While working in the oil fields, Chris Cowden drove a lot of back roads in rural Oklahoma.
“He always carried a big bag of dog food in the back of his truck because there were so many stray animals out there,” said his sister, Teri Cowden-Hirzel. “He would always stop and feed the animals.”
The second of four siblings, Chris would often bring home stray animals. As an adult, he frequently rescued abandoned dogs and cats, hounding his family members until they adopted them.
Chris died on May 17, 2008, the victim of a tragic motorcycle accident. A car turned in front of him as he headed west on Highway 105 just outside of Guthrie. The 43-year-old Guthrie resident died on impact.
Searching for a way to memorialize Chris after the accident, his family got the idea to combine his love for animals and fitness into a charity event, and The See Spot Run was born.
The sixth annual event is May 10 in downtown Guthrie. The race, featuring a 5K, a 10K and a one-mile fun run, will benefit Edmond’s Free to Live, a nonprofit animal sanctuary.
“It’s nice because it really does help us remember him in a positive way,” said Cowden-Hirzel, a race organizer. “We’re able to come together as a family, celebrate him and also do something for others as well.”
The See Spot Run course is a hilly challenge for many runners, but it mirrors the route that Chris liked to run through downtown Guthrie. The finish line is located inside Guthrie High School’s historic Jelsma Stadium, known as “The Rock.”
Participants are encouraged to run with their pets.
Since its inception, The See Spot Run has welcomed more than 3,000 runners from all over the country and has raised $35,000 for Free to Live, Oklahoma’s largest no-kill animal sanctuary.
“It’s an honor to be a part of this race and this community,” said Matt Goodwin, Free to Live’s executive director. “It’s a huge benefit to us and something, at this point, that we count on.”
Opened in 1984 by Bill and Pat Larson, Free to Live celebrates its 30th anniversary in August.
Since its inception, more than 10,000 animals have been rescued. Currently, about 360 dogs and cats live at the 18-acre facility, which features separate housing for animals with special needs or infectious diseases that might be put down at other animal shelters. Free to Live finds homes for about 500 animals each year.
Tracey Jech is a kennel tech at Free to Live who has run several times with her rescue dog, Damion, an Alaskan Malamute/Bassett hound mix.
Jech said The See Spot Run has helped raise awareness for animal welfare.
“Once you learn how much abuse and neglect and abandonment of animals there is, you just keep doing more and trying harder to do as much as you can for them,” she said.
To register online, visit theseespotrun.com.