The difference a run makes

For shelter dogs, it’s a new leash on life

When Ras and Cash hit it off, Andre Benoit immediately knew the rescue run that led to the foster weekend had just led to the ultimate outcome for Ras – a forever home.

“I would not have known about Rex [his new name] if it wasn’t for the run program,” Benoit said.

The silver Labrador retriever had only been at the St. Charles Parish Animal Shelter a week. His owner surrendered him and three other dogs when animal control required a fenced area for them instead of setting them loose into the neighborhood on evenings.

Benoit, and his roommate Kaci Dufrene, who had just started running on Thursdays as part of the shelter’s Rescue Run program, discovered Rex before he was even announced as being available and asked he be put on reserve so they could give him a weekend trial. When Benoit introduced Rex, a silver Labrador Retriever, to Cash, his Rhodesian Ridgeback rescued in Jefferson Parish, it was a great match and immediately led to adoption.

Kaci Dufrene praised the program.

“Those runs are great,” she said. “They not only get the animals outside, but there’s always the chance you might take one.”

In fact, she did. Dufrene and Benoit are adopting Rex.Runners can take different dogs for the run or stick with a buddy.

For Chris Johnson, his buddy is Tipper, a blue pit bull.The runs also led to a special relationship, which changed Johnson’s concern about the breed.

Now, Johnson considers Tipper a great partner. The runs are making her a more appealing adoption candidate with her calmer, more approachable disposition. And, when Johnson’s ready to adopt a dog, he’s learned an athletic, larger dog is a better match for his fitness lifestyle.

Although Johnson lives in New Orleans, he comes to the parish’s animal shelter before work to run with a shelter dog. It’s been such an experience for Johnson that he’s even become a Facebook fan with promoting the animal shelter.“Prior to the Thursday run group, I never shared animal shelter pictures with friends,” he said. “Now, I frequently do.”

In addition to the bonds formed between runner and dog, Animal Control Director Jena Troxler said there is also a growing enthusiasm to help the Run Club.

“We see it when we ask for support, such as donation requests,” Troxler said. “We asked for Kuranda beds for those residents that chew our current beds and within 24 hours we had a staggering 19 beds donated online. It’s the support increase when we have events and actual adoptions are up 21 percent this year.”

And she adds the runs are beneficial for the dogs.

“We have seen such a positive impact on the shelter animals after a run,” Troxler said. “They are calmer and learning basic commands. Each Thursday morning at 6 a.m., an average of 17 shelter K-9s that have passed all medical and behavior testing get to enjoy one hour in the crisp morning air running down Judge Dufresne Boulevard.”

Toni Nottingham, who Troxler calls their “never miss a Thursday runner,” wanted to step up the program by also doing runs on Sunday mornings at 8 a.m. She coordinated it with the weekend animal caretaker and both were more than happy to join in getting the animals out that morning while their “bedrooms” are cleaned and breakfast arrives.

“Our community loves it and we see the same runners every week with a sprinkling of new ones,” Troxler said.

The Event Bright sign up is typically ‘sold out’ (event is actually free) within 5 minutes to an hour of posting the number of dogs available on Monday on the Facebook site St. Charles Parish Rescue Run Club page.

The program is “a great success,” says Jackie Boudreaux, president of the St. Charles Humane Society.

“What a great way to get involved with the shelter animals,” Boudreaux said. “That outing for them makes them even more ready to shine like a star when someone is considering adoption of that animal.”

Boudreaux said adoptions rose last year, which they attribute to healthier pets based on Troxler implementing protocols for shelter medicine.

“Another key factor was our reduced adoption fee for cats,” she said. “This was felt by all shelters in the state last year. Thanks to our Parish President Larry Cochran for promoting the shelter which, in turn, has resulted in a greater exposure of what’s happening in our shelter and people becoming involved as volunteers from the community.”

Overall, Boudreaux said parish residents are saying that the good things happening at the animal shelter have drawn them to get involved.

According to Boudreaux, it takes a lot of love for animals and involvement by the community to make a successful shelter.

“We are so happy to see the community coming together to help make the shelter the best it can be,” she said. “For the Humane Society, we knew long ago one of the most important elements would be teamwork and we sure have a lot of teamwork going on with the parish shelter, the staff and St. Charles Humane Society… A win-win for every animal in the shelter.”

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