JEANETTE: According to ASPCA, 3.3 million dogs enter shelters each year in the United States, and there are millions of dogs waiting in shelters for a forever home. For some, it’s a bit harder to find new families than others. There could be many reasons for that, but a common reason is that they are too demanding. You guys often end up with these dogs. Why?
NICK: We got into dog powered sports because as a kid, I always wanted a malamute. We ended up getting a malamute that had been returned because he was too high energy. The family couldn’t handle him. So it was my opportunity for us to get a malamute. We got him, and he was going to destroy our house. We had to find something to keep him from destroying our house. We were not going to give up on him.
I started in canicross for that reason. I just started running with him to burn off energy so that he could get the exercise he needed to be a good dog. That just let us see that there was really a need for high energy rescue dogs to have a place that – they need a family where they can burn off that energy and be the good dogs that they really are deep down inside.
JEANETTE: But it can be quite hard to find that good dog sometimes. Do you have some tips and tricks to share?
NICK: The biggest tip, really, is exercise. In the U.S., we have a saying, “a tired dog is a good dog,” and that’s really it. It’s about getting them the exercise that they need to find that inner calmness that they all have.
JEANETTE: Is this often underestimated when somebody gets, for example, a malamute or a husky or a border collie, the level of activity these dogs need?
NICK: Absolutely. In fact, almost all of our dogs have had homes before us where someone got them and underestimated how much work they were going to get.
For example, the dog that Joy ran with in the first World Championships that we competed in was a dog that someone applied to a husky rescue. The rescue said, “Your life is not right for a husky.” They said, “Too bad, I want a husky anyway.” They went out to a different shelter, adopted one. Called this rescue back and said, “Hey, you were right. We can’t handle a husky, but we adopted one, so here. Please take him.”
People really need to understand that huskies and malamutes and many other breeds out there require a certain lifestyle. You have to make a commitment to that lifestyle. If you’re not an active person, don’t get an active breed.
JEANETTE: And you are quite active with your dogs. You’re doing canicross with them, and you have done quite good. We are at the World Championships in Sweden right now, and you have been running with one of your rescue dogs.
JOY: Yes. His name is Oso and he is a husky mix. We adopted him several years ago from a shelter in Oklahoma City, and he’d just had this third birthday.
When we adopted him, no one wanted him. All of the people who had come to look at him and see if he was right for their family took one look at him and said “absolutely not,” and walked out the door. He would destroy wire crates. He had had a couple surgeries with stitches and had ripped those out and tore up his cone, had to have a muzzle. He was just sort of a mess, and people thought they really couldn’t handle him.
We came across him and we talked about it and talked about it, and we decided he’s the perfect fit for our family. We have never had one problem with him because from the moment we brought him home, we started running with him.
NICK: We find it a little funny in that when we walked in to meet him, we picked up a leash and he started screaming at the top of his lungs. The rescue said, “That’s why everyone is scared of him.” We said, “He’s perfect for us.”
JEANETTE: Was he screaming because he was eager to do something?
NICK: He was just so excited. He knew that the leash meant he got to go for a walk, and all he wanted to do was get out there and burn energy off.
JEANETTE: Do you think these signals a