Shea, service dog in training, a source of relief for the Mets

The Mets have a new way of dealing with scorching summer days.

His name is Shea and he is a 6 month old Labrador retriever who is in training to become a service dog for a veteran or first responder.

Shea can be found on the field and in the stands before most Mets games, and his kindness and calming presence are just the relief the team needs during the pressures of a pennant race.

“He’s one of the most popular guys on the team,” first baseman Pete Alonso said. “There’s nothing better than having a dog to cheer you up before a game.”

The Amazin’ Mets Foundation has partnered with America’s VetDogs, a Smithtown-based non-profit organization, to provide the puppy with a lively training environment as he strives to become a service dog, a process which can take up to 16 months.

America’s VetDogs has been providing specially trained service dogs to veterans since 2003 and opened its programs to first responders, including firefighters, police and emergency medical personnel, in 2015. After successfully working with Islanders , VetDogs staff met with the Amazin’ Mets Foundation to discuss another sports partnership in New York.

“We couldn’t have asked for a better partner for our premier service dog in the league,” said US VetDogs President and CEO John Miller. “The Amazin’ Mets Foundation has helped us raise funds and awareness among fans. do is volunteer-based, so it helps us attract more volunteers.

According to America’s VetDogs, it typically costs around $50,000 to raise, breed, train, and place a service dog. VetDogs services are provided free of charge to the recipient. Such partnerships not only provide financial assistance, but increase the likelihood that the well-socialized puppy will grow into a confident service dog.

“It’s really great for sports organizations to get involved in this project because there’s so much to see, smell and do different people,” said Tony Croslin, head of player relations and community involvement of the Mets. “It’s the perfect socialization environment for training service dogs.”

Shea’s popularity continues to grow with fans at Citi Field, but it’s the players who are anticipating his arrival more than anyone.

“I’ve always wanted a dog, but with our way of life, it can be tough,” reliever Drew Smith said. “Whether we had a tough game or a great game, seeing Shea definitely lifts the spirits of the team.”

Prior to becoming the team’s unofficial cheerleader, Shea was with the VetDogs for her first eight weeks. Tom and Deb Rubing of Manorville have been selected to be his puppy raisers for the next 14-16 months as he develops his foundational skills in what the Rubings call his “high school” upbringing.

“Shea is the perfect Mets dog,” said Tom Rubing. “He has just the right temperament, and you can clearly tell he enjoys being here.”

Shea will then graduate to enter her “college” education with trainers and learn specific commands based on the individual’s needs. He will likely go for an active and energetic veteran or first responder depending on his current training environment.

Shea will be paired with his new owner by July next year, and the team will hold an on-field graduation ceremony before a game in September, which is also National Service Dog month.

Says Miller, “Being at almost every home game provides him with the perfect atmosphere to be successful wherever he goes.”

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