The New York Mets may have fallen out of the playoff race, but Coffee, the panhandling pooch that fans pose for pictures with before every game at Citi Field, remains in championship form as we head down the stretch.
Anyone who has gone to a Mets game over the last two years knows Coffee. The dog sits quietly outside the Citi Field entrance, sporting sunglasses, a hat, a pipe and a New York Mets jersey.
The dog is so cute that its owner, Norberto Fernandez, reportedly makes an average of 75 dollars per game in tips from fans who pose for pictures with him.
Shock Collar or Ice Collar?
Trotting out Coffee to Citi Field seemed innocent enough, until fans spotted the dog wearing a shock collar, apparently to keep him calm around the thousands of fans walking into the stadium.
According to a huffingtonpost.com report, the owner of the dog said the shock collar is nothing but a place to put ice to keep the dog cool.
I must admit I find that story to be a bit on the fishy side. Any time I've gone to Citi Field and spotted Coffee, I was struck by how calm and collected he was, despite the hundreds of fans taking pictures with him. He never barked, not even once.
He always stayed perfectly still and stared off into the distance. He also remained upright and never laid down. A shock collar would definitely explain why the dog would be fearful of barking or moving around.
"Stop Abusing Coffee" Facebook Page
Some Mets fans were so upset by the sight of Coffee sitting out in the heat with no rest or water that they started a Facebook group, "Stop Abusing Coffee," which tallied close to 9,000 "likes" since its inception last year.
"Coffee the dog that is forced to sit outside of Citi Field before, during & after EVERY Mets home game needs to stop being abused," the page reads. "This dirtbag of an owner has abused this dog non stop for years & uses the dog to make money. HORRIBLE. WE ALSO HAVE CONCRETE PROOF THAT COFFEE IS FORCED TO WEAR A SHOCK COLLAR during her time at Citi Field & Yankees Stadium with no water or rest."
I pass by Coffee every time I go to Citi Field, as he sits right by the exit of the 7 train. It's hard to not spot him, as he usually has a long line of fans posing for photos with him.
The dog appears to be content and well-fed. I don't see any signs of suffering, but of course, the presence of a shock collar would make for a whole different ballgame. The owner says the shock collar is just an "ice collar," while some Mets fans think the dog is actually getting shocked.
As long as the Mets and the ASPCA stays on top of the situation, I'm content with whatever decision is made. "We will continue to monitor the situation and remain prepared to take appropriate action, as warranted," the organization said in a statement last year.
Even after that report came out, Coffee was still spotted at the game and continues to pose for photos in 2012. Since the ASPCA said last year that they will keep on top of the situation, and since Coffee is still allowed to appear at Citi Field as of late-July, 2012, it appears that no signs of animal cruelty were found.
Is it cute for Coffee to be at Citi Field, or is this a case of animal cruelty? Let me know in the comments.
Eric Holden is a lifelong New York Mets fan. Follow him on Twitter @ericholden.