Sharing the Joys of Running, with a Furry Friend

VIRB PictureLast weekend we were delighted to join a volunteer training group with Animals Taiwan. They taught us about the work they do with Taiwan’s stray animals and then each one of the 20 or so volunteers was able to choose a dog to walk. We waited patiently at the gate with the other volunteers to be handed a dog for the afternoon. Luckily, we received Ebony, a beautiful, athletic dog with a zest for speed. Ebony is quite shy, and it took awhile before she was comfortable with our touch and I questioned whether or not she was truly enjoying her time outside, or our presence. But one of the greatest attributes of any long distance runner is their persistence and so we returned the following weekend. Twice.

Both Saturday and Sunday brought us to Animals Taiwan to embrace this warm weather with the dogs again. Since I have started running I’ve often thought about getting a dog of my own, one that loved to run just as much or perhaps even more! A member of the family who eagerly met me at the door, running apparel on, ready to go and enthusiastically watching as I prepared myself to venture out. Unfortunately, in my small Taiwanese apartment, which I share with my partner and 3 cats, an arrangement including the full-time presence of a pooch might be less than ideal.

VIRB PictureSo, off we went to see the nice people, and animals of Animals Taiwan. We swiftly chose Ebony again and this time in the company of her sister, Ivory. Both dogs are incredibly shy but obedient. We kept them on a short leash at a swift walk, which we gradually extended into a trot and then a run! The sisters were fiercely competitive, especially Ebony, not liking it in the least when her sibling pulled out in front.

Neither of them are too fond of the idea of being pet, but even over just those 3 days we could see vast amounts of improvement. Everyday, upon arriving, we asked one of the head volunteers to assist in fetching them, the dogs would dodge attempts at clipping the leash to the collar but were incredibly excited to head outdoors. At the beginning of the walk they would cower away from us but eventually seemed to tolerate and maybe even enjoy our company.

Each day, after a bit of running, we all stopped to relax in the warm winter sun. We gave some good pets and hoping in the future they would check their hesitation at the door, we returned them to the shelter.  This is now part of our weekend routine, jogging to the shelter, sharing the joys of running with our four legged friends and gleefully returning home, feeling content to have spent the afternoon in the presence of others who also like a good run.

Things to rememberVIRB Picture

  • Always put the animals needs first, if it’s hot, bring a water bottle and make sure they are getting enough to drink.
  • Let them decide if they would like to run and how far, these dogs spend most of their days in cages wouldn’t be fit enough to keep up with a runner for a long period of time. If its your first time with that animal keep the run shorter than 2-3 kms in order to assess their fitness.
  • Remember to instill manners on your borrowed animal, as one of the primary benefits of walking a dog from a shelter is their increased sociability with humans. Make sure they keep their manners in check so they continue to be a pleasure to walk.

To walk/run/volunteer with the animals at Animals Taiwan, email them at or contact your local animal shelter to see what type of volunteer opportunities they provide.

VIRB Picture

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