WHY I RUN | Jack's Running Pack
By Jack Robenalt, Denver, CO
Dogs and running go together like wine and cheese, burgers and fries, Body Glide and Garmins. I've been running for years, but I didn't get a dog until 2016. After tense negotiations with my wife, Lauren, we settled on her choice, a West Highland Terrier named Wellington. Even though he's just a little guy, we both wanted an active dog and a running partner - even if he's only 16 pounds! Two years later, and he's the master of the short distance, with a vet described "runner's build". Find Welly some grass or a mountain trail, and he's on the move.
We moved from Ann Arbor to Denver in January 2017, and we both work from home. Looking to build our community a bit, we (Lauren) started volunteering at the MaxFund no kill dog shelter almost exactly a mile from our apartment (just one block up and an extra ten feet down the alley, if we're being picky about hearing that Garmin beep). Since we have a small dog, we use the shelter as a way to assuage our guilt and walk the big dogs (#adoptdontshop). These dogs are stuck in their kennels for 23 hours a day - and some of them are still pups! We learned pretty quickly that running some of the more energetic dogs was a much more efficient way to get their energy out.
My normal week involves running 5-7 miles Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Coincidentally, those are also typically days the shelter needs volunteer help to get the dogs out on their afternoon walks. The mile distance from our house makes for a perfect warm-up - Lauren and I have both been known to swing in, actively sweating, and grab lab or shepherd mixes for a spin around the adjacent park. The dogs love it - tongues and tails wagging, sprinting up and down the block, and then hitting the water bowl when we get back. It's also sneakily one of the best ways to get a hyper dog adopted - if you take a dog out for a run before he meets with a potential adopter, they're usually twice as calm and twice as loving as they would be coming straight from their kennels!
There's no way to predict mile pace - some of the dogs can hit sub-7 miles, some of the dogs need to stop and pee on every fourth tree, some of the dogs are just kind of fat and need to lay down halfway through the run to stare at a squirrel. There's no way to predict how close the nearest trash can will be, or how many dogs get triggered by bikes or pick-up trucks or - and this one is new - Bird electric scooters! But there's also no replacement for getting a dog back into his kennel and watching him smile back up at you, tongue hanging low and tail wagging, and lay down exhausted on his bed.
PSA - shelters always need dog walkers! It usually only takes a small orientation class. Go learn how to walk dogs at your local shelter, and next thing you know you'll have an endless supply of running buddies!