How Running Changed Me – John Gray

Name: John Gray
Littleton, Colorado
Deputy Sheriff with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office
Working time:
15 years
Reason for running:
I run to raise awareness about work, my health and the use of police therapy dogs that work with mental health and school resource officers.

I first started running regularly in 2009 for my career as a security guard. When I started, I ran five days a week at the police academy. Throughout my career, I try to train at least four times a week to maintain my physical conditioning for traveling through life, getting married, and having sons.

Now, Rex, my K9 partner and a year-and-a-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 keep me moving!

I am a school resource officer Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office in Colorado and Rex is my school resource K9 partner. Rex works great as a support all it has a positive effect not only on students’ morale, but also on their relationship with me as a school resource officer. Rex also works hard to make our students smile while keeping our schools safe by sniffing out firearms.

From police therapy dogs to the Canine Good Citizen program and beyond, they must have completed American Kennel Club (AKC) training and become certified as a therapy dog ​​through an AKC-approved organization. Police therapy dogs work with school resource officers and are specifically trained in obedience, which allows officers to guide how the dogs interact with people in different situations.

For example, if we have students with a diagnosis that includes sensory overstimulation anxiety, we can put the dog down and allow the student to approach the dog and interact at their own pace. Hormones in our bodies change when we are upset, and dogs can smell the change in hormones. Experienced therapy dogs work with anxious people and people in crisis so often that they learn to identify hormonal changes and interact with people on a more active level.

We also work with therapy dogs and socialize them in such a way that we create confident dogs who are not afraid of 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 worker program is trying to make a difference in the minds of our youth and provide support to those who need it most.

This year, Bring back the Blue K9 Powera nonprofit organization, along with the Arapahoe County Sheriff’s Office, hosted the first RexRun 5K for PAWSitivity August 6, 2022 to raise awareness and funding for law enforcement therapy dogs. The RexRun was also inspired by Rex, with the goal of raising money to buy more sheriff’s office therapy dogs for our schools, as well as equip all of our K9s with safety equipment.

John Gray How running changed me

Courtesy John Gray

Running at a RexRun event was exciting and running for a cause was a lot of fun! We were joined by 9-year-old Teresa Ann, who started the race with me by running the first mile in honor of fallen police K9 Riggs, who worked with the Greenwood Village Police Department.

This race was extremely important not only to me, but to our community as it supports the growth of our sheriff’s office therapy dog ​​program, a relatively new concept for law enforcement.

Rex and I do a lot of walking and a bit of jogging in our free time, and we also do a lot of exercise at work to stay active. Rex always loves the opportunity to show off his obedience and play a little.

Rex and I plan to continue using the run to raise awareness of the incredible impact a therapy dog ​​can have when paired with a school resource officer.

Running and just exercising is a great way to get a natural dopamine release and benefit your mood and health. If you are new to running, I would encourage you to find a way to make running fun, effective, or exciting. Race for a cause and consider joining us at RexRun 2023.

These three tips made my running journey a success:

1. Find a purpose

Whether it’s running, participating in dog training, or talking to a cafeteria full of students, I always try to find purpose or passion for what I do. Passion and purpose give us the ability to achieve goals we never thought possible.

2. Create to plan

I always start any run or workout with a plan. Small goals can be a huge motivator because nothing feels better than exceeding your own expectations!

3. Focus on intelligence

Running a race for a cause or traveling to a new area to explore is a great way to add some fun to your running. I use the same principle when training Rex and always try to train in new areas to keep training interesting and fun for Rex.

John’s Must-Have Gear

Salomon XA PRO 3D V8 GORE-TEX Men’s Trail Running Shoe: We work and run in difficult conditions. I wear Salomon boots and shoes and they have always supported me in all the tough conditions we can work in.

5.11 TacTec Trainer Weight Vest: If you’re going to push running to the next level like us, if you want to run with equipment at work, it’s best to train with weight equipment outside of work. These weighted vests present a nice challenge, but can be comfortable when properly adjusted.

Skullcandy Hesh ANC noise canceling wireless headphones: I like some of the noise cancellation these headphones have, but I still feel like I could use some situational awareness during a workout or run. If I run near roads or on trails, I usually won’t run my music loud so I can be aware of what’s going on around me.

We want to hear how running has changed you! Send us your story and send us your photos this form. We’ll pick one each week to highlight on the site.

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