Name: John Gray
Hometown: Littleton, Colorado
Occupation: Deputy Sheriff with Arapahoe County Sheriff’s office
Time Running: 15 years
Reason for Running: I run for work, my health, and to raise awareness for mental health and the use of police therapy dogs working with school resource officers.
I first started running regularly in 2009 for my career as a law enforcement officer. When I started, I would run five days a week in the police academy. Throughout my career, journey through life, getting married, and having sons, I try to exercise at least four times a week to maintain my physical conditioning.
Now Rex, my K9 partner, and one-and-half-year-old black Labrador retriever—who works as a certified therapy dog and is also certified in black powder scent detection (which includes firearms, ammunition, and pipe bombs)—definitely helps to keep me constantly on the move!
More From Runner's World
I am a school resource officer with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado, and Rex is my school resource K9 partner. Rex works wonderfully as a support to all students and has a positive impact on not only their mood, but their relationship with me as a school resource officer. Rex also works hard to keep our students smiling, while keeping our schools safe by sniffing for firearms.
Police therapy dogs are required to have completed American Kennel Club (AKC) training up to and beyond the Canine Good Citizen program, and certified as a therapy dog through an AKC-approved organization. The police therapy dogs work with school resource officers and are trained specifically on obedience that allows officers to direct how the dogs interact with people in different circumstances.
For example, if we have students who have a diagnosis that involves a sensory overstimulation concern, we can have the dog lay down and stay in position allowing the student to approach the dog and interact at their own comfortable pace. When we are upset the hormones in our body change and the dogs can smell the change in hormones. Seasoned therapy dogs work with upset people and people in crisis so often that they learn to identify the hormonal changes and can interact with people on a more proactive level.
We also work with the therapy dogs and socialize them in such a way that we create confident dogs that aren’t fearful around any noise or situation that may arise. Mental health is a growing concern in communities across America and this is one way the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s office school resource officer program is trying to make a difference in the minds of our youth and providing support to those that need it most.
This year, Back the Blue K9 Force, a nonprofit organization, along with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, hosted the first RexRun 5K for PAWSitivity on August 6, 2022, to raise awareness and funding for law enforcement therapy dogs. The RexRun race was also inspired by Rex, with the goal to raise money to get more sheriff’s office therapy dogs in our schools, as well as providing safety equipment to all of our K9s.
Running at the RexRun event was exciting and it was so fun to run for a cause! We were joined by 9-year-old Teresa Ann, who started the race by running the first mile with me in honor of a fallen police K9, Riggs, who worked with the Greenwood Village police department.
This race was incredibly important not only to me, but also our community, as it supports the growth of our sheriff’s office therapy dog program, which is a relatively new concept to law enforcement.
Rex and I plan to continue to use running to raise awareness regarding the incredible impact a therapy dog can have when paired with a school resource officer.
Running and just exercise in general is a great way to get a natural dopamine release and benefit your mood and wellness. If you are new to running, I would encourage you to find a way to make running fun and impactful or exciting. Run a race for a cause—and consider joining us at the RexRun 2023.
These three tips have made my running journey a success:
1. Find a purpose
I always try to find purpose or passion for what I’m doing, whether it’s running, participating in dog training, or even talking to a cafeteria full of students. Passion and purpose gives us abilities to reach goals we never thought possible.
2. Create to plan
I always start any run or exercise with a plan. Small goals can be a great motivating factor because nothing feels better than exceeding your own expectations!
3. Focus on exploration
Running a race for a cause or traveling to a new area to explore is a great way to make fun a part of your run. I use this same principle when training Rex, and always try to do training in new areas to keep the training exciting and fun for Rex.
John’s Must-Have Gear
→ Salomon XA PRO 3D V8 GORE-TEX Men’s Trail Running Shoes: We work and run in tough conditions. I wear Salomon boots and shoes and they have always provided support in all the harsh conditions in which we may work.
→ 5.11 TacTec Trainer Weight Vest: If you are going to push running to the next level like we do, running with equipment on at work, it is good to train with weighted equipment outside of work. These weighted vests provide a nice challenge but also can be comfortable when properly adjusted.
→ Skullcandy Hesh ANC Noise-Canceling Wireless Headphones: I like some of the noise cancelation of these headphones, yet still feel like I can have some situational awareness during a workout or run. I usually will not run with my music loud if I am running near roads or on trails, so I can be aware of what’s going on around me.
We want to hear how running changed you! Send your story and submit your photos to us via this form. We’ll pick one each week to highlight on the site.