An RSPCA inspector has helped to find homes for 20 dogs by taking them along for a weekly jog at Basildon parkrun in Essex.
Every Saturday Marie Hammerton is joined by a four-footed running buddy, who's in need of a forever home. The weekly routine has lead to the dogs being noticed by potential owners and already around 20 dogs have been snapped up.
Marie says, "I was going to parkrun anyway and thought I could help by giving the dogs a bit of exercise at the same time. The other runners are always excited to see them, they are treated like celebrities.
"One of the dogs, Marley, was rehomed as a direct result of parkrun. Someone spotted him and fell in love with him. It’s lovely because he comes to parkrun so I still see him regularly."
Marie adds, "The dogs really enjoy it. I make sure I run at their pace and keep a close eye on them. We always take breaks for water and if they don’t want to carry on running we stop. I do it for fun so I’m not worried what time I get but one of the dogs Nevada was so fast she helped me get a new personal best. I collapsed in a heap afterwards and she was still full of energy."
More than a million people around the world take part in parkrun, a free, 5k run, every week. All of Marie’s parkrun pooches are from the RSPCA Essex South and Southend Branch and Crofters Rescue in Rayleigh.
Kathy Butler, a trustee and dog coordinator at RSPCA Southend, says, "It's a great experience for our dogs. We choose dogs who are fit enough to take part and who love to meet new people and explore new places.
"Marie takes great care of them and often takes them to the seaside or country park too, which gives them a change of scenery from kennels and is fantastic for their wellbeing.
"It has also helped with rehoming as we are able to share the photo's Marie takes via social media. It shows a dogs individual versatility and how much fun they can bring into your life."
Two of the dogs looking for homes share their names with British Olympic stars - Jess Ennis and Charlie Grice. Jess, a two-year-old lurcher, can be timid but loves to run and was well behaved at parkrun. Charlie, a six-year-old Staffie cross, hadn’t been walked for two years when he came to the centre. He needs an owner to give him regular exercise to keep him in tip-top condition.
RSPCA tips for running with your dog
- Only take your dog running if you think they will enjoy it. If your dog has health conditions, is overweight, particularly young or old, check with your vet first. In addition, some breeds of dog eg, those with short snouts or long-haired breeds are more prone to heatstroke and can struggle when running.
- When running always keep an eye on your dog and let them set the pace. If they aren’t enjoying it or you notice a change in their behaviour stop and check they are okay.
- Be aware of the signs of heatstroke. Never run with your dog in hot weather, instead exercise them early in the morning and late in the evening when temperatures are cooler
- Take water with you for your dog and offer it regularly
- Keep the lead long enough so they have some space and can set the pace but always make sure you have control