Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Running with your pet can keep you motivated and healthy!

ARF rescues stray and abandoned dogs and cats from rural areas and First Nations communities and places them in loving permanent homes while providing programs to reduce pet over-population. Many of our animals are rescued with medical conditions and require special care due to malnutrition, injury or disease. They all receive the necessary treatment and recover in the safety of a foster home before meeting their forever families.

It is widely known that having a companion animal in your home has many health benefits. Typically, dog owners have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, they live longer, have higher survival rates after serious illness and are generally happier compared to non-dog owners, so it’s not surprising that owning a dog, especially an active one, can provide you with a great source of inspiration and motivation. Needless to say, it’s not a shock to find out that we have some former ARF dogs helping their new owners train for various races in the Scotiabank Calgary Marathon on May 29th.

First I found Dawn. She is a volunteer with ARF and has just recently rescued her second ARF dog. She will be running the Centaur Subaru Half Marathon and by run day, this will be her 3rd half marathon this year. Her first ARF dog, Lacey (at left), came into ARF’s care under a year old, severely emaciated and with a litter of pups. Lacey and her pups were cared for and she was nursed back to health by her foster home. Dawn originally went to visit one of Lacey’s puppies and was playing with puppy Bently when Lacey came up to her, gave her a kiss and pressed her forhead against Dawn’s; they went home and filled out an application for Lacey that night.

With recent addition, Bumper (below), it was a little different. Bumper was also picked up by ARF as a stray. This poor little guy had been hit by a car, possibly several times. Lucky for him, he had no serious injuries, just strains and bruises. Dawn came to an ARF adopt-a-thon looking for more information on fostering dogs, with a long-term goal of finding a suitable companion for Lacey. Bumper and Lacey got along well when they met, so it was decided that Dawn would foster Bumper. It became apparent quickly that Bumper was going to be their next addition; they couldn’t bear to think about someone else adopting him, so they signed his adoption papers right away!

Dawn has been running more or less since she was in elementary school, but after graduating from high-school she stopped. Lately, she has been suffering from back and neck injuries as well as Endometriosis. Staying home in bed due to pain was not a life she wanted to live, so last year, she started to run again.

Like most people, Dawn enjoys running with her dogs. The dogs don’t care about pace or mileage and they remind her to enjoy what she’s out there for and sometimes, it’s really nice to run just for the sake of running. She says that they are her biggest motivation. Especially on days it’s really hard to get out. But with two sets of big brown eyes staring at her, it’s almost impossible to say no. They also encourage her to try new things; the different experiences running on pathways and hilly parks keep the dogs learning and keep her body in tip-top shape.

Not only is running with your dogs beneficial to you, but it’s also beneficial to them. Lacey has severe separation anxiety and Dawn finds that Lacey tends to have better days on run days. It has also helped Bumper with his fear of traffic. As noted above, he was hit by a car and since developed a fear of cars. Since he started running with Dawn, she has seen his confidence around moving traffic improve and he is getting better every day. The runs are great for the dogs because they get to work together and learn new things, like how to run with a coupler attaching the two leashes. At first it was very confusing for them, but they soon got it figured out and were running perfectly side-by-side.

Next I found Karen and Oliver (at left). Oliver is helping Karen train for the Jugo Juice 10K on May 29th. Karen adopted Oliver about a year ago. Oliver and his sister (Stella, below) came to ARF as an abandoned litter and the day Karen met him, she fell in love straight away. He is smart, cute, quirky and fun. What more could she want? He settled in to their home with two cats almost immediately and they haven’t looked back. Karen started running in the fall of 2010 and this will be her first official 10K race. She started running with friends for general fitness and loves the early morning experience along the river pathways.

Oliver only runs with her once per week because he is still growing, but she enjoys the runs she has with him immensely. She feels safer having him around and he has learned quickly how to keep pace and remain at her side when they are out and he loves the outdoors and physical activity. He is still a puppy though and occasionally gets distracted by a rabbit, but that is to be expected and he’s learning. She also believes running and working as a team strengthens their relationship. Because Oliver is such an active dog, taking him to different places keeps Karen on her toes. They enjoy running in and around Edworthy Park, but they also run the Douglas Fir Trail, so they are constantly changing up their terrain and running hills and rocky areas as well as paved pathways.

There are quite a few other ARF dogs that train with their owners and we always hear inspiring stories from our adopters. There is no doubt about it, rescue dogs truly know when they’ve found their forever home.

If you would like more information on how your two feet can help four paws visit our website at or recruit your friends to run for ARF's Rescue Runners or donate online!

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