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Outward Hounds

Looking for the ideal running partner? Visit the dog pound.

Axel and I were running effortlessly along the trail together, bounding from rock to rock across streams, moving stride for stride on uphills and downhills alike, both of us with smiles on our faces. After years of running with annoying chatterboxes or overly competitive show-offs, I had finally found the perfect running companion.

Axel is not without flaws: he has bad breath, his tongue hangs out when he’s tired, and he regularly poops in the middle of our runs. But he loves running as much as I do, especially because it might be the only time all week he gets to do it.

Axel is a coonhound mutt who currently resides at Brother Wolf Animal Rescue, a no-kill shelter in Asheville, N.C.  Brother Wolf rescues dogs from the streets, incompatible homes, or other shelters that would otherwise euthanize the dogs.

Brother Wolf recently created the Outward Hounds Hiking Club to encourage hikers, walkers, and runners to borrow a canine partner for their next outdoor adventure. It enables the dogs to get much needed outdoor exercise and spend time in the presence and control of humans, which improves their training and socialization skills for life after adoption.

But the dogs are not the only ones who benefit from regular outings. The club is an excellent opportunity for humans to socialize as well.  It’s easy to make new friends and connections when surrounded by dog lovers, hikers, runners, explorers, and people who are striving to make a difference in their communities. You can hike with the club or just stop by the shelter before your next outdoor adventure to pick up a canine co-pilot for the day.

Animal shelters throughout the region offer similar clubs and services. In Boone, N.C., the Watauga Humane Society has a companion for your next outing. Planning a picnic for two in the lovely hills surrounding Charlottesville? The Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA, another no-kill shelter, has the perfect date for you.

No matter where you are, there will inevitably be dogs in need of exercise and companionship. And perhaps you’ll meet your new best friend and share the excitement that Axel and I have found on the trail.

After our most recent run together, we were both out of breath but delightfully refreshed. Axel lapped up water from the creek before we walked back to the car. On the ride back to the shelter, he sat up front. I glanced over to see his tongue and droopy jowls flapping in the wind. I didn’t complain about his drooling on the windowsill of my car, and he’ll never comment about my terrible taste in music.

Dogs at these shelters are available and eager to accompany you on your next hike or run:
Charlottesville-Albemarle SPCA • 434-973-5959
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Watauga Humane Society • 828-254-7865
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Brother Wolf Animal Rescue • 828-808-9435

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