The golden retriever standing with the North Carolina baseball team for the national anthem isn’t a mascot. Remington, or simply “Remi,” as the dog is called by the players, is a teammate — and an important one at that.
Technically known as a “psychiatric medical alert facility rehabilitation service dog,” the 2-year-old pup was brought to the team by athletic trainer Terri Jo Rucinski to assist players recovering from surgery. According to junior outfielder Brian Miller, who had surgery last fall, the canine therapy worked.
“All my rehab was taught and done through Terri Jo and obviously Remi was with her every day,” Miller told UNC’s website in March. “Being injured isn’t really the most fun thing to go through so it was definitely fun to have Remi there with me.”
Remington joined the team in August after going through years of rigorous training where he learned more than 100 commands. Remington can even “read,” according to the university, which reports Remington follows commands written on cue cards.
While Remington’s main duty is to help struggling teammates regain their strength and confidence, the dog helps wherever he can on the field. For instance, according to Rucinski, Remington carries balls in a bucket out to the umpire before games. He also holds a hat or glove in his mouth for the national anthem. And while Remington can’t open a bottle of Gatorade, he can open the fridge allowing players easy access.
“This is the first time I’ve ever had a dog or any sort of assistance dog helping out with any team I’ve been a part of,” Miller added. “It’s like a bond that I have with any of my teammates really.”
Remington, who is the only service dog specifically assigned to an ACC team, helped the Tar Heels go 47-12 in the regular season, which earned them the second-overall seed in this year’s NCAA tournament that begins on Friday. North Carolina will host Davidson, and if it wins, it’ll be one step closer to the College World Series in Omaha, where Remington would likely join the Tar Heels.