The St. Joseph High School boys and girls cross-country runners gathered at the Santa Maria Animal Shelter on Monday to fetched their leashed-up running buddies.
For the second time, the runners ran with shelter dogs on a training run. Canines and humans went on a jaunt of approximately a mile and a half, exiting the animal shelter parking lot and then heading west down Foster Road.
"This is Freddie, and this will be the second time I've run with him," said St. Joseph junior Joshua Menusa, glancing down at a frisky, long-haired brown and white border terrier.
"He didn't quite make it a mile the first time. I had to pick him up and carry him the whole last half."
Well, Menusa had to carry Freddie almost the entire last half.
"He wanted to sprint the last 100 yards," Joshua explained.
The first dogs-and-humans run involving the St. Joseph athletes took place Aug. 4.
"My wife, Beverly, and I, and Stacy Silva, the community outreach coordinator for the shelter, talked about doing something like this," said Luis Escobar, who coaches the St. Joseph boys and girls cross-country teams.
"Both of them were very enthusiastic about the idea.
"After we got back, I posted something about it on our Facebook page," Escobar said. "Almost immediately, it got hundreds of shares and thousands of likes. I got calls from coaches and athletic directors across the country asking about it."
Silva, who has worked at the shelter the past several years, said, "This is the first time since I've been here that there has been something like this, where high school kids and dogs run together.
"It's a win-win situation. The dogs get good exercise, and the kids get exposed to the dogs. Maybe they talk about it with their parents and friends, and maybe the dogs become more adoptable."
"This is Stucca," St. Joseh junior Mario Sanchez said, looking at a pit bull the runner had in tow. "Wish me luck," he said as the dog gave a hearty pull on the leash.
Sanchez and Stucca made it through the run just fine.
Before the run started, some of the dogs seemed intent on getting into their fellow canines' spaces. The runners, doing a stellar job of tugging on the dogs' leashes and restraining them, managed to keep everyone separated.
After the runners, at well-spaced intervals, exited the parking lot with their dogs, everyone was off and running.
St. Joseph sophomore Corby Burress' training partner was another pit bull, Raider.
"He did quite a bit of pulling," Burress said after she and Raider had returned. "He's panting now. I guess he's pretty tired. The run went all right."
Silva said, "Hopefully we can build on this, and these kids keep coming back. Maybe we'll draw more people from other places to do something like this, too."