UPDATE 3/1/18: RuffTail Runners is no longer training members of the public. Austin Pets Alive! volunteers will be receiving training to take dogs on the trail, so if you're still interested in this program, we highly encourage you to become an Austin Pets Alive! volunteer (https://www.austinpetsalive.org/get-involved/volunteer/). Once you're a trained APA! volunteer, you will get the opportunity to run or walk with shelter dogs around the trail. Thanks so much for your interest!
RuffTail Runners (formerly "Jog-a-Dog") is a program brought to you by Team Spiridon (http://www.teamspiridon.org), that encourages runners to run with shelter dogs, giving the dogs a little more exercise “off-campus”, away from the stressful shelter environment. As a result, they are better-adjusted, healthier, and therefore, more adoptable.
This program is for runners, or at least walkers who can get the dogs out for a few miles - higher paces keep the dogs more focused and gives them more exercise, and makes some of them easier to handle, but getting them walked for more time and distance than they're used to is valuable, as well. Currently, the program is up and running at Austin Pets Alive!'s Town Lake facility, at 1156 West Cesar Chavez. We hope to expand the program to the Austin Humane Society, Williamson County Humane Society, and other shelters.
Please head over to our website, which will give you some basic information that you need to know, and instructions on how to participate.
But FIRST, please give entering this program some careful consideration. We've trained, get this, around a thousand people to participate in the program, but less than 40 to 50 people come to participate on any sort of regular basis. We understand the need for volunteer hours, and for people to see if the program is a good fit for them or not, and we and the dogs are incredibly grateful for any time you can give. But, we need to be able to focus volunteer time and resources on giving better training to fewer, but more highly-committed and available volunteers.
Why the fee and limited class size? It's important to us to keep the program accessible to people that want to participate, but we have to balance that against the need for truly adequate training, which means more focus, more real demonstration, and more hands-on. We've found that the fee acts as a filter, bringing in people who have really engaged with the program and have made this something of an ongoing commitment. Other shelters in Austin charge $20-$35, so this is not unprecedented. The money also pays for things like adopt-me vests, supplies and equipment for the program and APA, and to generally help support the work of APA! and Team Spiridon, the non-profit that hosts the program. We've also started funding heart worm treatment for one or two dogs a month, so that they can be adopted out.
This is one of Team Spiridon's programs, and is driven primarily by volunteers. So, we offer training sessions as our schedule allows. As soon as we know when we can hold a session, we will post it. If a training session is not posted, then we don't know for certain when it will be. Please do not email or otherwise ask when the next session is. Because of the high volume of these questions, we may not respond.
So, if you're ready to make a bit of a commitment to come out, even on an occasional basis, to make a dog's day, then please join us, and thanks!