BY AMANDA A. TAYLOR
On a typical weekday morning Leonel Alvarado can expect a prompt wakeup call at 5 a.m. Instead of using a traditional alarm clock, the 39-year-old wakes up each morning to the sound of his dog Sky scratching on his window at his home in Alamo. Sky knows that the sooner Alvarado wakes up, the sooner they can go on their morning run.
“She will even bark if I take too long,” Alvarado said. “She then goes to the patio and patiently waits for me to come out.”
Sky, a 2-year-old mixed breed, was adopted from Palm Valley Animal Center as a puppy in 2015. Alvarado wanted to have a dog at the house so his parents could have a companion and protector as he worked long days.
“She was just the cutest and friendliest little puppy,” he said. “The connection was instantaneous and she has been a welcomed addition and blessing to our family ever since.”
Alvarado didn’t consider himself much of a runner before he adopted Sky. He said he enjoyed running as a child and all throughout his life, but he’d only just finish races — not really compete in them. It was Sky’s energy that inspired Alvarado to train regularly and start to compete in marathons.
“We have formed a very close running relationship and she knows exactly when to push the pace and when to allow me to recover,” he said. “She always runs right next to me. I wish I could run as gracefully as she does; she makes it look so effortless.”
Alvarado draws much of his motivation to compete in different marathons from his mother who suffers from renal complications. She used to run track in high school and often mentions how much she misses it, he said.
“I remember her looking at a photograph of herself running track in high school and she told me she loved to run and she wished she was still able to,” Alvarado said. “She said if she could, she would be out there running with me. That resonated into the core of my being, and I decided then and there that I would run for her and for those that no longer could.”
Alvarado keeps a pin, sticker or patch on Sky’s running vest when they go out to train to remind himself of the upcoming marathon he’s competing in and why he’s doing it. He said that Sky’s energy keeps him balanced and she encourages him throughout runs.
“She periodically looks at me with a reassuring look,” he said. “I’m a much improved runner because of her coaching and her ability to motivate me to become a better runner.”
Alvarado said that Sky can easily keep up with him because of her energy levels, but that it is important to keep in mind what a dog’s capabilities are before starting a routine. He said the dog’s breed, health condition and running distance should all be considered carefully before starting any routine.
Alvarado and Sky have competed in several runs together with the longest being 24 miles. The team is easily recognized at the trails where they train since you won’t find one without the other, he said.
“She’s just a really great dog and everyone loves her,” he said. “Without a doubt, the most rewarding part of the run is her energy. I can be having the worst day ever, but she always makes me feel better with her bright hazel eyes, warm smile and incessant tail wagging.”