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Positively Peppered with Peppy Pups

The Sounders debuted their new “Pups at the Pitch” experience and it was pup-tastic

Maisie was very proud of his dad Jordan Morris, even though he didn’t win.
Sounders FC

Some games we remember long after we give our 90 for the goals, the comebacks, the heartbreak, or the sweet-savory feeling of drowning a rival under a sea of offense for a massive “6-pointer” victory. Others are more memorable for the personal mundane moments: a rekindled friendship over drinks before the match, an evening spent with a co-worker who quickly becomes a friend, or perhaps a picturesque sunset with the scent of the Sound on the wind that reminds you of the beauty of our region.

For the estimated 250 or so pups and their owners and extended family at the match for the Seattle Sounders’ inaugural (and annual? semi-annual?) “Pups at the Pitch” match, the memories that will be taken away from a pup-tastic experience will not be focused on what happened on the pitch.

Before I jump into our Pups at the Pitch experience, I have to come clean. I do not have a dog. I do have two cats and had a dog growing up, but my wife and I are currently dogless at our Seattle apartment. We were fortunate enough to be able to enjoy this match along with her brother, his wife and their rambunctious and cute dog Frankie, who drove down all the way from Bellingham just for the weeknight match (not Frankie, she’s still learning). And don’t worry, I am happy to pay the dog tax.

The whole experience was a blast. Tickets were easy to grab from the Sounders’ website, though you had to go through a specific link to find them (They were at: Soundersfc.com/pups). Tickets were $25, plus taxes and fees, with separate tickets required for each human and dog and at least one human per dog. Purchasers were required to agree to certain legal requirements such as a release of liability for the Sounders and Lumen Field and that dogs are vaccinated and will be kept on a leash, but it was an easy and straightforward process.

We parked nearby around 5:45 PM with plenty of time to wander to Occidental Ave for pre-match Seattle dogs. Frankie was extremely excited and perhaps a little overstimulated with the crowds, trying to smell everything and everyone. At first, it seemed like there weren’t many dogs, though as the match approached and we got closer to the NE entrance, it became hard to not see the dogs approaching from all directions.

There were dogs of all kinds. We met a big fluffy samoyed, labs of various temperaments and color, huskies and malamutes, corgis, chihuahuas, labradoodles, at least one sheepadoodle, and two of the cutest frenchies you’ll ever see. There were also a couple of state trooper “K-9s” patrolling Occidental that were markedly less behaved than you would expect or hope from a trained working dog, but that’s a whole other issue.

The northeast corner of the north plaza was turned into the pups-exclusive beer garden, complete with a DJ, cornhole, water dishes, toys and of course plenty of green space for zoomies and potty time. Pups were still required to be on-leash, which was understandable but disappointing. I think a lot of the pups saw tons of potential new friends and wanted to roam, but the area just was not set up for it. It was a great area for people to gather and mingle, too.

The Humane Society was also passing around pups that were up for adoption, some of the smallest and cutest things you’ve ever seen (they appeared for the “Scarves Up!” announcement at the beginning of the match). The dog below is a husky-pit bull mix whose name I cannot recall.

Woman in Kulshan Brewery baseball-style hat and black shirt holding small, immensely cute puppy with white and light brown coloring that has its paws up on her shoulder and is looking wistfully up at the sky.
Alice Hobbs with one of the puppies from Seattle Humane Society

We enjoyed drinks, pups and zoomies time then climbed up to the 300-level to our seats. Upstairs they had a “relief” area for the dogs (a rectangle of turf with room for multiple dogs at once), a concessions stand open with more drinks and hot dogs, and water stations for everyone.

The dogs and humans spread out on the “lodge” seating, the bottom 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 on top of the seats, but there was enough space for everyone.

The best moment of the match came early, with Morris’s crafty shot finding the back post. Us upper deck fans were as loud as those in the lower bowl, including the three Sounder pups in attendance, who all started barking and howling louder than anyone else to celebrate along. I know because I was sitting just in front of Maisie and crew, and I waved back at Morris when he was waving up at Maisie, thinking he was just waving to the fans with dogs in general. I sheepishly sat down when I realized who he was really waving to.

The best part of the game was perhaps the camaraderie with fellow fans, happy to swap dog tales and meet each other’s furry friends. It was a special event for everyone, able to bring family members to the match who had never been allowed to attend before. It was a joy to take part in the event, with everyone seeming to enjoy a nice summer evening out at the park.

There were a few accidents of course. We saw a couple of unscheduled pee breaks on the ramps going up to and down from the seats, but likely nothing those ramps haven’t seen before. There were a few dogs who might have been a little rough playing with other pups, and a few kids startled by large pups coming in for licks or sniffs, but nothing we saw that was serious. And no wayward poop in the stadium, which seemed a victory (from what we saw at least). Overall, it seemed a great success — besides the scoreline, of course.

Personally, I know the memory I will hold from this match in years to come will be sitting with Sophie in my wife’s lap, eagerly soaking up attention from two strangers she’d never met before, getting to know her owners. Sophie climbed up on the seat in front of us and practically begged to come meet us in the row behind, and we couldn’t refuse her big brown eyes.

Kaitlin and Andrew Tingkang (the author and wife) with Sophie the french bulldog sitting in Kaitlin’s lap as Andrew scratches her chin. Andrew and Sophie are wearing matching Jimi Hendrix Sounders kits. Sophie’s were hand-made by her owner! Tyler Flowers

I think Sophie had a great time. A frenchie on the lap is probably mundane for many people, but these unexpected moments and connections are what lives are made from. Getting to experience them together with fellow fans and dog families was a special experience. Plus, look at Sophie’s and Jax’s kits! They were hand-made by their mother!

Despite the loss, this was still one of my personal favorite matches I’ve been to since the inaugural match. I know the Mariners have been doing a similar “dogs at the park” sort of match for some time, and they have another one coming in August. It was a lot of fun for the Sounders to join in and hopefully a proof-of-concept for how the Reign might implement a similar match in the future? Please? I certainly had a pup-tastic time and will hopefully be back at another, maybe with a pup of our own next time.

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