Some games we remember long after giving our 90s for goals, comebacks, heartbreak or the sweet-salty feeling of drowning a rival in a sea of attack for a massive ‘6-point’ victory. Others are more memorable for mundane personal moments: a rekindled friendship over a pregame drink, an evening spent with a colleague who quickly becomes a friend, or perhaps a picturesque sunset with the scent of sound. on the wind that reminds you of the beauty of our region.
For the estimated 250 or so puppies and their owners and extended families at the Seattle Sounders’ inaugural (and annual? Semi-annual?) “Pups at the Pitch” game, the memories that will be taken away from a pup- the experience tastic will not be centered on what happened on the ground.
Before I jump into our Pups at the Pitch experience, I have to tell the truth. I do not have a dog. I have two cats and had a dog growing up, but my wife and I are currently without a dog in our Seattle apartment. We were lucky enough to be able to enjoy this game with his brother, his wife and their rambunctious and cute dog Frankie, who came over from Bellingham just for the week’s game (not Frankie, she’s still learning). And don’t worry, I’m happy to pay the dog tax.
The whole experience was awesome. Tickets were easy to pick up on the Sounders website, although you had to go through a specific link to find them (they were at: Soundersfc.com/pups). Tickets were $25 plus tax and fees, with separate tickets required for each human and dog and at least one human per dog. Buyers had to agree to certain legal requirements such as a liability waiver for Sounders and Lumen Field and that dogs be vaccinated and leashed, but it was a simple and straightforward process.
We parked nearby around 5:45 p.m. with enough time to walk down Occidental Ave for the pre-game Seattle dogs. Frankie was extremely excited and maybe a little over-stimulated by the crowd trying to feel everything and everyone. At first it seemed like there weren’t many dogs but as the game got closer and we got closer to the NE entrance it became difficult to not see the dogs approaching from all directions.
There were dogs of all kinds. We encountered a large fluffy samoyed, labs of varying temperaments and colors, huskies and malamutes, corgis, chihuahuas, labradoodles, at least one sheepadoodle and two of the cutest frenchies you’ve ever seen. There were also a few “K-9” State Troopers patrolling the Western who were significantly worse behaved than you would expect or hope for from a trained working dog, but that’s a whole another problem.
The northeast corner of the North Square has been transformed into an exclusive beer garden for puppies, complete with a DJ, cornhole, water dishes, toys and of course plenty of green space for zooms and the potty. Puppies always had to be on a leash which was understandable but disappointing. I think a lot of the puppies saw tons of potential new friends and wanted to go for a walk, but the area just wasn’t set up for it. It was also a great place for people to congregate and mingle.
The Humane Society was also circulating puppies for adoption, some of the tiniest and cutest things you’ve ever seen (they appeared for the “Scarves Up!” ad at the start of the game). The dog below is a husky-pit-bull mix whose name I can’t remember.
We enjoyed drinks, pups, and zooms, then climbed up to level 300 to our seats. Upstairs, they had a dog “relief” area (a rectangle of grass with room for multiple dogs at a time), an open concession stand with more drinks and hot dogs, and water points for everyone.
Dogs and humans spread out on the “lodge” seats, the lower four or five rows of the upper deck, between sections 300 and 305. The seats were crowded with dogs wanting to crawl under, over and over the seats, but there was enough room for everyone.
The best moment of the match came early, with Morris’ shrewd shot finding the back post. We fans on the upper deck were as loud as those on the lower bowl, including the three Sounder puppies in attendance, who all started barking and howling louder than anyone else in celebration. I know because I was sitting right in front of Maisie and her team, and I waved at Morris when he was waving Maisie, thinking he was just waving at fans with dogs in general. I sat down shyly when I realized who he was really waving at.
Perhaps the best part of the game was the camaraderie with fellow fans, happy to swap dog stories and meet each other’s furry friends. It was a special event for everyone, able to bring family members to the game who had never been allowed to attend before. It was a joy to participate in the event, everyone seemed to be enjoying a beautiful summer evening at the park.
Of course, there were a few accidents. We saw a few unplanned pee breaks on the ramps going up and down the seats, but probably nothing these ramps haven’t seen before. There were a few dogs that might have been a bit rough to play with other puppies, and a few kids surprised by big puppies coming in to get licked or sniffed, but nothing we saw was serious. And no wayward pooping in the stadium, which seemed like a win (from what we saw at least). All in all, it seemed like a great success – besides the score, of course.
Personally, I know that my fondest memory of this match for years to come will be sitting with Sophie on my wife’s lap, eagerly absorbing the attention of two strangers she had never met before. , getting to know its owners. Sophie climbed into the seat in front of us and practically begged to join us in the row behind, and we couldn’t refuse her big brown eyes.
I think Sophie had fun. A Frenchie on your lap is probably commonplace for many people, but these unexpected moments and connections are what life is all about. Discovering them with other fans and dog families was a special experience. Plus, check out Sophie and Jax’s kits! They were handcrafted by their mother!
Despite the loss, it was still one of my favorite games since the inaugural game. I know the Mariners have been having a similar “dogs in the park” game for a while, and they’re having another one in August. It was great fun for the Sounders to participate and hopefully a proof of concept on how the Reigns could implement a similar match in the future? Please? I certainly had a fantastic time and hope to be back for another one, maybe with a pup of our own next time.