On May 4, 2019, an estimated 800 dogs and hundreds of humans will come together and run or walk to raise money for the Humane Society for Southwest Washington. Many runners travel to the event for the timed bibs, finisher’s medals and a chance to run with their dog. And plenty of walkers and runners enjoy the Party in the Park that features plenty of community- and animal-related vendors, as well as a beer garden.
For 28 years, this popular event has provided valuable funding to the Humane Society for Southwest Washington while bringing together everyone for a morning of exercise and activities. In the last few years, the Humane Society for Southwest Washington has expanded the offerings to cater to runners and dog owners. We talked to Denise Barr, the Vice President and Director of Marketing at the Humane Society for Southwest Washington to find out a little more about the event, and to learn more about their intriguing program in partnership with the Larch Corrections Center.
MB: For people who aren’t familiar with the event, could you tell us what to expect?
The Walk/Run for the Animals is a three-mile walk along the Columbia River and a 5k run event through the historic property that borders Fort Vancouver on May 4th at Esther Short Park in Vancouver, Washington. The event starts at 7:30 a.m. and lasts until 11:30 a.m. with the walk and run starting at 9:00 a.m. Many participants raise money prior to the event, and you can register online and submit donations up until May 3rd and be entered to win prizes. Fundraisers earn prizes by reaching specific levels. Of course, you can also register the day of the race or walk.
MB: You have a dedicated FAQ about the event that answers most questions that people might have, but what can you tell me about how the event has evolved over the years?
This is my fifth year producing this event, and we’re constantly evolving to make it a better event for the runners and walkers. A number of years ago, we wanted to attract the running community so we added elements to the event to appeal to the running crows. We added chip timed bibs for the 5k. We also added the finisher medals because a lot of runners told us that they run for the medals. Plus, it’s one of the few races where you can actually run with your dog, which can be incredibly fun for some runners and their dogs.
MB: Are there other events that people can enjoy at the Walk/Run for the Animals?
There are plenty of non-runners who enjoy the event or participate in the walk instead of the run. We also have what’s called Party in the Park, which features about 40 vendor booths from different mission-focused organizations that often have an animal-centric sort of mission. We also host roving acts, including someone who makes incredible balloon hats and a therapy llama named Rojo.
Our beer garden brewing partners is Heathen Brewing. We added this feature due for feedback from runners who said that they like to run for beer; it’s our third year to have a beer garden.
We don’t do a lot of events after the run because everyone brings their dogs. So, we want people to feel free to go home after they’ve participated in the walk/run and walked around the vendor village. However, for people who do want to support the community and make a day of it, our farmer’s market is near the park and there are so many restaurants nearby. If you have the time, we encourage everyone to explore the areas around the park!
MB: Could you tell us about some of the programs at the Humane Society of Southwest Washington that the Walk/Run for the Animals will support?
We have so many unique and valuable programs, but I think the one that intrigues a lot of people is our program in partnership with Larch
Corrections Center. It’s a really beautiful program that helps a lot of animals and inmates.
Because we’re an open admissions shelter, some of the animals we receive have behavioral issues. Our facility isn’t set up to give these animals the intensive training they need to be successful in a family home. But the people at Larch corrections center can give cats and dogs the training and socialization they need. Typically, an animal might spend six to eight weeks in a program, and then be reevaluated.
Inmates who participate in the program are called handlers and cannot have a domestic violence or animal abuse background. Plus, at Larch Corrections Center, inmates are within four years of leaving prison. So, a number of the men in the program actually adopt the animals after leaving prison, which helps both the animal and the inmate have a start at a new life.
MB: We’ve heard about inmate training programs for dogs, but programs for cats seem a bit more unique. How do they work?
Some cats bite or are super shy. It’s hard for those cats to get adopted until they become more accustomed to interacting with people. So, if we spot behavioral issues that make a cat more difficult for someone to adopt, we know we can send that cat to Larch where handlers will work to give the animal the one-on-one attention that the cat deserves.
Each handler in the program has a roommate, and the two people work together to help one cat. The cat and inmates live together 24/7, and there are scratching posts and litter boxes in all the rooms. Over time, the cats learn how to trust and interact with people, which makes them better able to form relationships with potential adoptive families. These cats are rehabilitated, and then they’re ready to return to us and become part of an adoptive family.
Our Larch program is somewhat unique, but we have many different programs to benefit many different areas of our community. We offer low-cost spay and neuter, vaccination clinics, temporary shelter for people recovering from medical issues and for people fleeing domestic violence, and at least a dozen other programs.
Our community holds us up, every day, all the time, with their donations, volunteer hours and overall support. And we try to return the favor by creating programs that benefit the people and animals in Southwest Washington.***