There are dog lovers and then there are Mark and Jamie, who have taken this affection to another level, or in Jamie's case, a successful career in advocacy for canine rights, especially for dogs who don't have homes.
"I don't understand people who say they have kids and don't have time for their dogs anymore," said Jamie, during a recent interview at SoxFest. "I'll do anything for my dogs. The biggest thing is people have a choice where their life ends up. They can make decisions for the most part and better their life.
"Dogs don't have that choice. Animals in general don't have that voice. People abuse them, leave them in animal shelters, drop them on the side of the road and they have no voice to change it."
Jamie has made her voice heard loud and clear, from the Midwest all the way across the country. And Mark has used his fame in a highly positive manner, a pattern followed by so many charitable members of the White Sox organization, beginning at the top with chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
The Buehrles started a program known as "Sox for Strays," which hosts local animal rescue groups throughout the season at U.S. Cellular Field. They recorded public service announcements featuring dogs available for adoption, and many Chicago residents probably saw them prominently featured on a highway billboard for the Adopt a Pet program funded by Purina.
"Let 'em Steal Home. Adopt a Pet," reads the billboard, with the Buehrles' names underneath the cutline just to the right of a picture with their three dogs. Mark mentioned how they recently got David Backes of the St. Louis Blues to pose for a similar billboard.
"We are trying to get more athletes to do that in every city or every town," Mark said. "Pose with your pet or another pet, and say 'Adopt a pet.'"
"That's a website where all different rescues can post their dogs," added Jamie of the idea behind Adopt a Pet. "It makes it user friendly. You can go on the website, put in specifically the type of dog you want and the area, and it pulls up every shelter matching the dogs with that criteria around you. It's right at your fingertips."
Hope Rescues in Alton, Ill., not too far from the Buehrles' Missouri home, stands as another organization "near and dear" to Jamie, where she has frequently assisted and there are numerous more she works with in Chicago. She does a great deal of networking via e-mails and phone calls in trying to get dogs placed, and Mark will go with her when they visit shelters to simply walk dogs and give them a chance to exercise.
Each and every group appreciates the time and energy committed by the Buehrles, not just lip service being paid by a local celebrity. Of course, it doesn't hurt having a well-known athlete and dog lover such as Mark lending his face and name to a cause.
"Here's a very ethical and community-minded sports player, and it's important for him to put his name and reputation behind it," said Cynthia Bathurst, who is the director of the non-profit Safe Humane Chicago and is the director of Safe Humane for Best Friends Animal Society. "Clearly Jamie is fabulous, and goodness knows, she knows how to get things done.
"But this is not just Michael Vick, who did something bad and tries to tell someone not to do that. It's someone who believes in it and is willing to put his name behind it."
Although the Buehrles take the phrase "dog lovers" to another level, they have a clear understanding how not everyone in the world falls in this category. Jamie's contention then becomes very basic: Just don't buy a dog, especially if there's any chance you will end up abusing or abandoning it.
"Every time I think I've heard the worst story, another one comes about," Jamie said. "It makes me jaded and makes me lose faith in humanity some time because I don't understand how people can do that to innocent animals." That comment from Jamie carries a direct line to Vick, who was presented with the NFL's Comeback Player of the Year Award this past weekend. The Buehrles would not bestow any such honor on the Eagles quarterback.
Mark and Jamie received positive press this offseason for their act of charity in paying the approximately $3,000 in medical bills for a dog found abandoned with an arrow in its side on the Illinois/Missouri border. Jamie saw the post about the dog on Hope Rescues Facebook page, and figured it was one less thing for the group to worry about, knowing they would not turn away the animal.
Eighty people put in applications for that rescued dog nursed back to health. The dog ended up with a "wonderful house" in Chesterfield, Mo., according to Jamie. In the long run, Jamie has thought about running a rescue, but she knows her heart would be bigger than it should be and lead her to take in too many dogs.
"I'd be that person that gets in over my head and try to figure out what to do with all of them," Jamie said. "I can't say no. Maybe it's not the cutest dog to me, but it is to someone else and deserves to live."
When Mark retires, Jamie plans to volunteer even more in person along with her networking through e-mail and even Facebook. Until then, Jamie and Mark will take care of their four-legged "children" along with others not directly related to them who need the assistance.
"Dogs are like your kids," Mark said. "You cuddle with them when they are going to bed, and I think they are kind of like humans.
"I'm not a big cat guy, and I'm sure there are cat lovers out there. It's something about dogs. They connect to you and they bond with you. It's your buddy."