Story by Lehia Apana | Photo by Angela Nelson
TITLE: Owner, Pooch Fit
NEW LEASH ON LIFE: In 2012, while training for the Maui Marathon, Dustin Metzler began noticing a high number of dogs locked up in kennels and backyards.
“One day I thought, ‘I bet there are a lot of dog owners who don’t have the time or energy to run with their dogs,’” explains Dustin. “That night I was Googling how to start a dog-running business and found an e-book on the topic. It was an excellent $17 investment.”
Dustin began running with dogs at the Hawaii Animal Rescue Foundation in Kīhei.
“Once they became familiar with me, I would show up and it was absolute doggy pandemonium. That’s what sold me on the idea of dog running as a business.”
DOG’S BEST FRIEND: Dustin points out that many dogs are wary of leaving home with a stranger.
“They’re often terrified of leaving Mom and Dad,” says Dustin, who offers trial runs to earn the dog’s trust. “Before long the dog knows what I’m there for and is super excited to leave the house.”
Dustin travels across the island to pick up his four-legged clients, often pairing them with dogs at similar energy levels. He runs up to sixty miles each week.
“I can’t remember the last time I went for a solo run — these days it’s always with pooch in stride,” he says.
RUFF DAY: One day while running near a Wailea golf course with a boxer named Boomer, Dustin forgot to ensure the dog’s collar was snug. Before long, Boomer escaped.
“He’d chase the golfers’ balls and knock them away just before it was about to go in the hole. Those guys were absolutely livid with me,” Dustin recalls. “I tried to catch him, but he’d run right past me and tease me. This went on for an hour before his owner came over and was able to grab Boomer.”
MAKING STRIDES: Some people call Dustin to help control their dog’s weight, others to help a hyper hound work off excess energy.
“I have a handful of clients who are physically handicapped and they just love their dogs and want to provide an outlet for them,” says Dustin.
He adds, “Many owners give their dog love and affection, and take them out now and then, but dogs need to get out and be primal, which is why running is so great for them.”