With runners showing up Monday at the Santa Maria Animal Shelter to undertake a second run in Orcutt, coach Luis Escobar talked about the widespread attention of the run, first reported by Noozhawk on Aug. 5.
“We’ve gotten some national media attention, which has been exciting — a little surreal,” said Stacy Silva, community outreach coordinator for Animal Services. “Overall, the result has been overwhelmingly positive, and we cannot wait to do it again.”
Animal Services representatives hope to have the program expand to the Lompoc and Santa Barbara shelters.
Outside Santa Barbara County, other schools are following the lead of the St. Joseph team, with calls going to Escobar, the school’s athletic director and shelter workers.
“They all ask the same thing — how do we do it in our community? It was just so spontaneous and organic. We never intended it to be a big deal,” Escobar said.
The Quincy Notre Dame High School cross-country team in Illinois conducted its first run with plans for another in September.
“Great idea,” the team’s Twitter page said. “We wore them out!!”
The run landed one dog a permanent home. Fred, the tired small dog seen being carried by Joshua Menusa in the final seconds of the video from the first run, now lives with the family.
The family decided that if the border terrier remained at the shelter a week after the first run that they would adopt him.
“The whole team had a lot of fun. The dogs had a lot of fun,” Menusa said. “It was just a really exciting day for everybody.”
Despite the attention, the coach’s focus still involves fielding a competitive cross-country team, Escobar said.
“But if a small gesture can benefit people and animals around the country, why not do it? It’s been a really easy thing for us to do,” Escobar said. “This is a good example of you really don’t need many resources to do something that’s good.”
The idea for the run arose from the friendship of Escobar and shelter workers.
“I am a little surprised because it was such a simple idea that has kind of taken off,” Silva said.
Since the first run, the Santa Maria shelter has received a donation of 15 special running harnesses from Ruffwear.
The Santa Barbara County Animal Care Foundation is raising money to purchase more.
Silva said the dog run appears to have generated interest in adoptions, bringing more people to the shelter.
“For us, the biggest thing is the attention and exercise it brings to our shelter dogs,” Silva said. “On top of that, just because it’s gotten so much attention, the hope is that shelter dogs in other areas will actually benefit as shelters explore how they can utilize their local cross-country team to help make a difference.”