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CHRIS ERSKINE / FAN OF THE HOUSE

Bark in the Park night a hit at Dodger Stadium

Some 500 dogs and their owners attend the Dodgers game Saturday night during a promotion sponsored by Natural Balance Pet Foods.

August 21, 2010|Chris Erskine

That was some party in the right-field pavilion Saturday night — some 500 dogs in attendance, a minor league stunt in a major league venue. In order to enter the stadium, the dogs had to have proof of vaccinations, a requirement so successful that Dodger brass might one day extend it to the fans themselves.

OK, let us get the obvious jokes out of the way: Yes, the dog days of August are upon us. Dodger dog, anyone? Now coaching third base, Larry Bow-wow.

Sorry, couldn't resist, nor could I resist attending this oddly wonderful evening, dubbed "Bark in the Park," the Dodgers' first-ever bring-your-pooch event.

In baseball terms, it seemed to be a home run, the event selling out early. And not once, at least not in the first inning, did any of the dogs make a play for balls hit deep to the outfield.

There was genuine concern, at least on my part, that a double to the gap would prompt 30 golden retrievers, succumbing to some spring-loaded internal chase lust, to leap out of the stands and fight Matt Kemp for possession of the ball.

"I've got it ... No, I've got it ... mine-mine-mine," you can just imagine the confusion, all the dogs talking at once.

No, nothing like that seemed to happen, though I will confess that I did fight the urge to yell FETCH! on several occasions.

Oh sure, there were moments.

Getting in proved a little crazy. Most dogs can't or won't read, and even if they could signs were scarce. And this being L.A. there were lines, lines, lines. Many folks — and dogs — didn't make it in until after the first pitch.

But generally the dogs were great. They seemed to feed on the behavior of the primates around them. When the fans rose, so did the pets.

When they sat quietly, so did the dogs. As I've always said, dogs are superior to kids. Not to set the bar too awfully high, but they may be superior to me.

Ever heard of such a thing, dogs attending a ballgame? Actually, this is the third major league stadium to host a Bark in the Park this year. The Mets held one in April, followed by the Rangers in July. The Giants, who have held such events before, will be the final team to hold such a promotion, with an event next Sunday.

The promotions are sponsored by Natural Balance Pet Foods, which provides a support staff of about 25 and a vet to check vaccination papers. All dogs attending Saturday night needed their own 25-dollar all-you-can-eat ticket, as did any humans accompanying them. The Dodgers said they capped it at 500 dogs for safety reasons.

This being L.A., celebrity dogs are well represented. I swear, one celebrity dog looks just like Nicollette Sheridan ... no, wait, that is Nicollette Sheridan. And there goes Eric Roberts I'm pretty sure. Or is that a Pekingese?

Me, I'm here with my 300-pound beagle, Cujo, a dog with a plexiglass forehead and almost no visible brain. He's got the appetite of the Delta house and the markings of a Wisconsin Holstein.

He's a cool dude mostly, till he's around people or other dogs, at which point he goes into fight-or-flee spasms. To soothe him on this extraordinary evening, I feed him several beers beforehand. This keeps him mellow, sort of like Nick Nolte on the 5th of July.

So there he is on this warm summer evening, resting at my feet, turning occasionally to lick ketchup from my ankle as the Dodgers look for a way to win or lose — it varies nightly.

Let me tell you, I've been to games with worse dates. And I've been to games alone. This is almost better.

chris.erskine@latimes.com

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