Last summer I found the best running partner I’ve ever had. She’s free on the weekends, she motivates me to get out in any weather, and she brings purpose to my runs.

My perfect running partner is an abandoned American Staffordshire Bullterrier mix named Lilou, and I found her at the local animal shelter.

A female runner is running with a dog on a forest track. dog running, purpose-driven life, fitness
The benefits of volunteering can be twofold.

A rewarding experience

After some thinking, I realized that partnering up with a dog from a shelter for a weekly run is a great way of using my personal time – benefiting not only my own well-being, but allowing me to lead a more purpose-driven life.

Guess what: with a dog from the shelter you can check off all these points.

So, I called my local shelter, and after a quick chat I had set my first date with Lilou.

In many cases, dogs at shelters don’t get as much exercise as those that live with their owners. It’s even less likely that someone ever takes them for a run, so you can only imagine the levels of excitement Lilou met with when we went for our first 12km run in the woods.

Commitment made easy

We immediately started bonding and, from then on, I felt like I owed it to her to show up for every scheduled run – no matter if it rained or if I felt lazy. Lilou motivated me. No more excuses. After all, I couldn’t just call her and tell her we’d reschedule. I knew she would simply not get her exercise if I didn’t show up

Running with a dog from the shelter requires you to commit, but the reward you get in return outweighs the effort: you’ll be extra motivated and have a friendship with a loyal, appreciative bundle of energy – cuddles included.

A female runner is sitting on her haunches and holding the paw of a brown dog, which is sitting vis-a-vis. running, dog running, purpose-driven life
Creating that bond will ensure you don't fail on your commitments.

Now, whenever I find myself struggling to commit in life, I make myself aware of everyone else involved and how they are affected by my actions. I believe we all are a bit self-absorbed sometimes, and it helps to look at how people – and animals – around us are doing.

Ultimately, you’ll feel a sense of fulfillment from bringing positive change to someone else’s life. Just like us, dogs need regular exercise to be healthy and happy and you can help relieve the stress they’re exposed to at the shelter.

Run and volunteer at once with a dog from your animal shelter

I can confidently say that ipays off to be creative and approach animal shelters with new ideas like having volunteer dog runners, in addition to regular dog walkers.

Not every dog is a suitable running partner, but some really are and they’re waiting for you. Shelters usually have dog walking hours on the weekends which allows those with a career to also volunteer.

Interested in giving it a go? Call your shelterask if they have a prospective candidate and go for a trial run. I promise it’ll add a lot of fun and value to your running experience – and in the end, that’ll get you energized and balanced for the next work week.

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by Bettina Wietzel-Skakowski 09.05.2019
Great idea, I did the same you do since 2003 with 3 spanish podenco mixes from a shelter and they are my life insurance, this is what the doctors are saying with my 59 years.
Keep on and thanks for your comment. Bettina proud shareholder of adidas
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by Julia Theilen Bettina Wietzel-Skakowski 10.05.2019
Hi Bettina, very inspirational to hear you're staying fit, healthy and happy through your three shelter dogs for so many years now! Thanks for sharing.
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Great story. Good luck in your dog run pursuits
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