SANTA MARIA, Calif. - A California cross country team is getting in shape, and helping shelter dogs get taste of the outdoors at the same time.
The St. Joseph High School runners in Santa Maria are training for their second season alongside dogs waiting for adoption at Santa Barbara County Animal Services.
Shelter spokeswoman Stacy Silva is grateful her pups get some “much appreciated time out of their kennels.”
The program started organically two years ago, Silva said, when she saw the team running by her shelter. "Geographically, we're very close," she told KTVU on Friday. "I thought, 'Why aren't they running our dogs?'"
She connected with now-retired St. Joseph's coach Luis Escobar. He is an "outgoing, yes guy," Silva said, and the relationship was easily forged. "It was a perfect combination," she said.
Reached in Canada on Friday, Escobar said the effort was amazing.
"The kids loved it and the dogs were so excited," he said.
The Santa Barbara County partnership has spurred other schools and shelters to connect, too. In fact, this week, Silva said she was contacted by a group in Fairfield, Calif. who wanted to start a similar program in the Bay Area, too.
Silva said it's really important for shelter dogs to get out of their cages, and Escobar said it's hard to tell who has more fun: The dogs or the kids.
Plus, she said, the end of the run is always the best. That's when, she said, there are a lot of "kisses and belly rubs."
Silva is looking for other teams in the Santa Maria area who would like to set up a time to run with her shelter dogs. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.