Hitting our stride together

The author and his running buddy Angus —CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

To celebrate World Animal Day on Wednesday, Oct. 4, the nongovernment organization Animal Kingdom Foundation (AKF) sponsored “Run Fur Life” last Sunday at Bridgetowne Estate in Pasig City. The event, now on its eighth year, had over 1,000 runners registered—a record achievement for AKF. 

My running buddy was a two-year-old red Golden Retriever named Angus. His first exposure to so many runners and other dogs could have made for a chaotic situation, but he kept his cool throughout the 3-kilometer run. 

Angus was panting by the time we got to a few meters to the finish line; it was his first major run, after all. I thanked my four-legged buddy for running with me—and rekindling my love for distance running.

Animal Kingdom Foundation poster serves as reminder of the grim trade in dog meat.

Years ago, I began feeling searing pain around my knees whenever I reached the midpoint of a 5-km run. The pain often forced me to just walk toward the finish line. Now 52, I have been running since my 30s. A doctor I consulted told me that I already had “runner’s knees,” a condition caused by repeated stress on the knee joints and the fact that I often skipped doing leg warmups before running long distances. Soon after the pain appeared, I decided to give up running and to focus on other sport activities kinder to my knees.

Everything changed two years ago when Angus came to the family. While all dogs—and humans—need exercise to live a fit, healthy, and fulfilled life, Angus belongs to a breed that craves more intense physical activities. I took him to open spaces for his regular slow jogs and short sprints. When dogs, especially the big breeds, don’t get enough physical exercise, their stored-up energy is often released via certain destructive activities, like digging the ground, ramming things around the house, and worse, chewing whatever they can find (shoes, for example).  

I noticed, too, that whenever Angus got his fill of exercise, he was less anxious. Regular exercise was an assurance that he was less likely to be overweight and would keep his joints mobile. It also strengthened his 36-kilo (80-pound) frame.

From Angus’ perspective

“Run Fur Life” was a great chance for me to see how Angus would react to a sudden crowd of dogs, from tiny Pomeranians to hulking Siberian Huskies. Because it was his first time to be around many dogs with varying temperaments, I made sure his leash was short so I could easily yank him away should he decide to take undue interest in one (unfortunately, he scared one poor Shih Tzu in a stroller who had barked at him).

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More than 1,000 registered for the eighth edition of the annual “Run Fur Life.”

I also let Angus wear a GoPro action camera attached to a harness to record the run from his perspective. The recording, a wide-angle view of his back, the top of his head and flapping ears, gave me a good sense of what it’s like to be a dog, and showed me his interesting interactions with the other dogs at the event.

He sure got a lot of attention, both from other dogs and humans perhaps curious to check out the video recording on his back.

Angus made me realize that this time, I was no longer running to break a personal record, that this run was for him and not for me. I made it a point to slow down and check if he was needing a water break or a short rest, especially whenever I noticed that he was lagging, or that I was pulling him. 

The event served not only as excellent bonding time between Angus and me but also as a way for AKF to raise funds for its shelter in Capas, Tarlac, where abused and abandoned dogs (and a few cats) rest and recover. [See “Save the dogs (and other creatures),” CoverStory.ph, Feb. 8, 2023.]

Grim reality

The P950 fee for each run kit—which included a bib number, toys, and a bow tie for the dog—will help AKF educate the public that behind this delightful gathering of dogs and their loving fur parents lies a grim reality in which dogs are abused and maltreated, if not killed and served as exotic food.

AKF has helped in the arrest of numerous dog traders and imprisonment of some dog abusers, and saved hundreds if not thousands of distressed dogs with the help of the Philippine National Police, and, when needed, the National Meat Inspection Service and local government units.

The organization reminds everyone that there is a law—Republic Act No. 8485 or the Animal Welfare Act of 1998, as amended by RA 10631—that protects animals, especially dogs, from maltreatment, torture, neglect, and killing.

It is fortunate that AKF and like-minded groups have been succeeding in cutting the number of dog traders and abusers. But more should be done. Fun runs, dog walks and similar events like the annual “Run Fur Life” is one way to build a community of humans concerned about the welfare of not only their family pets but also other vulnerable animals, and slowly, ultimately, build a caring and compassionate society.

See: Save the dogs (and other creatures)

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