Mariners latest Bark in the Park event includes dogs available for adoption (and belly rubs)

The Mariners hosted puppies from Washington shelters for the first time before Monday night’s game. The new component of Bark in the Park night at T-Mobile Park was spearheaded by Jill Servais, the wife of Mariners manager Scott Servis, who’s worked in animal welfare for about 30 years.

Previous Bark in the Park promotions allowed fans to bring their dogs to T-Mobile Park, but Monday’s matchup with the Orioles was the first time local shelters were invited to promote adoption. The puppies were on the field and on the concourse in left field before Monday’s game, interacting with players and fans.

“It’s really important to understand how many truly beautiful, adoptable animals are available in the state of Washington, in particular,” Jill Servais said. “You don’t need to leave the state to find some great adoptable animals.”

She got into animal welfare when she worked at a municipal shelter in Tucson, Arizona, while Scott was playing in the minor leagues.

She noticed other MLB teams hosting adoption agencies and wanted to help the Mariners expand to their Bark in the Park events. She and Scott grew up with dogs in their families. The Servais family has a 4-year-old rescue named Wilson — Jill said with a laugh that they wanted to give him a “good Seattle name,” alluding to former Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson.

After the Mariners’ pregame batting practice concluded, Taylor Trammell, Eugenio Suarez and Jesse Winker were among the players who stopped to pet puppies from Forgotten Dogs Rescue and Okan Dogs, two of the rescue organizations that were present. Sunny Skys Animal Rescue was the third group at Monday’s game.

Jan Short, of Okan Dogs, described the four collie and German Shepard mixes as “very mellow puppies that love to be outside.” Duncan, Kenzie, Skye and Gregor — who also goes by the nickname “Hollywood” because he frequently appears on Okan’s brochures — tugged on their leashes and rolled in the dirt next to the Mariners dugout as the players and fans petted them and gave them belly rubs.

Short’s organization is based in Cashmere. Jill and Scott Servais volunteer there, and Jill said Okan has saved over 6,000 animals since 2014 and 800 in 2021 alone.

“They’ve done marvelous work in that part of the state and it’s much needed,” Jill said, referencing the area’s limited public resources for animal shelters.

Euthanasia rates are still high, Jill said. She said that only 25% of dogs in shelters are adopted. She added that 25% of dogs in shelters are purebreds, meaning that people looking for a specific breed can still get one from a shelter.

“The numbers are not where we want them,” she said. “We have really massive amounts of animals coming into shelters now in ways we haven’t seen in many years.”

A lot of people who wanted a companion during the COVID-19 pandemic adopted pets, Jill said. But many have undergone lifestyle changes as they go back to work, and that can mean animals with separation anxiety and owners returning animals to shelters.

Joanna Poleszczuk of Forgotten Dogs Rescue said that recent adoption rates have dropped since people began working in-person again.

Forgotten Dogs Rescue brought four 12-week-old puppies that were pitbull-poodle mixes. They were named after designer brands, including Karl Lagerfeld, Prada and Louis Vuitton.

“Our work is never-ending. There’s always dogs that need a home, so we take in dogs that are either really hard to place or at-risk for abuse or neglect or have medical issues,” Poleszczuk said. “Adoption is really important to continue creating space in foster homes and shelters.”

The Mariners are covering the adoption fees for four of the puppies that were on the field before the game. Monday’s Bark in the Park featured close to 1,000 dogs from fans, one of the biggest yet, according to the team.

There will be also adoptable animals at the Mariners’ remaining two Bark in the Park events, Aug. 23 and Sept. 28, Jill Servais said.

“I’m hoping that it grows from here and becomes something that people look forward to and that people can come here and talk to some of the rescue [organizers] and get an idea of ​​what’s available for adoption,” she said.

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