Pet Lovers Stroll promotes health of pets, owners

Leigh Black Irvin

FRUITLAND — Pet owners descended on the Walter Collins Center in Upper Fruitland with their furry friends this morning to get their animals free vaccinations and to participate in the annual Pet Lovers Stroll.

Joseph Begay Jr., right, holds his dog Tico while Stacey Daw, Shiprock senior animal control officer, administers a rabies vaccine at the Walter Collins Center in Fruitland during Saturday’s Pet Lovers Stroll event.

This is the fourth year for the event, which was sponsored by Shiprock Just Move It, an organization geared toward improving community members' health through exercise, good nutrition and other healthy habits.

"We have monthly events to promote health and physical activity, and for our February event, we partner with the Navajo Nation Animal Control to provide free rabies shots," said event organizer Roberta Diswood, who added that free animal licenses and microchipping were also offered to pet owners throughout the morning.

"You need to have a Navajo Nation pet license in order to own a pet on the reservation, so if the animal is picked up by Animal Control, there's information on the animal so it can get back to its family," she said.

The Pet Lovers Stroll involved a 2-mile walk and 4-mile run, and many of the pet owners who brought their pets in to be vaccinated stuck around for a walk or jog with their animal companions.

"We're hosting the walk to give people time to be with their animals," Diswood said. "Taking a walk with a pet is a good way to promote exercise, and it also promotes the health of the animals — pets can become overweight and unhealthy, also."

Lori Pete and daughters Cayden, left, and Caylee race with their puppy Cheii to the track at the Walter Collins Center in Fruitland on Saturday for the Pet Lovers Stroll.

Kimberly Becentio came from her home in Huerfano to get her dog Benji vaccinated and to participate in the Pet Lovers Stroll, and she said she next planned to head over to participate in the San Juan Regional Medical Center's Goosebumps Race in Farmington, which also took place today

"This is the second year I've come here," Becentio said. "It's nice to be able to get the free rabies vaccine. There are a lot of stray dogs (on the reservation), so it's convenient that the Navajo Nation provides this."

Michelle Hastings came from Nenahnezad with several family members to vaccinate three dogs and four cats.

"We do this every year," she said. "I like that you can bring the animals with you (for the stroll) and also get their rabies shots."

Orlando Pioche is a volunteer with Shiprock Just Move It, and was on hand to help people register for the walk/run and to hand out free items to registrants.

Pioche said he likes volunteering with Just Move It as he believes it's important to try to get families to be active together as it promotes harmony within the families and helps them to connect with the land.

Pioche believes the flood of fast-food restaurants in modern times has changed the way Native Americans eat, which is adversely affecting their health, as is evidenced by increased occurrences of diseases such as diabetes within the community.

"I grew up in the NAPI area, and we used to be out all day with the sheep, bringing them back in in the evening — we were active all day," Pioche said. "Our elders used get up, eat a little bit, then have just a little lunch and a healthy dinner. They'd eat just what they needed. There's so much fast food now, and that's easier than going home and sitting down with your family and eating a meal together, which is healthier."

Pioche feels the Pet Lovers Stroll is also a good way to for runners to ease back into the various runs/walks that take place on the Navajo Nation beginning in spring, such as the Shiprock Marathon in May.

For more information on events hosted by Shiprock Just Move It, visit their Facebook page.

Leigh Black Irvin is the business editor for The Daily Times. She can be reached at 505-564-4621.