Spike got some once-in-a-lifetime training this week. He went to his first NBA game to see my hometown Brooklyn Nets play the Dallas Mavericks at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn.
As a volunteer puppy-raiser for Canine Companions for Independence, we try to socialize the dogs to as many different experiences as possible. So Spike not only goes to work with me every day, but he takes the subway and cabs, goes to restaurants, goes to the bank, the bathroom, etc. Wherever I go, Spike goes. And since his future partner could be a big sports fan, it's invaluable training to take Spike to games now, so he gets used to the noises and crowds.
The Nets invited us courtside to watch the players during shoot-arounds. Spike had his eye on D’Angelo Russell as he sank a bunch of twos and threes. He was also VERY tempted by all the bouncing basketballs, but I was pleased to see he didn't run off and chase after them. Spike remained focused on me, and didn't try to go for a single rebound.
Spike made a ton of friends on the court, though. We teamed up with the Nets’ Team Hype, the break-dancing tumblers and dunkers that get the fans all riled up for the game. Spike did up-downs while the guys did push-ups, and he chased them as they ran with their rally flags. He also got an awesome extended tummy rub from about a dozen members of the Brooklynettes, the cutting-edge Nets dance team.
We took a ride in a large freight elevator with 20 people to get from the floor to our seats, and Spike seemed totally unfazed by the crowd. We wandered through the Barclays Center’s huge concourse, and he managed to thread his way through hundreds of people while maintaining his focus on me.
Spike and I sat in the ADA section, so there was plenty of room for him to spread out after all the excitement. The music was blaring, strobe lights were flashing, and fans were being fans, screaming in excitement as they rooted on their team. But Canine Companions pups-in-training need to be acclimated to the intense audio-visual experience of a major sporting event, so they aren’t fearful or stressed when they go to a future game – or any intense, loud venue – with their partner.
It was a great learning and socialization experience for Spike. He stayed calm and relaxed all the way through the end, when the Nets won big over the Mavericks. So as far as Spike and I are concerned, let’s bring on the playoffs. Go Nets!
For more about Canine Companions for Independence, visit CCI.org.