Sit! Stay! Fetch a new future for dogs!

Pups lost the chance to be ball-fetchers at Wimbledon, but there are plenty of human jobs they could handle


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I’m not what you would call a big fan of tennis, but I did spend a fair bit of time lying on the couch last week watching the action at Wimbledon unfold on the new 65-inch TV in my den.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 09/07/2022 (214 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

I’m not what you would call a big fan of tennis, but I did spend a fair bit of time lying on the couch last week watching the action at Wimbledon unfold on the new 65-inch TV in my den.

I found the traditional back and forth at the world’s most famous Grand Slam tournament to be moderately interesting, but as a dedicated sports fan I felt something important was missing from this year’s event.

As most sports-loving readers have already deduced, I am talking about dogs.

For those of you who have spent the past few weeks hiding in a drainpipe, you will be surprised to learn that this year’s edition of Wimbledon came within a whisker of — prepare to begin howling with excitement — going to the dogs.

I say this because I am holding in my hands several news reports stating that a plan to replace Wimbledon’s 250 human ball boys and girls with specially trained dogs was foiled by a minor snag.

What happened was ManyPets, a pet insurance company, conducted a trial at London’s Wilton Tennis Club in which a group of dogs underwent extensive training to simulate the role of ball boys and girls.

According to news reports, the four-legged ball fetchers took part in speed and agility tests, learned how to high jump over the nets and run the length of the court, mirroring the actions of the volunteer ball boys and girls.

It turns out the hounds were outstanding when it came to chasing down the balls and fetching them, but there was one minor drawback — they refused to give the slobber-coated balls back to the players without first getting a treat.

“Our players did find themselves in a game of tug-of-war,” Martin Schiller, the club co-ordinator, told reporters. “We had a stash of treats on the sidelines to offer up as a bit of encouragement, which certainly did the trick.”

Like myself, the folks at ManyPets remain hopeful that the wrinkles can be ironed out and these furry volunteers will be ready to replace human ball-fetchers at Wimbledon in 2023.

“We’re calling on Wimbledon to get our Ball Dogs to centre court next year,” ManyPets CEO Oke Eleazu told the London Post. “Our four-legged friends have always been highly regarded for their dedication and skill when it comes to chasing after tennis balls.”

While it is distressing that the ball dogs scheme was not unleashed this year, it is still the perfect time to ponder the pros and cons of having canines try their paws at a number of other careers normally performed by humans, including:

1) The human job: astronaut

The canine pros: Dogs can be trained to do almost anything and, according to most reports, the space shuttle pretty much flies itself.

The canine cons: As any pet owner can tell you, dogs are unable to resist the temptation of dangling their heads outside the window of any moving vehicle, which would make them an extremely poor choice to pilot a rocket heading to the International Space Station.

2) The human job: chauffeur

The canine pros: There have been numerous reports in recent years of dogs getting behind the wheel, including a 2019 incident in which a black Labrador in Florida put his owner’s car in reverse and ended up driving backwards in circles for about an hour — all caught on video — before smashing a neighbour’s mailbox and being rescued by police. Also, most dogs already have licences.

The canine cons: Dogs do not have opposable thumbs, making it extremely hard for them to drive stick-shift vehicles.

Also, it is already part of their DNA to chase cars down the street because (you never know) a squirrel might be behind the wheel.

3) The human job: Walmart greeter

The canine pros: You know those people in the cute little vests who wait at the front door and joyfully greet everyone as if they were a long-lost relative? Yeah, dogs can do that.

The canine cons: It is possible to be too enthusiastic when welcoming someone to your business. Based on every dog I have ever owned, the most common canine form of greeting is to howl with joy, attempt to have intimate relations with the visitor’s leg, and then spend 20 minutes sniffing areas of their anatomy that we normally do not discuss in family newspapers.

4) The human job: private tutor

The canine pros: Yes, they spend a great deal of time chasing their own tails, but dogs are also capable of learning complex tasks, such as rescuing lost people and sniffing out bombs and illegal drugs.

Also, they tilt their heads in an adorable manner when puzzled.

The canine cons: Modern mathematics, chemistry and physics are beyond the scope of your modern dog. And no matter how many treats you give them, they are still going to eat your homework.

Doug Speirs

Doug Speirs

Doug has held almost every job at the newspaper — reporter, city editor, night editor, tour guide, hand model — and his colleagues are confident he’ll eventually find something he is good at.

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