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Steinbrenner High School cross-country team trains with rescue dogs from Humane Society of Tampa Bay

6:45 a.m. play date during spring break
Posted at 4:24 AM, Mar 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-16 11:37:21-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Zach Harrigan is the senior captain of Steinbrenner High School's cross-country team.

Scooby is a rescue dog at the Humane Society of Tampa Bay.

On an early pre-dawn Monday during spring break, Zach and Scooby are paired up at the shelter.

New running buddies, if only for a short sweet time.

"I just love being out here in the morning," says Zach, who's been doing this morning ritual for the past four years. "I'm definitely a dog person."

After pairing up, Zach and several of his teammates drive their new furry friends a short distance to Tampa's Al Lopez Park for a light run, some fun and much-needed bonding for everybody.

"This is definitely a good team exercise," says Zach about this lovely tradition. "We've all learned to sacrifice something, whether our time or our car. I mean, I've had my car thrown up in. But we also see first-hand the impact, the adoptions."

The idea to pair high-school long-distance runners with dogs stuck in shelters awaiting a forever home was the idea of Coach Bob Ennis.

They do this weekdays over breaks and the summer. Their morning time together is short. It is often less than an hour, but it means a lot to everyone.

"It teaches us responsibility," says Jacob, a sophomore. "Helps them, helps us."

Not long ago Zach adopted a puppy from the shelter. Now, he wants to see his new friend Scooby find a home.

"It's hard bringing them back," Zach says.

To learn more about adopting an animal from the Humane Society of Tampa Bay, click here.