Shelter Dogs Serve As 'Ball Boys' At Brazil Open For Adoption Awareness

They worked hard and had an important mission.

03/01/2016 12:40 pm ET
ASSOCIATED PRESS
A dog picks up a tennis ball during the Brazil Open tournament in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday Feb. 25, 2016. The dog was one of four trained animals that engaged onlookers Thursday night by picking up balls that went out of bounds. Not long ago, the same dogs had run abandoned in Sao Paulo, Brazil’s biggest city. The unusual initiative was made to promote the adoption of abandoned street animals. (AP Photo/Leandro Martins)

Four former street dogs dutifully waited alongside the tennis court while two internationally ranked players participated in an exhibition match at the Brazil Open in Sao Paulo last week. The pups' job: to play ball boy and collect stray tennis balls.

As soon as a ball hit the net or bounced off the court, the dogs, Frida, Costela, Mel and Isabelle, leaped into action. They received more attention from onlookers than the players -- Roberto Carballes Baena of Spain and Gastao Elias of Portugal -- did.

ASSOCIATED PRESS
Portugal's Gastao Elias receives a ball from a dog during the Brazil Open tennis tournament in Sao Paulo, Brazil, Thursday, Feb. 25, 2016.

The shelter dogs, who previously ran the streets of Sao Paulo, had been trained for months for their role. Sometimes the players intentionally overlooked some of the balls so the audience could clap and cheer on the canines while they worked.

Frida, Costela, Mel and Isabelle also had a much more important job than collecting tennis balls and exciting the crowd -- they were there to raise awareness of animal adoption in Brazil.

"The idea is to show people that a well-fed and well-treated animal can be very happy. We have more than 1,000 dogs in our care," Marli Scaramella, the organizer of the initiative, told Fox News Latino. She said that all four ball dogs were currently residents in a Sao Paulo shelter.

Watch the dogs at work below:

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