Nothing makes our day more than hearing from Reindeer Fun Runners about the ways that the race has impacted them. We also get really happy when we see all the dogs who participate in our race year after year. So when the two combine, we’ve just got to share.

Yesterday, we got a letter from Kate Hendricks that really moved us. Kate’s dog Missy Pearl was a longstanding and enthusiastic participant in the Reindeer Fun Run. Kate wanted to share her story, and we’re so glad she did! Spoiler alert, you might need a tissue before it’s over. Much love to Kate and Missy Pearl—we’re so glad she got to be part of RFR’s story for so many years. ❤️

Missy Pearl’s Story (as told by her mom Kate)

I ran the 12K Reindeer Run on Saturday, December 5, 2020 in memory of my dog, Missy Pearl, our wire-haired fox terrier who died in May at nearly 14 years of age.  We ran the Reindeer Run every year of its existence (except once) and the Reindeer Run was the best day of Missy’s year, and the Reindeer Runs were among the happiest days of her life. Missy was a born runner and running is what she wanted to do and loved to do; if I tried to walk her, she wanted to run! She had run thousands of miles with me as my training partner for 5K’s to half-marathons.  She loved our training runs and knew that Saturday was our “long run day.”  But what really excited her above all other runs was the Reindeer Run – the people, the crowd, the other dogs, and it got her competitive juices flowing. 

Missy Pearl and Kate at an early Reindeer Fun Run.
One of Missy’s first Reindeer Runs

Missy could barely contain her excitement at the start line – barking (trash-talking) the others dogs.  She was that yappy dog at the start line that wouldn’t shut up.  But when the race started she was all business – running to catch the person ahead of us. I was never quite fast enough and she would run out the length of the long leash and look back at me: “Can’t you go any faster?” In the early years of the Reindeer Run, we did the 5K – but longer was better for her and we switched to the 12K years ago. 

In 2019, Missy was diagnosed with degenerative myelopathy which is a genetic condition that results in progressive weakening of the hind legs and eventual paralysis.  That ended her running career, but we got a stroller and we could still go on our routes with some combination of her walking/strolling, with more strolling as her legs weakened.  In December 2019, we signed up for the Reindeer Run, but I brought the stroller and we did the 5K rather than the 12K.  Despite Missy’s condition, the excitement of the Reindeer Run was the same as it ever was for her – the barking at the start, the focus on the race once it started, and the insistence that she had to run and not be pushed in the stroller.   

I had a hard time keeping Missy in the stroller, and despite her weakened gait, I let her run parts of the race before I would plop her back in the stroller.  As we reached the big hill before the finish, she tried to jump out of the stroller.  I relented and let her run all the way to the finish line despite her hobbled gait – she insisted on it. After we crossed the finish line, she let me put her back in her stroller – she was exhausted but happy and satisfied.  It was the happiest day of her year because she got to run and compete in the Reindeer Run.

2019 – Missy’s last Reindeer Run

Missy passed in May 2020.  We had her cremated and I knew where I had to spread some of her ashes.  When the Reindeer Run announced that it was going virtual due to COVID-19, that seemed so fitting that if Missy couldn’t be there in person, no one else could either. I wonder if she had something to do with that.  So I signed up for the 12K – Missy’s preferred distance – and we ran it on Saturday December 5, 2020.  We ran the official 12K race route in Aberdeen because Missy knew it — the parts where running room opened up, where the bands were, the water stops (where she put her feet in the water bowls), and the downhill toward the finish where she could see the cheering crowd.  Happy memories of Missy on the race route flooded back throughout my time on the course ad I spread her ashes in the places that she loved the most.   She is forever part of the Reindeer Run, and I know she will always be there in spirit when there is a Reindeer Run. 

Thank you Reindeer Run for the joy and happiness you brought to Missy Pearl’s life.

By: Kate Sigman Hendricks, December 10, 2020 

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