02/13/2013 05:48 EST | Updated 04/15/2013 05:12 EDT

Jays' Buehrle at camp with family, dogs but will be solo when season opens

DUNEDIN, Fla. - Mark Buehrle just wishes you could meet his dog Slater.

"He's awesome with our kids. He's awesome when we have parties over at the house," the Blue Jays pitcher explained Wednesday. "Kids run right in, 'Where's Slater, where's Slater?' Every kid wants to go right to him.

"He's an awesome dog. That's what's a shame. Just the way he looks is why we get separated. He's probably the best dog we have."

Buehrle, 33, is making the most of spring training because wife Jamie, children Braden and Brooklyn, and Slater plus three other dogs are with him.

But when the season starts, Buehrle will be moving to Toronto solo.

That's because of Ontario's pit bull ban. The Buehrle family got round a similar ban in Miami by living in an adjoining county when he played for the Marlins.

"At the beginning it was (tough). Just realizing the family wasn't going to be able to be there ... But we're trying to bring awareness to the breed ban. Some families aren't as fortunate as we are, to be able to maintain two houses."

Buehrle, whose four-year contact is worth US$58 million, stressed he will see his family during the season.

"I don't want to make it a big story all year. I mean it does suck, the family's not going to be there. But guys go through it, guys deal with it. We're going to deal with it, we're going to make it work. I'll see my dogs whenever I can."

His family will split time between Miami and their off-season home in St. Louis.

The Buehrles have four dogs: Slater and three vizslas. His wife got Slater from an animal rescue shelter a day before he was slated to be put down.

"People who don't own dogs are not going to understand," he said. "You're leaving your family behind, your kids over a dog. But we're responsible pet owners."

He said Marlins teammate Juan Pierre was "terrified of dogs" but was won over by Buehrle's pets.

"I know people are scared of them and are freaked out but it's not really the dogs, it's mostly the owners," Buehrle said of pit bulls. "If you're going to tie your dog up out back and treat it bad, then it's going to act bad back to you."

Manager John Gibbons was sympathetic.

"They'll survive, but it won't be easy. But we sure are glad to have him. He's going to be a big pitcher for us."

Josh Johnson, who came over in the blockbuster trade from Miami with Buehrle, joked he might open up a bedroom for his fellow pitcher.

"That's terrible, but it's part of the game. He's got to find a way to get through it."