• Michelle Meehan | Features Writer - intouch


As a personal trainer, Jason Siebert knows the effect exercise can have on a person’s physical and mental wellbeing. But it’s not just humans who can benefit from staying active.

For the past few years Jason has been helping to link dog-lovers with animal rescue groups and shelters across Australia, with the aim of increasing the amount of exercise abandoned dogs get to do while they wait to find their forever home.

He initially began by volunteering his own time at shelters on the Central Coast before encouraging his fitness clients to become involved as well.

From there the idea continued to grow and Jason formed Rescue Your Fitness, a registered charity dedicated to enriching the lives of rescue dogs being cared for by shelters and foster groups.

Jes Reinhard has been involved with the group since meeting Jason through a mutual friend and now acts as the organisation’s marketing manager, helping to spread the word of their activities by harnessing the power of social media.

“I met Jason through a mutual friend and he mentioned he was holding a Pack Walk, which was a special event to get all the dogs out of the shelter at once in order to make a statement. There’s nothing like seeing 20 to 30 rescue dogs walking down the street together to get them noticed,” Jes said.

“I had recently purchased a new camera and offered to video it for him to help spread the word.

“We had around 30 people show up and created a social media storm. Long story short the video went viral with over 40,000 views in the first week and thousands of shares on social media. It landed Rescue Your Fitness on (breakfast television show) Sunrise and from there Rescue Your Fitness was off and running.

“Shortly after that burst of media my wife and I suffered the loss of our first dog Lewis. He was our world, a 65kg bull mastiff cross and we lost him to cancer within two to three weeks of that video going live.

“We were devastated, I had to focus my energy on something positive and Rescue Your Fitness was it.

“I took on the role of Marketing Manager and was dedicated to spreading the message.”

Volunteers who take rescue dogs for a walk are also encouraged to take a photo of their interaction and post it on social media using the Rescue Your Fitness hashtag (#rescueyourfitness) and handle (@rescueyourfitness), which the organisation then shares across all their digital platforms.

Jes said both the exercise itself and the social media sharing were designed to increase the dogs’ chances of being adopted, while also improving their physical and mental wellbeing in the short term.

"Rescue Your Fitness inspires people to volunteer at shelters to help exercise and enrich rescue dogs’ lives while in care,” he said.

“The animals in most facilities sit in their runs up to 22 hours a day with minimal exercise. This can have adverse effects on their health, but also their personalities.

“Imagine walking in to a shelter to adopt a dog and seeing all these stir crazy dogs jumping off the walls, it’s quite overwhelming and doesn't show the dogs’ true selves, which can prevent adoptions.

“The reality for these dogs is that they need to move to be healthy not only physically but mentally, just like humans.

“Spending as little as 30 minutes walking, running or playing with these animals gives them a break from shelter life and a chance to be seen.

“The genius part to this is that the walkers share their interaction by posting a selfie with the dog and a brief explanation on social media in the hope someone will see it and want to adopt the dog.

“The work volunteers do on a daily basis to help support these shelters is critical, not only for the daily enrichment of these animals but the power social media has now to change their life. After all, it only takes one person to see one photo to make them want to adopt the dog and save its life.”

In Newcastle Rescue Your Fitness is working with several rescue groups and Jes said the response from locals has been great.

“Our program exists all over Australia as we are digital platform working with volunteers in existing programs and shelters, as well as working with a number of shelters with no volunteer programs to help set up for the future,” he said.

“We have been overwhelmed with support from the Hunter Region and the number of people wanting to get involved.

“Unfortunately there are no local shelters that allow volunteers to walk their dogs that our program can work with right now, but there are two major groups in Dog Rescue Newcastle and Hunter Animal Rescue that do great work and save thousands of lives each year. We will be working close with both groups moving forward.

“Recently we teamed up with Dog Rescue Newcastle to help them get some of their dogs in front of the public and generate some much needed awareness of the charity by holding a Pack Walk.

“We had roughly 25 people come down in support and we walked around 18 dogs and puppies from Dixon Park Beach to Empire Park along the beach promenade. All the dogs had “Adopt Me Jackets” to help their cause.

“More often than not we end up with a few adoptions after a walk, but the main idea of the Pack Walk is to bring awareness to the amazing work groups like Dog Rescue Newcastle do giving these animals a second chance.

“It’s about creating lasting change and it starts with awareness; if people don’t know these animal are there then they can’t adopt them.”

To find out more about Rescue Your Fitness or learn how to get involved visit www.rescueyourfitness.bigcartel.com

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