- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 4, 2019

If you want a friend in Washington, the saying goes, get a dog.

That old saw is meant as a comment on the city’s cutthroat politics. But, take it from the animal-loving contingent of the Washington Nationals: Life is just better with a pet, whether you’re running for Congress or running the bases.

The Nationals’ Max Scherzer and his wife Erica are among the players, wives, girlfriends, kids and coaches featured in a splashy new charity calendar showcasing ballplayers and their furry friends.

The 16-month Washington Nationals 2020 Pet Calendar, on sale now, runs from September 2019 through December 2020, and is part of a fundraising and awareness effort on behalf of the D.C.-based Humane Rescue Alliance.

The Scherzers appear in the calendar with their four dogs — Bo, GiGi, Rafi and Rocco — along with other players, like Patrick Corbin, Sean Doolittle, Anthony Rendon, Brian Dozier, Jeremy Hellickson and Ryan Zimmerman and their pets.

Other Nationals are shown with animals available for adoption — including Anibal Sanchez, who posed with Jay the rabbit.

Folks involved in the calendar say much of the credit for the project goes to the Scherzers.

The couple has been involved with the HRA since 2016, when Erica Scherzer met David Smith, the nonprofit’s chief communications officer, at a Nationals game.

Erica Scherzer grew up around animals, caring for as many as nine kittens at a time, all of them rescues. Her parents encouraged her to volunteer with animal welfare groups as a kid and the cause remains an important part of her life.

Nationals executive Shawn Bertani, the team’s executive director of player and community relations, said the Scherzers were the project’s driving force.

“It was really Erica and Max that had the idea,” Bertani said. “They are very dedicated to the cause of humane rescue, for all animals.”

Max Scherzer, the ace of the Nationals pitching staff, said his wife deserves the praise. “I have to give Erica all of the credit for what she puts into it,” he said. “She is on the [Humane Rescue Alliance] board and involved in so many things.

“It is a way for us to give to the community and … I think everyone can connect with having a dog. We just try to do it in the best way possible for the community. All four of my dogs are from the shelter. I could not have four better dogs,” he said

The calendar, $20 at the Main Team Store at Nationals Park or available online, gave the team’s dog owners a chance to show how important their animals are in their own lives.

“I think it’s awesome, because obviously they need a home and there’s a special connection that you have, that you get with a rescue,” said Doolittle, the team’s closer. “It’s almost like they know they’re getting a second chance.”

Zimmerman said he and his family love their rescue dog.

“I think the adoption process and just the calendar and raising money and you know, it’s such a good thing for the animals,” said Zimmerman.

“There are plenty of pets that need good homes that are in shelters that otherwise, who knows what’s going to happen to those guys,” the team’s first baseman said.

“We got Linus when he was four months or five months old. So, we’ve kinda had him since he was a puppy and he’s, he’s such an awesome dog. It’s, it’s fun to have him around and we really have enjoyed the experience.,” Zimmerman said.

The HRA, established in 2016 with the merger of the Washington Humane Society and the Washington Animal Rescue League, places about 400 animals with families each month.

Board member Erica Scherzer said the nonprofit’s mission is to “protect animals, support families and advocate for positive change.”

Proceeds from the calendar go to veterinary care, natural disaster support and pet supplies for those in need, among other things.

All the effort on behalf of animals is worth it, said Dozier, who appears in the calendar with his dog, Pickle.

“It just brings so much happiness to your life and a person without a dog or an animal that they love can’t really relate to it,” said Dozier, the team’s second baseman. “I think there’s a reason why dog spelled backwards is God.”

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