A Guest Post from Abbi
Running. Itâ€™s one foot in front of another. The act of running doesnâ€™t seem that special. However, running can be a powerful tool to help mind, body and give back to others in need, all at the same time.
Throughout the course of training for my first marathon, I found a love for the mental part of the sport. Pushing beyond limits I had set up only in my own mind cultivated a sense of confidence that had been lacking. Training for a marathon also gives you plenty of alone time with your own thoughts to think about what is important in life.
Realizing that my mundane, uninspiring volunteer time of taking a few adoptable shelter dogs out for a 10 minute meandering around the perimeter of an animal shelter grounds seemed to be doing little for the dogâ€™s well-being or my own well-being, the idea formed to run with shelter dogs. The goal was help people stay motivated in their own exercise while doing something to truly help the mental and physical well-being for shelter animals who spend too much time inside a kennel. Dogs in animal shelters do not receive enough exercise and socialization which can impact their adoptability. With three rescue dogs of my own, I knew what running with a high energy dog could do for her mental well-being.
For two years, the idea brewed while I researched. In 2012, I found the right rescue partner and officially launched Miles and Mutts in rural south-central Pennsylvania. With a slow, controlled growth, the program started pairing dogs with volunteer runners.
The program is now a regular staple in our area. Once a week (more when the weather is nicer), groups runs are coordinated to take adoptable shelter dogs out for a run. All abilities, all paces, and all distances are welcomed. Volunteers take the dogs for as far as their own ability and the dogâ€™s ability allows. Tired, happy dogs go back to the shelter while a runner got his or her workout for the day. Win win for all involved.
Volunteers continue to show up to run with their favorite dog until they find a forever home and the bonds formed are wonderful to witness. The dogs experience a runnerâ€™s high that continues to take my breath away. Seeing an anxious, rambunctious dog who appears to be bouncing off the walls fall into a calm, relaxed breath perfectly in pace beside you is a special moment that one has to witness to understand. Itâ€™s a state that can only happen in a run, not a quick walk.
Miles and Mutts is not a unique program, and itâ€™s my goal to help spread awareness for other groups out there while Miles and Mutts continues to grow. If running with a shelter dog sounds like your type of activity, check out the list of programs compiled so far: Do You Want to Run With a Shelter Dog?
Miles and Mutts is located in rural south central Pennsylvania, but there are many programs around the country.
Do you run with your mutt? Who runs faster â€“ you or your dog? This is Caitlin again â€“ I like to take my pups on long walks, but both are too little and low-energy to do much running. It would be fun to have a doggie running buddy!