First Jago’s Run for Ned’s Wish a huge success

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald A runner makes their way through Nisbet Forest with their dog during Jago's Run on Saturday.

Event looking to expand across Canada as Hero’s Run

The first ever Jago’s Run for Ned’s Wish, which took place outside Prince Albert on Saturday, was a huge success.

Organizers held this one of a kind run-with-your-dog race experience to remember Police Service Dog Jago. The event saw great turnout and weather.

According to organizer Amy Wilkinson of Paws Here, who hosted the event along with Aim K9 and Ned’s Wish, there were 60 participants in person and 150 virtual participants for a total of over 200 from coast to coast.

“It’s been great for a first time because you never know what you are going to get for registrations or participants,” Wilkinson said. “It has been phenomenal—a great turnout by people both in person and across Canada, and it really comes down to the dogs because dogs bring everyone together. We have got that on our side and everybody loves the working dogs, their own dogs and the retired police dogs.”

RCMP Service Dog Jago was tragically killed on June 17 during a high-risk incident involving an armed suspect in High Prairie, AB and the run, which took place in the Nisbet Forest, honoured his memory.

The weather cooperated and gave attendees an ideal day for running, walking, and hiking through Nisbet Forest with or without a dog.

“It was perfect weather. We could not have ordered any better weather. Tt’s not too hot, not too cold. It has been absolutely phenomenal,” Wilkinson said.

Ned’s Wish president Stacy Talbot said the organization acts like a pension for retired police dogs by supporting them financially for medical well-being through covering their vet bills.

“We fundraise and we take care of (them) whenever a retired police dog is in need. If it needs to go to the vet, they supply us with the medical invoices and we reimburse them those expenses so that the dog can have a comfortable retirement after its served its community faithfully for all of those years,” Talbot explained.

She added that police dogs retire at various points in their career depending on their health. She said the job takes a toll on their body, and back problems, joint problems, hip problems and arthritis are all concerns.

“These are professional athletes,” Talbot said. “They train every day. They are jumping in and out of vehicles. They are chasing people down. They are sniffing. They are getting into places.”

Michael Oleksyn/Daily Herald Ned’s Wish president Stacey Talbot (right) and another person took part in Jago’s Run in the Nisbet Forest on Saturday.

Ned’s Wish board member Melissa Smits said that her adopted dog Brando, who is almost 12-years old, has arthritis in his spine which leads to weakness in his hind end as well as problematic elbows.

Smits played a big part in bringing together Ned’s Wish and Jago’s Run.

“Essentially we had plans to do a virtual run this year and we were just (thinking), ‘how are we going to do this with COVID’. Amy is a friend of mine from when I used to live in Prince Albert, so she contacted me wanting to put on an actual physical run. We were pumped because we were like this is perfect timing,” Smits said.

The organization was excited, but during the process a PSD Dog named Gator passed away. This gave them an idea, and now the event will be expanding across Canada.

“We kind of knew at that point we were going to have to expand the idea,” Smits said. “Instead of just Jago’s Run you were going to have to include everybody.

“This is our first event but it is basically going to be our Hero’s Run for Ned’s Wish with a distance for every fallen dog. Jago is 6 kilometres because that is specific to his story and in our runner’s booklet we announced that the next distance for Gator is going to be five kilometres.”

Wilkinson said they hope to make Jago’s Run an annual event, but expand it into a Hero’s Run.

“What we are thinking is we might just have different distances in honour of different dogs and slowly just be able to encompass more and more,” she explained. “I think the plans are for somebody in Alberta next year to offer one, spread out across Canada.”

Talbot was pleased with how Jago’s Run turned out as the first of its kind, and credited organizers for doing an outstanding job.

“They have done an outstanding job of staggering run times so everybody’s dog gets some space and distance,” Talbot said.

“Amy is going to be our contact for the Prince Albert run we are going to stick with her for a host, but stay tuned there is going to be more Hero’s Runs” Smits said added.

According to Wilkinson, the volunteers for the event included friends, family, Paws Here clients and Ned’s Wish volunteer from Alberta.

“We have got local volunteers here, we have got some young conservation officers that came and donated time,” Wilkinson said.

“There is no way any of this happens without volunteers,” she added.

The event was a great success and gave people a chance to have fun with their dogs and raise money for a good cause.

“So many people love dogs, so many people have dogs, (and) especially with COVID, there was a huge spike in acquiring dogs so it’s really great to have an event that is dog friendly,” she said.

“We have little kids that have come out today on the course and have walked it with their parents. We have got all ages here. We have people that have absolutely run it like a competitive run. We have people that have walked it. We have people that have enjoyed it.”

Wilkinson said that a group returned from the run and thought they took too long taking pictures in the scenic route through the Nisbet Forest. The run could be treated however you wanted as a walk, a run or a hike. She said the staggered start times made for a challenge for scheduling.

“Everything has run well with that plus this year it means it is COVID friendly so we are actually able to get people out here that don’t have to be worried about close contact or too many people in the same place at one time,” Wilkinson said.

Wilkinson thanked everyone involved including supporters and sponsors, registered participants and volunteers.

“We have got businesses that have sponsored us in Saskatoon and beyond, even some in Alberta and BC that donated either money or products for our prizes,” she said. “We have so many people to thank plus the people who have participated whether virtually and in person for the run…. I don’t think it could have gone any better for a first time,” she said.

Talbot said that the event commemorated what police dogs do every day.

“They have got to go out. They have got to train. They have got to go out for a run. They have got to be fit, so it’s a perfect way of celebrating the work they do and bringing that awareness to people,” Talbot explained. “Not everybody realizes what these dogs actually do in their day-to-day. How important it is—from tracking missing people or maybe criminals that have fled the scene to the most high risk calls you can imagine—barricaded hostages. When a policeman needs help, this is who they call.”