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This Virginia Marathoner Is the Champion of Returning Lost Dogs

Keira D’Amato goes the extra mile—sometimes literally—to make sure that the fluffy locals she meets are reunited with their owners.

Human, Dog, Dog breed, Vertebrate, Carnivore, Winter, Headgear, Knit cap, Toy dog, Beanie,
Keira D'Amato

When marathoner Keira D’Amato of Midlothian, Virginia, goes out for a run, she tends to attract furry company. Over the past year, D’Amato has found and returned eight runaway dogs to their grateful, and often bewildered, owners.

“I really didn’t think I was breaking records until I posted about [finding and returning lost dogs] on Instagram last week,” D’Amato told Runner’s World. “I ended my post with ‘Okay, who’s with me? Don’t you hate when this happens?’ The response was crickets.”

While other runners might not notice or choose to ignore the stray dogs, D’Amato—who ran a PR of 2:34:55 at the Berlin Marathon in September—goes the extra mile to make sure that the fluffy locals she meets are safely reunited with their owners, even if it means stopping her run to help them.

A few memorable doggie rescues include diving onto pavement to grab a sprinting Dachshund, carrying a medium-large sized dog several blocks back to his home, and walking a pup a half-mile to meet his owner.

Thankfully, the dogs are generally friendly, D’Amato said. In most cases, they simply wandered a little too far from home—many that she has found have only strayed a few houses down the street from their own yards. Some dogs are repeat runaways.

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“A few months ago, a girlfriend and I ran by a runner holding a dog, and she asked if I knew where the dog’s home was. I knew he came from two houses down, because he often wanders down to bark at us,” D’Amato said. “While I didn’t return him myself, it makes me happy that there are other runners out there rescuing dogs, too.”

Since the pups she has met have all been local, D’Amato has not had to call animal services yet. Most of the time she is able to ask around until she meets someone who recognizes the dog, then she walks—but doesn’t run—the pet back to its owner.

Mammal, Vertebrate, Dog, Canidae, Dog breed, Maltese, Bolognese, Bichon, Carnivore, Bichon frisé,
Most dogs are cooperative and happy to be returned to their owners.
Keira D'Amato

“I’m worried if I try to run with the dog, it will be faster than me and do a number on my confidence, so we just wait together,” said D’Amato. “I also don’t want to try to run with the dog and have it run away from me, and then have to explain to the owner that I had the dog but then I lost him again.”

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When she’s not escorting dogs back to their owners, D’Amato is hard at work preparing for the Olympic Marathon Trials next February. But even if the good boys interrupt her workout, she is happy to help. Sometimes, however, the dogs have forgotten their running etiquette.

“In one race this year, an owner wasn’t paying attention to their dog and it jumped out on me,” she said. “You expect to deal with breathing hard and sweating during a race, but not hurdling a dog.”

Despite the occasional troublemakers, most dogs are cooperative and happy to be returned to their owners. While it’s easy to suspect D’Amato of carrying treats in her pockets, she claims it’s just luck.

“I think dogs are drawn to me because I like to run and I have good jokes,” said D’Amato. “They must appreciate both of those qualities and have a similar outlook on life.”

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