Air Bud dogs visit students

Two famous pups taught the students at a local high school a valuable lesson: You can teach an old dog new tricks with a lot of practice.

Buddy and Brutus, the sons of the famous golden retriever Buddy, who starred in 13 “Air Bud” movies, put on a special show at Northeastern High School on Tuesday.

While he’s reached international fame for his athletic abilities, Buddy had an auspicious beginning. A scraggly, dirty stray found in the Sierra Nevada mountains in 1989, it took six years to train the dog how to shoot a basketball — a special talent highlighted in the first “Air Bud” movie, said Kevin di Cicco, who adopted and trained Buddy.

“When I would shoot a basket, he would bite at it and his canines would punch it out of his teeth,” di Cicco said.”There were a lot of times he didn’t make the basket.”

And as the students learned, many deflated balls. In the assembly, Brutus enthusiastically popped two balls and never did make it in the hoop. But that didn’t keep him from trying — an example of hard work sophomore Amanda Raber found inspirational.

“When you’re shooting a basketball, sometimes it just doesn’t make it at all, but other times you have a good day,” she said.

“I think the kids can learn, that regardless of the outcome, is that you continue to do the best that you can,” di Cicco said.

Beyond basketball, the two dogs have also mastered playing hockey, football and soccer. Ten students and the principal each tested the dog’s soccer goalie skills, but couldn’t get the ball past Brutus. It was a challenge sophomore Paris Vernatter said he never expected.

“I didn’t think he’d be able to achieve it,” Vernatter said of the dog. “It was pretty cool seeing a dog like that.”

English teacher Sally Haemmerle, who asked di Cicco to bring his dogs to the school after meeting him at the Columbus Zoo this past weekend, said she plans to teach his new book, “Go Buddy! The Air Bud Story,” in her class.

“The story is a story of perseverance. It’s a story of determination,” Haemmerle said.

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