Logging Miles and Saving Lives

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The OHS Running Team Helps High-Energy Dogs Find Their Happy Place

Just like people, pets need exercise to keep them healthy and happy. Some animals, especially high-energy dogs, need a lot of exercise. Keeping these dogs active and busy while they are in the shelter environment is critical to getting them ready for their forever home.

That’s where the OHS Dog Running Team, led by volunteer Cecil Reniche-Smith, comes in. These dedicated, and physically fit, volunteers take dogs out of the shelter and go running with them. As simple as it sounds, these outings can be a life-changer for pets.

“Giving dogs a productive outlet for their excess energy can make a world of difference in the first impression they make with potential adopters,” says Tanya Roberts, OHS Training & Behavior Manager.

Rather than jumping, barking and chewing in their kennel, well-exercised dogs are often relaxed and happy when people walk by.

When Nica, a one-year-old lab mix, arrived at OHS, she had already bounced from one shelter to a home and finally to OHS. All the change and lack of routine, along with her age and breed mix, created the perfect storm. Nica was jumpy, mouthy and her energy seemed out of control. Remember that scene in “Marley and Me” when Marley, the big lab, pulls a table down the block? Nica easily could have been Marley’s stunt double. She was ready to go go go. Nica was the perfect candidate for the running team and an ideal partner for volunteer Karen DeJesus.

Although she is a newer OHS volunteer, Karen spent five years as a “Jog-A-Dog” volunteer, trainer and mentor at the East Bay SPCA and was already very familiar with the benefits of running shelter dogs.

“It’s so rewarding to watch their wagging tails, relaxed body and their noses twitch in the wind as they catch scents,” says Karen.

She was eager to join the OHS Dog Running Team and excited to work with Nica.

The OHS Behavior and Training Department oversees the running volunteers and provides assessments of the dogs prior to their first run. Nica’s strong prey drive and tendency to nip when she was excited and frustrated didn’t deter Karen. In addition to exercise, Karen also planned to help Nica with her basic manners like “sit,” “wait” and “leave it.”

The workouts are paying off. Karen has been paired with Nica for more than two months and calls her “an ideal running partner with great stamina, leash manners and a consistent pace.” They run two to five miles on each of their outings and it’s making a big difference.

“Running is a release for Nica and I can see from the energy at the beginning of the run to the healthy decline toward the end, that she is truly getting a good workout, “ adds Karen. “Her sense of smell is so keen and this keeps her so engaged in her environment and also helps her expend energy.”

Although Nica is getting lots of exercise and attention at OHS, what she really needs is a forever home that can keep her active. But don’t think you need to be an ultra-marathoner to be Nica’s perfect partner.

“She truly enjoys being active, but not necessarily all day long,” adds Karen. “After some great exercise, she is like melted butter, soliciting love and crawling into my lap.”

Learn more about adopting Nica and watch her video here – https://www.oregonhumane.org/adopt/details/227460/

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