The Prebenda Family Run a.k.a.
Hounds and Harriers Run Heat 2

Six years ago when I started the Hounds and Harriers Run, I envisioned it being filled with runners and their very athletic dogs. I promised my charity, St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center, that I would screen who enters and make sure the dogs were up to the task. When I got an application for a pug, an unlikely runner, I felt it was my duty to contact the owner and perhaps talk them out of running or make sure they would take it easy on the dog. I spoke with Shelley Prebenda who was planning on running with Chinky (short for Chincoteague), the family Cocker Spaniel. Her 13-year-old son Aaron was to run with his 6-month-old pug Stargazer. Shelley told me that Aaron was not your typical kid. He really didn't have many interests until he got Stargazer and now much of his life involved his little dog. Shelley explained that the four of them had been training two miles in the park and saw a flyer for the race. They were very excited about it and would make sure Stargazer would be prepared.

Well, the family did just fine and Stargazer instantly became a sort of spokes dog/symbol of the race. The second year of the race, we even used a silhouette of Aaron and Stargazer taken from a photo on the T-shirt. That year, four Prebendas signed up for the race as the family had adopted two new pooches. Dad Michael and next oldest brother Reid ran with the new dogs Shadow and Relic. Over the next several years, Relic also ran with daughter Margo once and Shane twice and Reid competed with Shadow. Also, over the years, Shelley never missed a race and managed to have two babies, one now about 3, the other about 1½.

The 2002 race came along on October 12. This year I only got applications for three of the four dogs. Stargazer was to become a spectator. The previous year was difficult for her and Aaron carried her much of the way. Aaron was also 18 now, out of high school and off on an expedition to South America.

The weather forecast was not good. They were predicting rain. Luckily it was no worse that some drizzle mixed in with no precipitation. I had decided to make Stargazer guest of honor and present him with a race bandanna. I kept checking with registration to see if the Prebendas had checked in. The Prebenda family for some reason thought that the race would be postponed until Sunday and stayed home that morning.

Later that afternoon after I had a chance to get myself organized, I called their house to ask them to pick up their packets and goody bags. Shelley answered the phone and was quite upset that they missed the race. I suggested they go to the race site and run it as a family. I left their packets on my porch and didn't think about it again until the morning. I found Shelley's letter taped to my front door. I wanted to share this story because I have come to love this family and the bond they have for each other. It is refreshing to see parents and children (and the family dogs) involved together doing something they all love.

October 12, 2002

Dear Barbara,

I can't begin to tell you how disappointed we all are that we missed your festive race day today. I honestly cannot account for the misguided assumptions I made. Clearly, there was no "rain date" in the materials you so masterfully composed and mailed out to everyone. (I'm asking myself what is the problem here…is this what turning 40 means? Then I'm turning back!).

You can't imagine the countless outings--many with two or three dogs plus double jogging stroller--all in an effort to condition the canine crew and myself. Yet, in spite of my heartfelt disappointment, I still must thank you for making my day on many occasions leading up to today. Sometimes, the pressing need to collect dogs, infant, and toddler and squeeze in a good run enabled all of us to feel a refreshing Fall breeze, enjoy the autumn glow this time of year, and truly appreciate the beauty of our surroundings. I hate to admit it, but it often takes a good reason to get out and make the most of a lovely day (the Hounds and Harriers Run, in other words!).

Furthermore, I am convinced that you have a special quality that allows you to overcome obstacles and make the most of circumstances as they arise. I've seen this from attending five years of your tremendous dog/runner athletic events, and I saw it today when I received your phone call. I was so devastated at hearing that the race was over, I could barely stand. Then you suggested that we'd have to run it as a family anyway. After all, we had spent weeks gearing up for the occasion. Well, that's exactly what we did!

At about 5:30 p.m., we gathered our goodie bags from your front porch, which got us psyched for the occasion (thank you). We suited up in our new T-shirts (the logo is great!), pinned on our numbers, and headed over to the race course. My husband was on triple duty: two stop watches in hand, camera swung over his shoulder, and overseeing the cheerleading squad (which consisted of our daughter, Margo, our former foster daughter and her sister who were visiting for the weekend, our two little boys, and last, but not least, STARGAZER).

We lined up on the soggy field you'd warned me about, and at the signal began our race. You were right. It really was not bad even with all the recent rain. In fact, the cool temperature and light drizzle felt good, and the dogs fared very well. Reid and Shadow, the most competitive among us, followed the course without a hitch, from memory. Reid said it was a beautiful run, especially around the lake. I (being 40, as you may recall) am far less sound in mind and body and took a few wrong turns with Chinky, as did my younger son, Shane, and his companion, Relic. We wound up spending more time on the road than we should have, but managed to cut back into the park at the duck pond, not long before the finish line.

Still, it was a wonderful run and I was all the more cheery following. Thanks so much for the suggestion. My husband, Michael, recorded our times at the finish line and I've listed them at the end of this letter. We know the times aren't exactly official, but if you can include us in any way, we'd all be grateful. (Shane's and my times are rather slow, actually, since we covered a bit more ground than we should have!). Reid's should be entirely accurate. I should inform you that Stargazer was as spunky as ever, decorated with your bandanna and poised for the occasion. She was so enthusiastic, in fact, that she took off with those of us racing at the start and I actually had to take her back to my daughter to restrain her before continuing on my way! It was so cute.

On the subject of Stargazer, I wonder if she and a family member could perhaps be the "sweeper" at next year's run. After this evening's performance, I gather that she's not quite ready to give up on the event altogether. Thus, having her proceed slowly and bring up the finish with my husband or daughter (or even Aaron if he is in town) might be a great way to keep her engaged once more. I'm offering, if you think we can help out in this capacity.

Thank you for your preparations and plans to recognize Stargazer as a guest of honor. Again, we feel so sad to have missed the whole thing--and the incredible job you do of presenting at the finish. I know our careless absence was a bit disappointing for you as well. I am very sorry. Thank you also for caring enough to call. You always go beyond the call of duty. We are most appreciative.

Results of the "Post-Hounds and Harriers, Prebenda Family Run":

Reid and Shadow (#115) 23:03
Shelley and Chinky (#117) 32:59
Shane and Relic (#116) 33:27

With highest regards,

Shelley Prebenda and family