The Monster Milers: Volunteers Run with Shelter Dogs
The Monster Milers
Even at the best animal shelters, dogs spend most of their time cooped up in small rooms or cages, with little to no exercise. After seeing this first hand while volunteering at a local shelter and being a fan of running with her own pups, Carrie Maria came up with a smart solution - The Monster Milers. The Philadelphia-based organization pairs runners with homeless dogs as running companions to provide exercise for neglected pooches and help them get placed in a forever home sooner.
At first Maria just thought she’d get 10 to 15 runners together to form a club to run with local shelter dogs. But her idea turned into an overnight success. “Before we even had our first orientation on the website, we had over 400 people email us to reserve a spot,” Maria said. Daily Candy profiled the new running group, their inbox exploded and ever since they’ve had a steady stream of newbies signing up every week.
The Monster Milers run with dogs at local Philly shelters: PAWS Adoption Center, PAWS Grays Ferry Wellness Clinic and Street Tails Animal Rescue. Potential volunteers must go through an orientation at the specific shelter they wish to work with because each one has different procedures, routes and guidelines. The shelters decide which dogs are candidates for the program.
The dogs benefit greatly from being taken on runs. Many dogs are stuck in small spaces for 23.5 hours a day leaving them depressed or filled with pent up energy and excitement any time they get the chance to get out or see a potential adopter. Those looking to rescue a dog might only see a crazy, hyper dog or one that’s aloof and withdrawn. Running can help take the edge off and make them much more appealing when first meeting adopters.
Maria says some dogs are easier to run with than others, but most break into a nice easy trot after a couple of blocks. She sees big changes in the dogs that Monster Milers volunteers jog with. “After the runs they seem less frantic and some of them even take a nap,” she says. “We like to think we bring a little joy to their day and also work in some great passive training with them, which makes them more appealing to adopters.” Milers work on “sits” at corners and getting the dogs to run with a loose-leash for example.
In addition to organizing volunteers to run with dogs, The Monster Milers specifically targets the running community for adoption efforts. “Shelter dogs make awesome running partners and runners make awesome pet parents!” Maria raves. “What’s better for a dog than having a parent who takes you on running adventures daily?” The Monster Milers does not facilitate the adoptions, but they do host “Adopt a Running Buddy” events at local races. They have tables set up at the finish line with adoptable dogs and they give out lots of information about the dogs, how they make great running companions and how to adopt one. Every adoption saves a dog’s life since Philly is not yet a no-kill shelter city.
Maria says lots of runners have adopted their running buddies. One happy adopter, Nicole Davis, first learned of The Monster Milers after running a race with Maria. She wasn’t looking for a dog, but when she saw Annie, a 3 to 5 year old blue pit bull on the urgent list she was inspired to meet her face to face. She was super loveable towards her kids and the whole family quickly fell in love with her. Davis regularly runs with Annie, enjoys having her for protection when jogging at night and says the pooch motivates her to run on days she doesn’t feel like going. “After our runs, Annie will pass out and snore and is generally more calm and relaxed throughout the day,” she says. Davis is also happy to bring awareness about pit bulls to the public in her suburban town – pit mixes are the number one dog in the Philadelphia area.
Want to run with a homeless dog, but don’t live in the Philadelphia area? Contact your local shelter and ask if you can volunteer to run or walk with a dog. Some adoption centers may allow it, while others may not allow you to take dogs off property for liability reasons.
What’s up next for The Monster Milers? “Eventually we hope to set up a rescue arm of ‘The Milers’ which would be a foster network to pull dogs out of the city shelter,” she says. “But for now it’s just a dream.”