Shelter dogs around the country have gained new friends, exercise, and outdoor fun thanks to a program started by the St. Joseph High School track team in Santa Maria, California.

Coach Luis Escobar had no idea back in 2016 that a 60-second video showing his long-distance track team running with shelter dogs would not only gain hundreds of thousands of views overnight, but continue to regularly resurface and inspire almost a decade later.

Escobar’s wife pitched the idea when the coach was brainstorming ways to keep his cross-country track team motivated. Escobar took the idea and ran with it.

He reached out to a neighboring animal shelter who loved the idea of letting the students take the dogs out for runs. The shelter provided training on running with dogs and has worked with the team since to determine which dogs are a good fit for the program, which allows the students to run or walk with the dogs on a mile-long route near the shelter.

“The dogs want to go out and run; the kids love dogs, and they love running. It was a perfect marriage,” Luis Escobar told the Washington Post.

Since that time, Escobar has received messages from athletic departments across the country interested in following his team’s lead.

Recognizing that not all dogs are designed to run and too much running might lead to injuries, many dogs in these programs are walked – or even simply played with outdoors, away from their kennels. Many students have become regular shelter volunteers and continued to take the dogs out long after they finished high school.

Best of all, several dogs have been adopted by community members who learned about the dogs through the student programs, as well as many by students themselves.

Lady Freethinker applauds the multiple coaches across the country now running these dog-friendly training programs that have enriched the lives of students and shelter dogs alike.