Adopted Dog Inspires Pet Mom to Make Strides Toward Health and Happiness

Together, Champ and Sylvia make running a way of life — with lots of fun along the way.

Sylvia + Champ

Champ’s love of running was contagious. From chasing her new best friend to joining a running club, Champ helped Sylvia get back on her feet and step into a happy life.

"My not-so-little buddy was also my inspiration to start running. I hadn’t been running in years, but I quickly learned Champ’s love for sprinting at full speed like an escaped convict, so I started to lace up my shoes every day to bring that huge smile to his furry face."

As an early Christmas gift, my parents unknowingly gave me the best present ever. I shook the box and jokingly asked, “Is it a puppy!?” — only to open it and find a dog bowl and a gift certificate to my local shelter so I could find my new best friend. I’ve always been a work-a-holic, putting my career ahead of living my life, and I had just moved back to my hometown to start again after summoning the courage to leave a toxic environment in the pursuit of happiness. Overweight with few friends, I needed someone to help me find what I was looking for… and in marched Champ, a smiling Pit Bull with a heart of pure gold.

When I picked up this brown bundle of kisses, my heart was kickstarted back to life and our furever friendship began. Champ was just what I needed to literally take the steps to start my happier, healthier life. He introduced me to my neighbors through a series of shenanigans — like following the neighbor’s kids onto the school bus one morning, walking right into a neighbor’s open front door into their Christmas party (luckily he was dressed in his finest holiday sweater), and giving kisses to anyone who would get close enough for him to make contact.

My not-so-little buddy was also my inspiration to start running. I hadn’t been running in years, but I quickly learned Champ’s love for sprinting at full speed like an escaped convict, so I started to lace up my shoes every day to bring that huge smile to his furry face. It started with slow jogs around the neighborhood, with pee stops at every mailbox (for him, not me!), progressing soon to joining the local running group. Champ’s love of speed forced me to push harder and go farther, and his need to give everyone kisses helped me make new friends that have become like my second family. If for some reason I showed up without Champ, everyone would immediately ask where he was and make sure I passed on their love to him when I got home. 

Sixty pounds lost and hundreds of miles run later, we grew our little family of two to include a new dad for him (a husband for me), as well as a new puppy brother named Brick, both of whom share in Champ’s love of running. Now that we have conquered the running world, we are starting a new adventure together: Champ is training to become a hospital therapy dog. Over the last eight years, he has provided me with incredible therapy, and healed so much hurt, that it’s only fitting to share his talent with those in need. I cannot wait to show more people how wonderful and underestimated Pit Bull sweethearts are.

Each year, Petco Love Holiday Wishes campaign invites adopters to share stories of how their pets have changed their lives to give the organizations that they’ve adopted from the chance to receive grant awards. This story by Sylvia won Humane Society of South Mississippi in Gulfport, Mississippi a 2020 Holiday Wishes award.