It was a bright spring day in 2018, but Ashley Blake and her training partner Joshua Scott were about to make a discovery with decidedly dark undertones. The pair were running through the forest when a faint rustling caught their attention, so they decided to interrupt their jog and investigate. And there, among the undergrowth, they found five frightened little animals.
The Barkley Fall Classic is a grueling 31-mile race through the Brushy Mountains in Frozen Head State Park, Tennessee. The event is designed to test the limits of runners’ endurance. So, when Blake and Scott signed up to compete in 2018, they knew that they would have to train hard.
Now although the race wasn’t scheduled to take place until September 2018, by March of that year Blake and her training partner Scott, both of Oak Ridge, TN, had their running regime well underway. And that month, they visited Frozen Head State Park, where the Barkley Fall Classic takes place.
During their training run, the pair would get an idea of the kind of terrain that they would be facing during the event. The landscape was rough and rugged, which no doubt added to the challenges facing Blake and Scott.
The pair were planning to complete the full 31-mile course around the park, so they put their heads down and got to work. Halfway through their run, however, something caught their eye. And it was so shocking that it forced them to abandon their training session.
You see, Blake and Scott were making their way down a wooded track when they spotted a pile of black fur. Upon further investigation, the runners could make out five tiny bodies. And despite the bitterly cold temperatures, the animals were still alive.
In March 2018 Blake told The Dodo, “It was just a little rustling that caught us. It’s usual to hear forest critters, and that’s what we expected. We turned and saw this black pile. It was five puppies huddled together.”
The pair had stumbled across five adorable black Labrador puppies. Completely alone in the forest, the tiny creatures were clustered together to keep warm. The sight tugged on Blake and Scott’s heartstrings, and as a result the caring duo knew that they had to help.
“They were terrified and crying,” Blake recalled. “They settled down once they realized we weren’t going to harm them and we were warm – they were dumped without food, water, blanket or mother.”
Leaping into action, the pair scooped the puppies up and delivered them to a park ranger. Sadly, he wasn’t even shocked by the runners’ story. In fact, he told Blake and Scott that pets are often dumped in the park.
The park ranger explained that people leave animals in that area because it’s so remote. As a result, some animal owners believe that they can ditch pets there without being seen. And in this case, it appeared that those responsible had gotten away with their actions.
Luckily, though, the five puppies had been found before anything too terrible could happen to them. And they were now in the safe hands of Blake and Scott, who, along with the park ranger, were eager to get the animals’ lives back on track.
Happily, the ranger agreed that he would look after the puppies at his home for the time being. After that, he planned to hand them over to an animal shelter, where the little pooches would hopefully all then find loving homes and families to take care of them.
By this point, however, Blake and Scott were already invested in the five dogs’ futures, so they later transported the puppies to the shelter themselves. But the heartwarming story didn’t end there.
Scott decided to adopt one of the dogs, in fact, whom he later named Barkley. The puppy slotted into his new family nicely, quickly bonding with Scott’s two other dogs. And the little Labrador wasn’t the only member of the litter to have a happy ending.
Eventually, forever homes were found for all of the puppies. But if it hadn’t been for Blake and Scott, they might not even have survived for another day. It was certainly a job well done by the two runners, then.
Clearly proud of her exploits, in March 2018 Blake posted her story to the Trail And Ultra Running group’s Facebook page – a site usually reserved for posts about marathon running. Nonetheless, Blake’s animal rescue tale went down a storm.
Relaying the details of the rescue, Blake wrote, “Halfway through a Barkley Fall Classic 50k training run in Frozen Head, my training partner and I found a litter of five shivering puppies. With freezing temperatures and no food, they surely would not have made the night.”
Explaining how she and Scott had stepped in to help the puppies, Blake added, “The wonderful rangers met us and will bring them to the shelter today. Now we can add saving puppies to the list of ultra-running adventures.”
And Blake later returned to the running site to add, “We took the puppies this morning to the shelter… ‘Barkley’ is now part of my friend’s family, [he] made a perfect birthday present.” So while the outlook for the little Labradors had appeared bleak, happily it now seems that they’ve each found loving homes for the long run.