Ain’t Nothing but a Hound Dog

Wordsmith Tim is back this week for his take on a run with Athena.  Take it away Tim…

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Last Sunday, or St. Patrick’s Day as it was known to most, I participated in my second endeavor with the Miles and Mutts pack. The group’s straightforward motto is Rescue. Run. Repeat. And so we do.  Our fearless leader, Abbi with an ‘I’ collects the canines from the Better Days Animal shelter. Volunteers meet at the picturesque Shippensburg Bike Trail. The well groomed gravel trail is gentle on the puppies’ padded paws and is equipped with mileage markers for the OCD humans to keep an accurate tally in their log books.  In addition to us dog fanciers; you never know who or what you’ll bump into on the path. You could be passed in a cloud of dust by Olympian and Shippensburg track Coach Steve Spence or see an Amish family in their horse-drawn buggy on the way to the Sunday service – sorry no Amish websites to reference.  Personally, I relish the solitude, the country air, and the oft chance to see an agile red-tailed hawk swoop down and pluck an unsuspecting vole from a recently tilled field.

Enough Ansel Adams analogies; let me tell you about my running partner Athena. Athena is an anomaly among her caged comrades.  She’s a purebred – not a mutt, not the result of an unlocked gate in your neighbor’s fence.  Athena is a Treeing Walker Coonhound. Why would a dog that normally sells for between $250 – $400 end up in the pound?  It is perhaps the most fundamental concept of a market economy – supply and demand.  The breeder had the supply but not the demand.

Athena’s future along with her sister Xena’s was bleak.  Their fate was to be a deep bucket baptism or drowning. The pair was spared and they have been long time guests at the aforementioned Better Days Shelter. The thought of such an atrocity which is unfortunately not uncommon in the dog world emit flashbacks of the Michael Vick tragedy.

Abbi handed me Athena and the fun run had begun.  The sinewy coon dog sped off with me in tow. You didn’t need to fully comprehend Isaac Newton’s second law of motion to realize my gravitational mass was not going to be easily moved by the twenty pound hound.  Athena had a unique running style, an effortless lopping gait.  While her muscular legs propelled her forward, she rhythmically lowered her head like a diving dolphin darting through the depths.  Her form mimicked the undulating dipping flight of a woodpecker.  The breed routinely tracks animals for miles before as the name implies – it trees them until a hunter or more optimistically, a photographer snaps a photo of the bewildered bear.  The distinctive running technique, honed over years of evolution must be aerodynamic and/or physiologically efficient.

I vowed to take the beast six miles that day, Athena accepted my pledge. As I called her name, gasping encouragement during the trek, she glared back at me perplexed as to why I only used two of my four limbs.  She surmised that that was why I was so slow.

The second time I called her name, a song instantly popped into my head.   It was the Who tune, aptly titled Athena. Athena was Pete Townsend’s ode of unrequited love to actress Theresa Russell.  Not a Who fan, I injected a bit of pace into the run and successfully shook the ballad out.

I thought this animal was more suited to Elvis Presley’s Hound Dog – I lip-synched that ditty sans the gyrating hips.  We passed the two mile mark, I saw my hawk and all was right with the run.

Again, I yelled needless encouragement to Athena. This time I thought why would someone name an abandoned puppy after the Greek goddess of Wisdom?  Jude, the patron saint of lost causes and desperate cases would have been more appropriate. Plus, I like that song, Hey Jude!  I called out to Athena, “Hey Jude.” She ignored me. There will be no formal name change today.  Of course, I sang that song all the way to the turnaround at three miles.

The way back was much faster. After more than a half hour together, we adjusted to each other’s stride and we reached an aerobic synchronicity. I couldn’t remember the lyrics to the Police song, Synchronicity so I sang the more apropos Every Breath You Take from the same album.  Why do I even bring my iPod nano when I am my own jukebox?

The penultimate mile passed by and after a brief respite walk up the final incline, the finish line was literally in sight after the next bend.

We finished with little fanfare. I remembered to push stop on my chronograph which made me wonder if my calf was sore. Why? The brand of my running watch is Soleus. Huh? The soleus is one of the muscles in the calf. That’s just the way I think.

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When the run is complete, your partner gets some much needed hydration and most times a treat.  If you don’t have to rush somewhere, this is also the moment where you get to spend some quality time petting the puppy. Waxing anthropomorphic, I believe the mutts appreciate the attention almost as much as we do.

Tim and Fabian

Last week, a local runner saw a bunch of dogs and runners out on the local trail.  The group even joked that he was probably wondering why there were so many dogs hanging out in the parking lot when the park has a ‘Dog Free Zone’ sign at the entrance.  Turns out, it was the opposite, he was a dog lover and joined us this week for a run.  I asked if I could share an e-mail Tim sent to a few others about his adventure running with Fabian.  His words sum up a first-time experience perfectly but happy to hear he’ll be back for another go-around in the future!

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From Tim:

Here I am with my Sunday running partner Fabian. Fabian is a shelter dog from the Better Days Animal Shelter in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania. I met him through a group called Miles & Mutts – milesandmutts.com where simply said you run a few miles with a few mutts.

Fabian is a true mutt looking like a spaniel, a bull terrier and at least three other breeds.

Fabian never received the memo that stated I was to walk him and run him for four miles along the picturesque Shippensburg Bike Trail. Instead, Fabian dragged me like a tin can behind a Just Married car. We broke stride only to greet a shrubbery or fertilize the local farm land. After three miles of insane and Usain-like sprinting, we finally settled in to a comfortable trot for the final mile. It was rewarding to run free with this otherwise caged canine.

At the turnaround point, Fabian jumped up on me as if to say, “Thanks for keeping up and freeing me from the monotony of puppy prison.” His bridled enthusiasm was matched by his dogged determination to catch whatever was in front of us. There were jogger Janes and Jogger Joes to overtake and other dogs hauling their human companion over the crushed gravel. Near the end, Fabian glanced sheepishly at cow no doubt dreaming of behemoth bovine burgers. A firm tug on his muscular neck brought him back to reality as we finished the trek in the sub-freezing temperature. As we took the turn from the finishing line, we met his kennel comrades bounding back and forth on the wet grass.

I’m looking forward sharing my thoughts with Fabian or one his eager friends next Sunday. As Dave Barry said, “You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says, ‘Wow, you’re right! I never would’ve thought of that.’

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“Saving just one dog won’t change the world…but surely it will change the world…for that one dog.”

A few years ago, I went skydiving.  It was something to cross off the bucket list.  I don’t remember much about the skydiving itself but I walked away with a lasting memory.  I was amazed and shocked by this sub-culture of people completely and totally immersed in their sport.  Individuals who were dedicated and passionate about skydiving.  It was something I never even thought about but my eyes were opened to it.

This weekend, while driving Tucker on a leg of a rescue transport from a boarding facility in North Carolina to a new foster home in Pittsburgh, a similar thought occurred to me.  While the world of animal shelters, rescues, transports and passionate animal lovers trying to save one animal at a time are common knowledge to me, there are still many people out there who do not know of all the endless time, energy and passion individuals, groups and networks put forth on a daily basis to help one animal at a time.

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Two weeks ago, a women involved with a rescue who knows my husband through his work forwarded an e-mail to him regarding a transport of two dogs from Echo Dogs Rescue.  It just happened that we live close to the one remaining leg that needed filled to get two dogs on their way to new homes, one to Pennsylvania, one to Connecticut.  We’ve never heard of this rescue and are not on their list but through networking, my husband and I were quickly both on board for spending a couple of hours in a car to help a dog.  Due to winter storm Nemo, the transport was delayed one week.  Saturday came and we took Tucker, a love-able, docile big boy, on the sixth leg of his transport to meet his new foster family.

IMG_0080Transport is something we have helped with before so this was not a new concept but seeing the amount of time and organization that went into this particular transport is something pretty remarkable.  The logistics and number of people involved to give these two dogs a second chance makes you realize that the world is still full of kind, loving and compassionate people.

It is also proof that one person can make a difference.  Transports take a lot of effort to coordinate but giving up a few hours of your time to drive a leg takes very little effort.

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A few hours of driving and car of full kittens from a high kill shelter becomes of wall full of twenty adoptable kittens with a second chance.

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Sometimes transport can be for a ‘special one’ one too.  A few years ago, Garrett, a rambunctious chocolate lab mix, was running out of time at a shelter.  A dog others overlooked, my sister had a connection with him and felt he was one who needed some extra effort to try and help.  All the usual resources seemed exhausted.  She sent an e-mail to me.  I sent a few e-mails.  A little bit of networking, a few more e-mails and phone calls and she was able to find a rescue who was able to take him.  I went along for part of the ride to the rescue.  Garrett found a loving home just a few days later.

garrettAdopt a pet, foster an animal, help transport.  Walk a dog, run with a dog, clean a kennel.  Donate time, money or supplies.  Send an e-mail, make a phone call.  Make an effort, however small or large.  It makes a difference.

Create a ripple.

Year Round Running

Over the summer, the runners weren’t sure we’d be able to run with the dogs over winter.  Would snow be an issue?  Would it be too cold?  Maybe we’d break for a few months and pick it up in the spring?

Well, we just haven’t stopped going and it seems to be working! The dogs can’t spend as much time outdoors at the shelter in the winter since it is so cold.  But, they can go for a run since we keep them moving and aren’t out for too long.  Going for a run continues to be a great motivation for the people too.  A dog relying us is a great way to get off the couch and outside!

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So, looks like Miles and Mutts will be a year-round thing with only occasional cancellations due to weather.

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If we’re not running, we’re probably spreading the word.  This weekend, Miles and Mutts also had a table at the Chambersburg Road Runners Club Runners Seminar with Bart Yasso.  Events continue to be a great way to let people know what we are doing and spread the word about adopting a shelter dog.

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Want to join?

Confessions from a Rescue Dog Runner

Recently, Miles and Mutts had an exhibit table at an event held at Wilson College – Eat Sleep Run Grow. It was a great opportunity to talk with new people about the mission of running with shelter dogs from Better Days Animal League.

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One of the most enjoyable parts of these events is talking with others about rescue and adoption.  Inevitably though, there are two comments that pop up.  First, the ‘animals shelters are sad places’ comment which I have a personal mission to dispel.

Second, when you are discussing running with a shelter dog, are those people who feel guilty about not providing enough exercise to their own dogs.  There are usually several reasons but patience, frustration and controlling the dog are the usual themes.

So, here’s a secret.  I have three rescue dogs and I am not a perfect dog owner.  In fact, no one is a perfect dog owner.  It’s shocking, I know.  While I’d love to claim that I have three angels who listen to every command I calmly say and run and walk in a perfect heel every day, well, that’s just not the case.

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Instead I have three dogs with unique personalities that require a daily three ring circus to control.  “Knock it off”, “No”, “Down”, “Shh…”, “No Humping” and “Get out of Here” seem to be phrases on repeat in our house.  Half the time I’m usually yelling these frantically with no one listening.

The dogs don’t jump on the furniture but the mailman driving by creates a chaotic fury.  They’ll sit calmly for their dinner but still sneak in the pantry if you turn your back for 30 seconds.  Daily wrestling matches end when they decide they are finished, which isn’t always when I think they should finish.  It’s give and take, a lot of patience, a little bit of compromise and continued daily work and routines.

kaseyboxSometimes the last thing I want to do is take my own dogs on a walk or run.  Especially because a walk requires three separate walks, for various reasons, but we still try to make it happen every day.

First, the dog-aggressive, truck-hating lab mix and I walk around the neighborhood on eggshells watching closely for any loose dogs so we can promptly go the other way if one is spotted in the distance.  Next, the spastic, goofball chocolate mutt, who you can’t even pet because she becomes insanely excited and wiggly with touch, hits the road.  A run would be the best to calm her down, but working to keep her in pace with me by my side, even if it only takes a half mile of fumbling, may require more patience than I have at this particular moment.  Finally, it’s time to complete a brief mosey and smell session with the world’s most stubborn beagle.

Running with a shelter dog comes with built in patience.  I always have more patience with an adoptable shelter dog than I do with one of my own.  Getting one of the shelter dogs out is their time and their behavior rarely bothers me one bit.  Running with one of my own dogs does not have that built in patience because they should know better.  We’ve been through the same routine over and over again.

Having been out of our routine over the past 2 months, the past few times I’ve run with Hannah, one of my dogs, has been rather frustrating.  This weekend, we had one of those moments where all the frustration faded away.  The first mile was a clumsy adventure as I tried to make Hannah realize we were not randomly sprinting and she was supposed to run in a straight line but eventually she remembered the beauty of the run.  She hit the magic of the mile.  I looked down at Hannah on my left side in perfect pace with me.  She was shallowly panting, eyes calm and happy.  We finished our run but the moment was perfect.  So, we went another mile together and I remember why she’s my favorite running partner.

Take the time to run with your own dog and share the love with a shelter dog by joining the pack.

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Want to complain about your own dog?  Miles and Mutts will have a table set up at the Chambersburg Runner’s Seminar, this year featuring Bart Yasso, on February 9th!

Rescue Run Repeat in 2013

Happy New Year to all Miles and Mutts supporters!

Miles and Mutts started in April 2012 with one dog, one mile and one runner.

By the end of 2012, 26 adoptable dogs ran close to 700 miles with a total of 20 different volunteer runners.  9 dogs in the running pack were adopted into loving homes.

For 2013, the goals are simple.  We’ll aim to double the dogs, miles and volunteers in the program.

Over the winter, weekend group runs will continue on the weeks when the weather cooperates.  Once the weather improves, plans are in the works to add alternate days, times and locations to the mix.

Thank you to everyone who has supported us so far.  Let’s see what we can do in 2013 to help the lives of adoptable dogs from Better Days Animal League during the time when they await their forever home.  Maybe we can even help some of our long-timers find homes too!

Please enjoy and share our end of year video showing how much fun it is for the dogs and runners who enjoy miles together.

Building Miles and Mutts from the Ground Up

Over the past year, several individuals have reached out asking for advice on how to establish a program similar to Miles and Mutts in their own area.  There’s no written rule book and we’re not experts.  However, I think we’ve learned a few things over the past year and why this program seems to be working.

Trust your heart, spread kindness and the rest will follow.

1. Get involved. Volunteer. Research. Find your place and the right organization to match your vision and purpose.

2. Start slow.  Build trust with an organization.  Be patient to ensure quality, focus and longevity.

3.  Expect the unexpected.  Growing any program, organization or business can be a humbling process.  Miles and Mutts has been no exception.  Things you may think will help gain visibility may produce zero results and those you may think little of can surprise you.

In short, this means a newspaper article does zilch but a magnet stuck on your car which is parked in a grocery store parking lot is a powerful tool.

4.  Never underestimate the power of love.  The bonds formed between runners and dogs over the last year has been heartwarming to watch.  Those bonds are driving the program forward.  Pay attention to them.

5.  Be thankful.  The power of kindness is so simple.  Say ‘Thank You’ as much as possible.  Thank you, all runners who continue to be awesome by staying committed, trust-worthy and 100% dependable!

6.  Embrace positivity.  A positive message is a powerful, effective tool.  Notice how everyone is smiling in the end of year video?  Use it.

7.  Keep it simple.  Dog + Leash + Runner = Good time.  Don’t make things complicated.

8.  Encourage Others.  Create a supportive and encouraging environment open to all and keep it that way.

9.  Be consistent, yet adaptable.  Be open to new ideas yet remain consistent in delivery and execution  Do not lose track of track of any original goals along the way.     

10.  If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again.  You may stumble, you may fall but keep moving one foot in front of the other.  You never know where those feet may take you.

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Pit Bull Awareness and Adopt a Shelter Dog Month

October is Adopt-a-Shelter-Dog month.  It’s also Pit Bull Awareness Month with October 27th being National Pit Bull Awareness Day.

The Miles and Mutts running pack consists of several bully breeds and bully breed mixes.

 

One of our favorites, Trinket, was recently adopted.

But, there are still plenty more in the shelter waiting for a home.

So, come out, join us for a run or take part in the Better Days Animal League Zumbathon on October 27th – see the joy you can receive by spending time with a shelter dog, pit bull or other bully breed.

Better Days Animal League Peace-4-Paws 5K

On September 22, 2012, Better Days Animal League hosted its 2nd Annual Pet Friendly Peace-4-Paws 5K Run/Walk and 1 Mile Kid’s Fun Run to benefit the homeless animals under their care in their two shelters.

 

Several adoptable dogs ran in the race, after getting suited up in ‘Adopt Me’ vests of course.

 

As expected, the dogs were ready to run when the race started but everyone behaved themselves quite well in the pack of people and dogs.

 

 

As expected, the distance hounds were front runners with Athena coming in first, also capturing the first female runner and first female with a dog awards.  She was followed closely by her sister, Xena.

 

Remmy and Trinket ran in the 5K as well and seemed to enjoy the day out on the trail.

 

 

All in all a great day for the animal and the runners and walkers out to support the animals. Word for Miles and Mutts reached a new audience and we anticipate more dogs in the running pack soon when others decide to join us to run with a shelter dog.

Next year’s Peace-4-Paws event should be even better!

The Never-Fail Exercise Buddy

Everyone has those days where you may not feel like exercising.  It’s difficult to push yourself out the door.  We feel 100% times better when we make that push to get moving but some days it can be so difficult.  A great thing about running with a dog…they help with that push out the door.

Two weeks ago, the Sunday morning group run was looking a little gloomy.  The sky was gray, it looked like it could dump rain on us at any time.  When the van full of adoptable shelter dogs ready to run pulled into the parking lot, two different people asked the question, “Did you bring Trinket today?”

Trinket has by far become one of the running group’s favorite 4-legged pals.  She is sweet as can be and we’ve all fallen in love with her and want her to find an amazing home full of love as quickly as possible.

But, here’s the other thing about Trinket.  As a runner, she’s slow.  She’s that slacker workout buddy you hope for on some days.  The one with the easy pace where you don’t feel the least bit bad about taking a walk break.  “Oh, Trinket, you are getting a little tired.  How about we let you walk for a couple of minutes”…you know, just for Trinket’s sake.  Some weeks everyone is raring to go, some weeks, you want a Trinket.

Two weeks ago, Trinket wasn’t one of the six dogs who we brought to run so everyone had to test their dead legs on a Sunday morning, including energy balls Roscoe, Zeus, Jack and Lucky.  Regardless, all dogs rewarded their running mates when they appeared happy, calm and relaxed at the end of a vigorous workout.

This past weekend, I was the one with the dead legs and looking for a slacker workout buddy.  At the shelter, we started leashing up dogs for the week.  After five dogs were loaded, I wasn’t sure who the sixth would be for this week, we had several options.  Then, I got hit with the question.

“Want to try a new one today?”

Never one to say no to that question, a somewhat nervous absolutely gorgeous Husky named Oliver appeared.  After the quick background information, we headed to the park with the group of dogs.

Seven miles later at a brisk pace, I don’t think ‘the new one’ will be falling into the slacker workout buddy category.  But, like most of the others, he got me moving in the morning and I couldn’t have been happier.  I hope Oliver agrees.

Consider joining us, we have plenty of regular exercise buddies.