Dog plays soccer with students at UA Mall
Gabriela Diaz / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Ryder is a three-year-old American bulldog/boxer mix who practices soccer on the UA Mall. Ryder can dribble, score and steal the soccer ball from players. His owner’s goal is to have Ryder play soccer with the UA soccer team.
UA students are getting a kick out of a soccer playing canine.
Sit, stay and roll over are major accomplishments for dogs in the eyes of most pet owners, but Ryder, a three-year-old American bulldog / boxer mix, made these tricks look mundane when he mastered the art of soccer.
With a slobbery 10 inch tire gripped tightly between his teeth, this energetic pup can dribble, score and steal a soccer ball from experienced players. Ryder even earned second place for “best trick” at the annual Pitbullooza last October, an event that celebrates and promotes responsible dog ownership, sponsored by the organization Pit n’ Proud.
Now, he brushes up on his skills on the UA Mall and serves as the mascot for the Tucson Mountain SFC league, a youth soccer program.
Ryder had been playing “catch the tire” for more than a year when, during a typical game of catch, four guys showed up kicking a soccer ball around and Ryder seemed mesmerized, said Dave “Dogbreath” Dennis, Ryder’s owner and a small business owner.
“The whole soccer thing was an accident,” Dennis said, “When the ball came near him, he went over and bumped the ball with the tire in his mouth.”
Dennis, never having been a soccer player himself, helped his dog to acquire the basic skills of soccer.
“He likes to learn more every day. I could teach him more if I had more stuff to teach him,” Dennis said. “He is really smart. He just wants to play and learn.”
Sean Gundu, a freshman majoring in pre-computer science, and soccer player, witnessed Ryder’s skills during a 30-minute impromptu game on the Mall.
“It was beautiful. He got me really tired. If he was a human being, he would be a good defensive player because he was really good,” Gundu said. “I tried a couple tricks and couldn’t go past him sometimes.”
Trevor Fernandez, a pre-business freshman, also joined Ryder and Gundu as they passed around the soccer ball.
“It’s like the movie ‘Air Bud.’ He was the cutest dog I’ve ever seen in my life,” Fernandez said. “I’ve never seen a dog play soccer.”