Taking a dog on a run is a physically rewarding and emotionally bonding experience for dog and owner alike. For the cross country team at Steinbrenner High School in Lutz, Florida, it’s all of those things and so much more.
The team— known as the “Boss Cross”—recently joined forces with the Humane Society of Tampa Bay to bring adoptable shelter dogs along with them on their practice runs.
The brilliant idea was conceived by a shelter volunteer, and the students were happy to get this program up and running, so to speak.
Not only does the activity get the dogs out of their shelter routine, it helps keep them healthy and active all while raising awareness for the shelter.
The program began with a 3-year-old American Staffordshire Terrier mix named Jasper.
Sherry Silk, CEO of the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, tells PawCulture that Jasper, who had been with them since April, had a lot of energy, making him the perfect new running partner for the team.
“He was excited from the moment they picked him up and all throughout the runs,” Silk says. “Not only did he get much needed exercise but lots of human interaction. All the exercise and attention made it easier for him to be in his kennel the remainder of the day.”
Silk adds that the roughly 3-mile runs also helped to give Jasper an idea of what it would be like to do things an owned dog would do, like going on car rides and being introduced to new people and surroundings.
In fact, Jasper made such an impact on one of the cross country team’s alums that he adopted the pup.
“Jasper will be going to ‘college’ at the University of Florida this fall where he will live in a home with his new owner and roommates, all of whom are runners, so he will be able to continue his daily runs,” Silk shares.
Since Jasper’s runs were so successful, the team is carrying on the program with two new Humane Society dogs, Red and Ginger Snap.
Silk hopes that programs like this will also inspire people to spend time volunteering at their own local shelter.
“Shelters rely heavily on dependable volunteers and there are so many creative ways people can help their local shelters,” she says.
Images via Humane Society of Tampa Bay
Aly Semigran is a lifestyle writer for the world and roommate of Ruby, the cutest dog in the world.