For cross country team, these shelter dogs make perfect running partners

SANTA MARIA, Calif. -- Animal shelters see dogs that have been abandoned, abused and neglected. Spending most of their days in cages means they don’t move around much.  

At the Santa Barbara County Animal Shelter, coordinator Stacy Silva came up with a plan that high school cross country coach Luis Escobar couldn’t refuse.

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Luis Escobar

CBS News

“You’ve got a bunch of dogs that are in cages, and want to be outside running, and I’ve got a group of high school students that love to run,’” Escobar said. “Perfect match.”

“When the dogs realized that they were getting out of those kennels and to go outside as a group, it was just happy chaos,” he said.

When these kids from St. Joseph High first ran with the shelter dogs in August, Escobar posted a short video, just to share the moment with parents and the school community.

But all of a sudden, “there were millions and millions of views and shares,” he said.

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Josh Menusa holding Fred

Facebook/Luis Escobar

At the end of that viral video, 16-year-old Josh Menusa, holds a tired terrier named Fred. A week later, he returned to the shelter.

“The moment he saw me, oh he starts crying, and I’m like ‘Oh my goodness, he just needs to come with us,’” Menusa said.

They are now inseparable, as Fred is the new Menusa family dog.

The ultimate goal, says junior Sequoia Chumpitaz, is to raise awareness about the plight of shelter animals. But the attachment is real.

“When we have to put him back it’s kind of like, ‘I’m really sorry about this, but hopefully you’ll get adopted,’” Chumpitaz said.

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The St. Joseph High School cross country team with their running partners

CBS News

Silva agreed that dogs that are exercised and socialized are more adoptable.

“It doesn’t have all this pent-up energy it’s trying to show you, just because you’re now paying attention to it,” Silva said. “It makes a huge difference.”

The training regimen may not help St. Joseph win more races, but they’ve already won over plenty of hearts.