As a general rule, dogs have no need to wear vests.
That is, unless Muffie (or, more likely, Muff's owner) is trying to one-up the mutts down the street.
But when Angela Lindbo dresses dogs, it's cause for admiration, not contempt. Lindbo's red doggie vests read "Adopt Me!," and she straps them to abandoned shelter dogs.
On the second Saturday of every month, a truckload of vest-wearing pooches is driven from the Multnomah County Animal Services shelter in Troutdale to a Petco parking lot in Lake Oswego. Around half a dozen dogs are herded out of the truck and paired with human partners, who run or walk them along a 5-mile out-and-back course. This is "Run with the Dogs," a joint venture between the shelter and Portland's Team Red Lizard running club, and it benefits the hard-luck pups in a few ways.
"It gets the dogs out and exercises and socializes them—and they love it," says Lindbo.
But more importantly, the dogs get face time with potential adopters.
"Ideally, one of our runners or walkers spends an hour with the dog, and they find out the dog is great with kids and likes other dogs," says Lindbo. "Even if that person isn't looking for a pet, there's a chance they know someone who is. They can talk the dog up to someone else."
Runners get some puppy love and a trial run with enthusiastic jogging mates.
"There's nothing better to get you out the door than an exercise partner," says Lindbo. "Dogs are the perfect partners."
Unleashing a pack of strays on total strangers sounds like trouble, but so far so good. "We didn't know if it would work the first time we brought out a dozen dogs," says Lindbo. "We thought, 'Well, this could be a complete disaster,' but it's been great. We have had no dog fights." And human chaperones have held tightly to leashes and returned their canine charges safely. More to the point, at least a dozen dogs have been snapped up right from the Petco parking lot, and Lindbo is convinced the event has planted the seeds for countless more adoptions at the shelter.
"Run with the Dogs" is not Lindbo's first effort to save abandoned animals. For several years she fostered MCAS dogs, which is a lot like fostering children. Lindbo took in animals temporarily, trained and socialized them, and usually found enthusiastic permanent owners. Since adopting two dogs from MCAS herself—Zeke and Jasper—she can't handle new dogs in the house. She continues to coordinate fostering for the shelter, and started "Run with the Dogs" last year. "I've always been a dog lover and I just saw a great venue for putting both of my passions together—helping dogs and running."
Creative adoption strategies like "Run for the Dogs" are especially important for MCAS. Most know MCAS as "the pound," a term loaded with negative connotations. "People think we only get problem dogs, older dogs that owners have given up on," says Lindbo. "But you'd be surprised what we get. Lots of great animals. Lots of puppies that just haven't trained right. These are great dogs."