.

Fido opened his eyes and said, “Hey Hey Hey Hey.”

Over time, when Korach or Cotroneo would reach a fever pitch, I’d lift Fido’s head and go through the routine again. April turned into May, May into June, June into July.

I enjoyed it. Fido was hard to read.

A note: Fido is a 70-pound chow-retriever mix. He’s about four years old. The people at the Whitmore Shelter estimated his age, but testified to his temperament. He’s loyal (chow). He has a retriever’s temperament (mellow).

Last week Fido had a breakthrough.

During an afternoon game against Seattle (again!), the Mariners took a 4-0 lead and were hanging on like a terrier on a pants leg.

In the eighth, however, the A’s rallied. Korach and Cotroneo raised their pitch to match the events on the field.

Suddenly an Oakland run. Then another run. Then a man on base. The crowd noise rose behind the broadcasters. The tying run was at the plate.

Me, I leaned forward.

I looked toward Fido.

By God, his eyes were open.

“Good dog,” I says, and I scampered over to the World’s Biggest Dog Bed and ruffled the fur on his head. “Good dog!”

The Athletics rally died right then and there, and there was nothing for the Green and Gold in the ninth.

Fido set his head on his paws and closed his eyes.

It’s not easy, teaching baseball to a dog.

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