Two bulldogs, leashed by their owners, race down a wide sidewalk.

A pair of participants hit the course during last spring’s Running of the Bullies.

Wingate’s football team won’t be the only bulldogs competing on Saturday, Nov. 4, during Homecoming weekend. McGee Promenade will be the site of some serious sprinting, or at least some fierce frolicking, as area dogs, their owners and other canine-lovers gather for the Running of the Bullies.

Sponsored by Wingate’s Bulldogs Into Going Green student organization, the University’s Homecoming Committee and Bullies 2 The Rescue, the event will benefit the six-year-old nonprofit that provides a lifeline to neglected or displaced members of the breed in the Carolinas, Alabama and Virginia.

“Our biggest need right now is local foster homes,” says Cynthia Braden, a Matthews resident and B2TR volunteer who will be on hand at Wingate to share the B2TR story. “We need people who can open their homes to a dog in need, sometimes for a short time and sometimes a longer time.”

The 501(c)(3) organization was formed by Courtney Vaux, who went to battle against an unscrupulous bulldog broker in Texas over a decade ago and has made caring for the animals her life’s work since. Vaux operates Carolina Pet Pantry in Indian Trail and the Bungalow, a licensed shelter located in her garage. Including the dogs there, many of whom have medical problems or are otherwise not adoptable, and those in foster homes, B2TR serves 40 to 50 dogs at any given time.

Some 60 percent of the animals are owner surrender, many of them because of poor health or allergies. About a third come from shelters and the rest from raids of puppy mills, where animal health is not a priority.

The all-volunteer organization has paid roughly $262,000 for veterinarian services over the past two years and spends about $2,000 a month on food. Adoption fees – $600 for adult dogs and $800 for puppies – don’t cover expenses; hence events like the Running of the Bullies are extremely important, Braden says.

“We rely on donations, especially to help pay for medical care, and we’ve had several emergency-care needs in the last few weeks,” she says. While rejoicing over the fact that eight dogs were adopted last weekend, Braden adds that four new ones just came in and that the stream of bulldogs (picture the “running of the bulldogs” Geico commercial) never seems to slow down.

Two bulldogs wear crowns.

A Homecoming King and Queen will be crowned during the costume contest portion of the Running of the Bullies event on Nov. 4.

That’s why she hopes that 30-second ad for car insurance will spark increased interest in Wingate’s second Running of the Bullies.

“When the commercial came out, everyone at B2TR said, ‘They stole our idea,’” Braden laughs. With BIGG’s help, the group had held a Running of the Bullies at Wingate in April, during the spring football scrimmage. Braden said the Nov. 4 event will be similar.

Unlike the stampede-style Running of the Bulls in Pamplona, Spain, or the bulldogs of Geico fame, at Wingate dogs will be paired and race two at a time, with winners advancing in a bracket-style tournament until a champion is crowned. But the runners won’t line up on McGee Promenade until after a costume contest, which will be staged along the bridge between the Dickson-Palmer Center and the Stegall Administration Building. A homecoming king and queen will be crowned, and awards will be given for most school spirit and best court jester/class clown.

Then, races will be held on the steepest slope of the promenade to give the runners a little downhill momentum, Braden says, noting that bulldogs are more often noted for their sparkling personalities than their speed. The contests will be open to other breeds, with dogs paired according to size for competition. Entry fees are $5 for the costume contest and $25 for the race.

The event will begin at 11:30 a.m. with a “meet and greet” including fostered and adopted bulldogs. The costume contest is at 12:30 p.m., followed by the Running of the Bullies at 1 p.m. T-shirts and baked goods will be for sale, with all proceeds going to Bullies 2 The Rescue.

Both Braden and fellow bulldog owner Catherine Wright, an assistant religion professor and BIGG advisor, say the event is a collaborative effort.

“We hope people will come out and see Wingate and support both of us,” Braden said. “BIGG is about taking care of the environment, the community and everyone who lives here, including dogs, like these bulldogs, that need special care.”

To learn more about local bulldog-rescue efforts, visit the B2TR website. For details on Wingate’s Homecoming events, check out this page.

Oct. 25, 2017