The Dog Days of Summer

This story was published June 17, 2005, during an internship at

How do I love thee?
The ways are numberless
As my hairs on the rug

A dog is a man’s best friend. Or just something that sheds on his clothes. Either way you interpret the above haiku, it’s hard to deny the bond between humans and animals. Get together with fellow animal lovers (reluctant and otherwise) on Saturday, June 18 at the Robins-Starr Humane Center for the Richmond SPCA’s Third Annual Dog Jog and 5k Run . But before you get your race face on, take a moment to learn more about the program.

Approximately 200 volunteers work for the Richmond SPCA, including the Green Team, a group of behavioral specialists that train the dogs to make them more adoptable.

At any given time, the Richmond SPCA has about 250 animals, split evenly between cats and dogs.

The SPCA has an annual budget of $3.2 million, a third of which goes to the spay/neuter clinic which performs 9,000 surgeries a year.

A typical spay/neuter surgery at a private vet costs around $150, but more than half of those performed at the SPCA are for free for pets of low-income families.

Since it became no-kill in 2002, the lives of 7,716 animals have been saved.

Almost half of the animals that come to the SPCA already have a home, but the family wants to give the animal away because there’s a behavioral problem.

To combat this, the SPCA offers free sessions with their specialists to see if the behavior issues – things like cats clawing furniture and dogs jumping on visitors – can be solved. More than 1,000 pets have been kept in their homes through this service.

Sounds good, right? The SPCA creates an ideal environment, where animals are trained to be obedient, loving and calm. It is a utopia where every dog knows how to sit, every cat can use a litterbox and everyday at the SPCA is tranquil and quiet. The reality is more like this: masses of adults and kids, 300 dogs, vendors hawking food and games, live music, one mean moonbounce and a crowd of serious runners. That’s the Dog Jog and 5k Run.

The 5k, sponsored by the Richmond Road Runners Club , is at 8 a.m., so competitive runners can lace up their shoes and get going before the animals arrive. At 9:30 a.m., after everyone’s gotten their breath back, the leisurely Dog Jog begins. “It’s really all about fun with the Dog Jog. We have kids, families, we’ve even had a couple people in wheelchairs,” said CEO Robin Starr .

There will be two vets and a number of trainers on hand, but there has never been a problem with the animals in the past. It must be the pooch pools – plastic wading pools filled with cool water – that keep everyone happy. More good news: you can participate even if you don’t have a puppy of your own because the SPCA loans dogs out for the event. If you’re bringing your own canine, it must have an ID tag and be on a leash. Current rabies vaccinations are required and dogs must be over six months of age.

Chief meteorologist for CBS-6, Mike Goldberg, will emcee the event, which features music from 59H2O, juggler Jonathan Austin, face painting, food, prizes and more.

Starr expects to raise about $40,000 this year. As of Monday, there were 166 participants registered for the Dog Jog and 124 for the 5k, but Starr confidently predicts that will double before race day.

Registration fees are $30 for each event, with discounts for participants who register for both runs and for dads and kids who register together. For more information, call (804) 521-1318.

The Third Annual Dog Jog takes place this Saturday at the Robins-Starr Humane Center. The 5K starts at 8 a.m.; the Dog Jog at 9:30 a.m. $30 for each event.

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