A Guest Post from Abbi
Running. It’s one foot in front of another. The act of running doesn’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 dog’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 dog’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 runner’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. It’s a state that can only happen in a run, not a quick walk.
Miles and Mutts is not a unique program, and it’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 – you or your dog? This is Caitlin again – 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!