Take me out to the bark game

A special guest will throw out the first pitch at the Camden Riversharks minor league baseball game on Sunday, Aug. 24. This local celebrity has a keen eye, an athletic build, a deep love for ball games—and a wagging tail.

Pacy, a female black lab at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center (WDC), has been working with Pat Kaynaroglu, the center’s training manager who is also Pacy’s foster “mom,” to pull a giant slingshot that can propel a baseball through the air. With a few weeks to go, Pacy’s already proving to be an ace.


Penn Vet Working Dog Center

Staff at the Penn Vet Working Dog Center work with Pacy as she prepares to throw out the first pitch at the Camden Riversharks minor league baseball game on Sunday, Aug. 24.

Baseball fans who are also dog owners are invited to bring their canine companions to the ballpark for the special “Bark in the Park” event. For each ticket sold, $5 will be donated to the WDC to help defray the costs of training and caring for the center’s more than two dozen dogs. It costs roughly $35,000 a year to care for and train each dog. When they’re done training, the dogs are sold for a quarter to a third of that cost. Donations help make up the difference.

“Donations help us put money back into the training and the research that we’re doing with the dogs,” says Vicki Berkowitz, associate director of the WDC.

To support the center, attendees must purchase their tickets on the fundraising page and enter the code “PennVet” in order for the WDC to receive the $5 donation.

While using a slingshot to toss a ball may be fun, Pacy’s daily curriculum also includes serious work. Donated as an eight-week-old puppy from Maranatha Farm Kennels, she is being prepared to detect the scent of human remains so she can be deployed to work at disaster sites such as building collapses or mudslides.

The WDC has had a busy summer with other projects, as well. It hosted the Canine Handler Academy to introduce middle-school-aged students to working dogs. It welcomed yellow lab Zzisa’s litter of nine puppies in June. It is planning a celebration for its first puppy, Bretagne, who is about to graduate to become the center’s first diabetic alert dog. And Cynthia Otto, WDC director, recently returned from El Paso, Texas, where she worked with the U.S. Border Patrol to research the hydration needs of working dogs.

“We’ve had a lot of highlights this summer,” says Berkowitz.

For more information about the “Bark in the Park” Riversharks game, visit the Penn Vet website.

Originally published on August 7, 2014