CHICAGO — In each picture he saw, Cole Irvin was reminded of his own dogs, and the countless dogs he and his wife have fostered over the years. He scrolled through Instagram about 20 minutes before first pitch Friday night and was deeply moved by what he saw.


He stared at the pictures, which included a mother Yorkie and her pups in a crate, and then dialed his phone.

“Hey, we need to do something,” the Orioles left-handed pitcher told his wife, Kristen Beat. “We need to make an impact.”

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Beat immediately was onboard. She and Irvin own five rescue dogs, and their first and oldest, Rocky, is 18. They foster rescues and work with the Yorkie Rescue of the Carolinas and American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. They even rescued a pregnant horse and care for her rapidly growing foal.

The Orioles were about to play a game, but these animals needed help. Irvin commented on the post: “If you need a ‘weekly’ foster, I definitely can make it happen!” And then he and Beat began to plot their next steps.

“Most shelters are already at capacity, so imagine a shelter then in a position where they have to intake 83 dogs,” Beat said.

“We’ve seen dogs come into our home that have looked exactly like those photos did,” Irvin said. “You’d be surprised, with just a little bit of work, a little bit of time, a little bit of money, how much you can change that dog’s life.”

Irvin and Beat started by donating $3,000 to Baltimore Animal Rescue and Care Shelter for the immediate medical care of the 83 dogs and one cat. Once the dogs pass through a mandatory hold, Irvin and Beat plan to donate another $3,000.

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The animals, rescued Thursday by Baltimore’s Animal Control and brought to BARCS for medical attention, were living in a rowhome in Northwest Baltimore. They were stacked in crates, one atop the other, and covered in excrement and insects. Officials said the rowhome had such dismal air quality that it was difficult to breathe.

It was a puppy mill.

According to BARCS officials, the former owner of the animals was breeding and selling the puppies for $800 to $1,500. The information haunted Irvin and Beat, passionate animal lovers who volunteer routinely.

“Cole and I are both just trying to create as much awareness as we possibly can, financially help as much as we can with donations to the shelters the dogs are going to and to the Baltimore Animal Rescue, because right now they’re setting up triage to try to help some of these dogs they’re bringing in,” Beat said. “And then also just trying to create awareness about the horrors inside puppy mills and hoard houses.”

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Beat continued: “The more that people continue to support that kind of breeding, that kind of unintentional breeding where people are just trying to turn a quick buck and don’t care about the mom or don’t care about the future health of the puppy, that’s wrong. And that’s what me and Cole are trying so hard to advocate against, and to create more awareness.”

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Beat, a sports broadcaster, lives in North Carolina. Irvin is in the middle of a hectic season with the Orioles, playing this weekend in Chicago. But Beat filled out a to-do list for Irvin to complete once he returns to Baltimore that includes buying special sensitive-stomach Purina food. Beat hopes Irvin can help shuttle dogs to vet appointments on his off day Thursday.

Irvin said he’s happy to watch a dog next week while the Orioles are home. If he needs to, with the Orioles’ permission, he’d bring it with him to Camden Yards. And eventually, when the dogs are cleared for adoption, Beat and Irvin hope to shepherd some to their partners in North Carolina to provide strong foster homes.

And maybe some of those fosters would wind up falling in love with the dog themselves and adopting it, what shelters lightheartedly refer to as a “foster fail.”

Kristen Beat and Cole Irvin have adopted multiple dogs over the years. Here are: Hank, Rocky, Sissy and Candy. (Photos courtesy of Irvin family)

“In our opinion, some of the best good work you guys can do in your local community is just being a home for these dogs,” Beat said. “Whether you end up foster-failing like me and Cole or down the road adopting them yourself, just making yourself available to open your home to an animal that needs a home, because right now, unfortunately, most shelters are just overcrowded right now.”

Irvin has talked with right-hander Kyle Bradish, too, about visiting BARCS to provide support in any way that’s necessary. Irvin is always an ardent supporter of rescue animals, but this case hits particularly close to his heart.

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When he and Beat were in Philadelphia as Irvin pitched for the Phillies, they adopted their first dog together. Rocky was overlooked by many as a small, run-down dog. But Beat chose him partly for that reason — of all the dogs in need, Rocky, already a senior, seemed to need it most.

“When I was maybe 15, 16, when we had hunting dogs and medium-sized dogs, I wouldn’t have ever thought I’d have small dogs and love them as much as I do,” Irvin said. “But, oh my gosh, I’m obsessed with our Yorkies and our dogs at home.”

Rocky, a blind and deaf four-pound Yorkie, started a string of further adoptions, some of which were foster fails. Their latest addition to the family on a full-time basis is Gracie May, a Shih Tzu mix that was near death when a neighbor found it in the yard.

She underwent an emergency surgery and months of medication, and slowly warmed to people — slowly.

“After six months [of meet and greets], Cole and I were just like, we’re keeping her,” Beat said. “We’re not going to put her through this anymore. At this point, she’s home.”

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Gracie May is with Rocky, Sissy, Candy and Hankie. She’s around two people who love her. All those months of hard work with Gracie May and others turned into such sweet reward, and Irvin remembered them all when he saw the photos of the 83 rescued dogs at BARCS.

There was a game to be played in 20 minutes. But, first, there were animals in need. He had a phone call to make, a plan to set in motion.

“Cole was actually the one who initiated all of this,” Beat said. “Now, if I end up with 84 more dogs in the backyard, this one’s going to be on him.”

Beat wouldn’t really mind that outcome, though, if it meant they were healthy and safe.

Andy Kostka is an Orioles beat writer for The Baltimore Banner. He previously covered the Orioles for The Baltimore Sun. Kostka graduated from the University of Maryland and grew up in Rockville.

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