Fall is one of the best times of year in the Northeast. The heat of summer has broken, baseball playoffs are in full swing and the crisp air makes everyone just a little happier. It’s also a great time to get outside and get moving in a new exercise routine. We are in the middle of marathon season and there are running and walking races of all speeds and lengths. There is no better time to hit the local streets and trails and see how autumn is treating our fine city. And it’s cool enough to bring your pup on all kinds of adventures. All of the local dogs are invigorated by the change in temperature and even older and furrier dogs are ready to be out and about. Keeping dogs of all ages active makes them healthier, happier and more fun to be around longer. This goes for shelter dogs too, and volunteers are welcome at the local shelters and their outside events to walk some dogs (with volunteer training). Local shelters like ACCT and PAWS are full and getting the dogs out and about makes them more visible for adoptions, as well as better behaved for potential homes. Or, you could just make the jump and adopt a running or walking buddy for yourself and save their life while improving yours.
About a year ago, I decided I had to take my own workout to the next level and really tried to get out and run. I was bored to tears and maxing about 2 miles on a good day. My dog Rocky had just turned 11 and after 2 ACL tears and arthritis, he loves to stay active, but running was not happening. I had recently lost my female, his companion for 7 years, and I felt like it was time to find a foster to keep us both going. I made a list of dogs at the city’s Animal Care and Control Team shelter (ACCT), that seemed like decent matches, not too young, not too old. And at the bottom of the list, I added the dog marked as the 2nd longest in the shelter, Trixie. She was young and cute and reminded me of a friend’s little pit bull that I love.
So, we went down to ACCT and a couple of wonderful volunteers (Christine Risley and Christina Voigt, to whom I am forever grateful) patiently helped me try out all of the dogs on my list. We took out the little red nosed girl last and she was ecstatic and jumping very high in the air, trying to meet every dog outside at the time. Under the gate, through the fence, she was desperate to touch everyone. After a few minutes, she was a little calmer and we took her out to meet my Rocky. He was hot and grumpy and gave her a little growly hello. She flattened in the grass and rolled over, submitting to this old guy who never could have physically put her in her place. That was it for me. We brought her home that day.
I started running with her the next day. We ran off and on in the late summer and fall, never more than 20 minutes or so, but as soon as the ice and snow started, we kind of faded back into walks with both dogs. In the spring, Trixie suddenly had so much energy which coincided with a friend organizing a team to run for the Philadelphia Marathon, half marathon and 8K. The cause was to raise awareness and money to help the local and national campaigns against Breed Specific Legislation and also to donate to the Sarge Fund, which subsidizes low cost veterinary care and pay-what-you-can spay and neuter for pit bulls and pit bull mixes at PAWS.
I eventually took the leap and registered for the Half Marathon . By June, we were still just at 2.5 miles. I know without Trixie (who I have since adopted) I never would have gone further. Part of me was afraid to add too much, because that would mean the days I had to leave her behind were closer. And she seemed fine, not even tired when I could barely move. So, I did research and consulted with vets and trainers. With her health and youth (she’ll be 2 in November), all of them encouraged me to add distance slowly and see how she did. I even had a couple people say frankly that I would never be able to outrun her. So, far, they are right. Last weekend we went just over 8.5 miles and not only did we survive, but we were both fine. I was sore, she was ready to go again in 2 hours.This weekend we will get to 10 miles. Without her, I don’t think I could have done what has been life-changing for me. I am convinced that we were both saved this past year, together.
There are plenty of Trixies (and much lower energy dogs) in the shelters here now, and they are already losing race for their lives. Challenge yourself like we did and you won’t regret it. Try a foster and get in better shape while finding their forever home. Adopt and you just might save two lives. Not ready or renting a pet-free apartment? You can still run with a dog through the amazing Monster Milers who connect local runners and shelter dogs from PAWS for daily, weekly and even event runs. Later this month, you can “rent” a PAWS pup and join in their 5th Annual Mutt Strut, dog walk and adoption festival at FDR park with tons of fun activities for people and canines of all ages.
No matter what you do, getting out in the fresh air is good for you and your dog or the shelter dog whose day you make or life you save.