BRIDGEWATER, NJ- Somerset Patriots mascot Sparkee has been slappin' high fives with the team's front office personnel since last week when he and team Chairman Steve Kalafer were presented the Somerset County 4-H K9 Dano Award at the 4-H center here on Milltown Road.

The K9 Dano Award is given annually to Somerset County businesses or residents that have gone above and beyond in their treatment of animals.

“We are truly honored to receive the K9 Dano Award,” said Kalafer. “The Somerset Patriots take pride in hosting events during the season to allow fans to bring their dogs to the ballpark to enjoy America’s favorite pastime with the entire family. These special nights have brought awareness to different animal-related charities and have helped find pets new homes through adoptions.

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"We are all proud to receive this award, especially our favorite dog Sparkee, who was one of Dano’s long-time pals,” Kalafer added.

Each year the team hosts special "Bark in the Park" events that coincide with regularly-scheduled games. Fans are invited to bring their dogs to the ballpark, and service dog training agencies are invited to bring their dogs-in-training to become acquainted and comfortable with people in a crowd setting.

A familiar sight on the ballpark's concourse during the season are trainers from two clubs, the Seeing Eye Puppy Raisers of Hunterdon County and Somerset County.

The Patriots have scheduled three Bark in the Park events at the ballpark for the upcoming 2018 season on Tuesday, June 26; Monday, July 23 and Tuesday, Aug.28.

K9 Dano was a Somerset County Sheriff’s Office police dog from 2002 to 2014. On Aug.13, 2013, former Gov. Chris Christie signed “Dano’s Law” to protect all law enforcement animals from death threats. Dano was the first animal in New Jersey history to have a law bearing his name.

K9 Dano passed away at the age of 13 in December of 2014 and was inducted into the New Jersey Animal Hall of Fame in 2015. His legacy lives on with the K9 Dano Award presented by the Somerset County 4-H.

“I want to personally thank Steve Kalafer and the Somerset Patriots for promoting dog and cat adoptions at the ballpark numerous times a year. They are a champion to our community,” said Tim Pino, Retired K9 Unit Commander and K9 Dano's handler.

Previous award winners were the Somerset Regional Animal Shelter in Bridgewater (2015) and the United States Equestrian Team in Gladstone (2016).