Running Rough

Meet the Oregon Ruff Runners, your dog’s best friends

Everyone’s looking for a way to take the edge off these days, even our dogs. Boredom, depression, loneliness — emotional distress is not limited to the human form.

If you happen to be the lucky two-legged parent of a dog, then you probably know they have their own anxieties. You may have come home to a massacred couch. Perhaps your dog prefers snacking on rocks when he’s feeling stressed. I know I do.

While cardio may not be everyone’s preferred method of release, Samara and Josh Kramer of The Oregon Ruff Runners (ORR) — a professional dog-exercise service in Eugene — have made it their life’s work to bring tail-wagging joy to our furry friends, one run at a time. 

“People thought we were nuts when we came up with the idea,” says Samara, a Santa Cruz transplant and former vet tech. Her husband and business partner, Josh, grew up in the Pleasant Hill area before landing in Hawaii on an internship. The two met while working at an aviary propagation center on Maui.

After years of working with animals, including volunteering with the local humane society, running shelter dogs, including their own “shelter specials,” Lani and Mae, they came up with the idea of moving back to the mainland to start their own dog running company.

They now run more than 60 dogs, with a waiting list around the block. 

“We wanted to integrate our love of exercise and our love of dogs somehow in whatever we were going to be doing,” Josh says over a casual plate of powdered French toast. The two have not lost their Hawaiian temperament since starting ORR three years ago. Running an average 15 miles a day probably doesn’t hurt, either. 

Testimonials range from arthritis relief and better leash habits to behavioral improvements and the overall well-being and happiness of the dogs, all while allowing you to go about your long workday.

Maybe you don’t have the stamina of a Jack Russell anymore; keeping up with a hyper pup is a workout. Either way, you can find peace in knowing that your couch will be safe from harm. 

In addition to getting out and exercising, whether it’s a 30-minute run or a two-hour hike up Ridgeline Trail, ORR focuses on socialization. A runner will pick up one dog, drive to another house to pick up a second dog, and the run is on.

“A lot of them like car rides, so it’s an added bonus,” Sam says. Some dogs have up to 15 different running buddies, an extensive social life for anyone. 

But dog running isn’t all sniffing butts. Rogue turkeys and squirrels are always a threat; unleashed dogs are the biggest challenge. Samara and Josh have frequent interaction with off-leash canines; they are routinely chased by random dogs.

The downside of Eugene’s robust dog community is that many people assume it’s okay to let their dogs run freely. Some dogs are reactive and unpredictable. Even if your off-leash dog is the best-mannered pup in Eugene, the leashed dogs may not be.

A quick PSA for all my fellow dog lovers out there: Keep your dog and other dogs safe by walking your dogs on a leash. 

Moving forward, the Kramers want to expand their services beyond the city walls — they’re waiting for you, bold runner and dog enthusiast. With only a handful of current employees, ORR remains an intimate pack.

“We have really good relationships with our clients, and we want that mentality to translate with whoever we hire,” Josh says.

They hope to get back to running shelter dogs, paying employees to volunteer at different local organizations. A monthly pack hike, open to the public, is always looking for more friends to join them on the trails. You can find hike information on their Facebook page. 

Even if you don’t have a dog and for some reason you still made it this far, do yourself and favor and follow the Oregon Ruff Runners on Facebook. Nothing’s better than side stepping political rhetoric to find a smiling, wonky-eared dog in your news feed.

The proof is in the flapping tongue. 

For more info visit Cost is $20 for a 30-minute run.

Also in the Pets Issue:

Pack Of Two Animal companionship helps unhoused people find a life

Art Animals A studio menagerie provides therapy

BarkCon Dog people unite as Eugene gears up for the first Willamette Valley Canine Convention

Pets Photo Contest Winners