Grandma's Marathon: Duluth counselor running for her own mental health, and the animals of Ruff Start Rescue
Angie Adams of North Shore Mental Health Services is one of the charity runners taking part in Grandma's Marathon weekend. She'll be running the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon to raise funds for Ruff Start Rescue, an organization she fosters dogs for. It's also where she has adopted two of her three dogs.
When Angie Adams and her family began fostering a rescue border collie mix named Dax — who they would eventually adopt — in 2018, his future as Adams’ running buddy seemed bleak. Dax had a broken leg at the time, and the family thought it might have to be amputated.
Four years later, Dax still has his leg and Adams has her running buddy.
“He could run forever, but because of his old leg injury, I try not to take him longer than 3-ish miles. He does the shorter runs with me,” said Adams, a native of Mound, Minnesota, who now lives in Two Harbors. “He would definitely run until his leg was really sore, so we have to be careful what kind of exercise he gets.”
Adams and her family fostered and adopted Dax through Ruff Start Rescue, a foster-based animal rescue organization based in Princeton, Minnesota. In addition to dogs, Ruff Start Rescue also rescues cats, ferrets, guinea pigs, rabbits and “other critters,” according to its website .
Adams is one of about 175 charity runners taking part in Grandma’s Marathon weekend races. She’s raising money for Ruff Start Rescue by running the Garry Bjorklund Half Marathon.
“I love running. It really, for me, is a form of self care,” said Adams, a University of Minnesota Duluth graduate and licensed professional clinical counselor who started her own practice — North Shore Mental Health Services — in Duluth. “Working in the mental health field, I have to make sure that I'm taking care of myself. For me, it's a great time for me to be outside and process my own thoughts and feelings and help myself feel strong. And an excuse to be outside, for sure.”
After playing soccer and running track growing up, Adams said she got into distance running in 2008. That’s when she ran the Bjorklund for the first time. She’s run the half marathon on Grandma’s weekend between 6-7 times now, she said, but only did the full marathon once.
“I don’t think my body is built for the full. I won’t do that again,” said Adams, who has also run half marathons in Stillwater and Fargo, but the Bjorklund is her go-to race every year. “Nothing beats the crowds and the views up here. It’s where I live, too, so that’s nice and convenient.”
In addition to Dax, who is now 5 years old, Adams has two other dogs — a 13-year-old border collie mix named Rudy and a newly adopted 8-month-old pinscher/dachshund mix named Lulu.
Like Dax, Lulu came to Adams as a foster from Ruff Start Rescue, though the family wasn’t planning on fostering to adopt Lulu, who was a stray from the Houston area. Adams began fostering puppies for Ruff Start Rescue in January, and she’s currently on her seventh foster dog since then.
“I’ve kind of hit the ground running. I’ve always wanted to foster,” said Adams, who along with her husband has two kids, ages 5 and 8. “I was waiting for my kids to get a little bit older so that I had some more free time, and that they could be a little more helpful with that. The timing was right. I’ve been working from home more this past year, so it just kind of worked out.”
Adams and her family have been fostering puppies, who typically stay with the family for 1-3 weeks before getting adopted. Ruff Start Rescue posts animals in need of fosters online, and families choose animals that best fit their situation.
Adams has to travel from Two Harbors to Princeton to pick up the dogs, however, Ruff Start Rescue provides foster families with bedding, toys, food, medications and any other supplies the animal requires, making sure fostering isn’t a financial burden on families, Adams said.
“I really, really appreciate the how much support they give their fosters,” Adams said. “The communication is great. It feels super supportive. There’s Facebook groups that really keep you in contact with other fosters. If you have any questions, someone is always available. That felt really good wading into this unknown territory. Knowing that if anything happened, I felt like people were going to catch me if I fell. That’s what I really like about Ruff Start.”
Many of the animals in the care of Ruff Start Rescue come from Texas. Some come from shelters in Louisiana. They also take in animals from across Minnesota. Adams has taken in dogs from reservations in South Dakota.
Meaghan Dubbs, Ruff Start Rescue’s transport partnerships specialist, said the organization works with close to 30 shelters and 12 rescue partners. Two buses a month bring a combined 50-65 dogs from Houston to Minnesota a month. Dogs stay with fosters in Texas for 2-4 weeks before being transported to make sure they are healthy and ready to travel.
Animals are posted to Ruff Start Rescue’s website ahead of time. Dubbs said the hope is that all of them are adopted or fostered to adopt ahead of time, but if not, they go into foster homes. Ruff Start Rescue doesn’t shelter any dogs in Princeton.
Dubbs said there are always more animals than foster or forever homes.
“I get probably get pleas for thousands of animals every week,” said Dubbs, who works primarily with animals in Texas. “We turn down a lot because we just don’t have the capacity to take all of the animals.”
Adams said if people are considering fostering animals, now is a great time to step into the role with the pandemic slowing down. Many people are deciding pets are too much, and other foster families have stepped down due to busy schedules.
Fostering dogs triggers a range of emotions, but it’s a cool feeling to send best friends to new families, Adams said.
“It's hard. It's frustrating. It's beautiful. It's fun,” Adams said. “It's heartbreaking when you let the animal go to their new home, but it's also just so heartwarming at the same time because you know that you've created this opportunity for them to get into a home. It's such a mixed bag of emotions, but I found it so rewarding to be this safe spot on these dogs’ journey.”