Verlander, K. Upton find forever homes for dogs

Co-hosts hold third annual Grand Slam Pet Adoption before Tigers' spring game

Verlander, K. Upton find forever homes for dogs

LAKELAND, Fla. -- The Tigers have had a month at Joker Marchant Stadium to get ready to take the field again. Their guests Saturday couldn't have waited that long.

Perry, a 3-year-old poodle up for adoption, was excited enough at Saturday's Grand Slam Pet Adoption that he was standing on his hind legs to greet anyone who stooped down to say hello. He had three interested suitors before he stepped on the field, where his small accident coaxed a laugh from the crowd watching.

Charlie, a 4-year-old Boston Terrier mix, was much calmer but clearly loved the attention as Tigers players, stadium workers and passers-by fell for the kind eyes. Soon enough, Tigers pitcher Justin Verlander and supermodel Kate Upton, Verlander's fiancée, gave him a hug.

Chiclet, a tiny Chiahuahua, was small enough for Verlander's father, Richard, to easily cradle, but big enough to catch the attention of Justin Upton's young daughter Sydnee. She would reach out from a distance, only to bring her hand back in when the dog would sniff. Eventually she felt comfortable enough to pet it.

Twenty-three dogs and counting had a chance to not only roam right field at the ballpark, but ideally find a forever home. The annual event, co-hosted by Verlander and Upton for three years running, helps raise awareness for the benefits of pet adoption through SPCA Florida as well as the K9's for Warriors project that finds companion animals for veterans dealing with the effects of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Traumatic Brain Injury from recent military service. So far, 23 dogs have been adopted from the event, according to an SPCA spokesperson.

One such dog on display was Mac, a golden retriever who had just been connected with a needy home.

"It was a great event, obviously some great causes," said Verlander, who tossed five scoreless innings in the split-squad Tigers' 5-4 win over the Marlins after the event. "I think as with any event, it's growing and getting better and better. It seemed like it was a big step up this year, and it's exciting to be a part of."

Both causes are close to Verlander's heart. He grew up in a military family and founded the Wins for Warriors foundation years ago to help veterans who faced trauma adjust to life back home. He also grew up around dogs.

"I had dogs since I was born," Verlander said, "and I adopted my current dog when I was in college, my sophomore year. He's still kicking. He's doing good."

That dog is Riley. When Verlander and Upton became a couple, he also became part-caretaker of her dog, Harley, who has become somewhat famous through Verlander's Instagram posts.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.