WATCH: Four shelter animals act as 'ball dogs' at Brazil Open

The dogs were trained to retrieve and - reluctantly - return tennis balls to promote awareness in São Paulo

Dogs, São Paulo, Brazil, Brazil Open, Tennis, Ball Dogs

Portugal's Gastao Elias receives a ball from a dog during the Brazil Open tennis tournament [AP Photo/Leandro Martins]

Four abandoned dogs in São Paulo, Brazil, have mastered a new trick, becoming the ‘ball dogs’ at an exhibition game at a tennis match during the Brazil Open last month. Sporting orange bandanas, Frida, Mel, Isabelle, and Costela were trained to retrieve and deliver the match balls on the clay court.

Running around the court and reluctantly returning the tennis balls to the players, the ‘ball dog’ project was masterminded by the Brazilian Association of Animal Wellbeing.

“We wanted to show that abandoned dogs can be adopted and trained,” said Andrea Beckert, one of the trainers. “After all, it’s not easy to get a dog to only pick up the lost balls, and then to give them up!”

The animal shelter is currently home to 1,200 abandoned dogs, including the four who took part in the tennis game. Costela, which is the Portuguese word for ‘rib’ earned his name because of the pitiable state in which he was left.

“We found him abandoned in an empty lot. He was so skinny and ravaged by ticks that we called him Costela,” Beckert said.

You can watch a video of the four dogs, as well as Spain’s Roberto Carballes Baena and Portugal’s Gastao Elias, taking part in the match below:

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