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The Blue Banner

The Student Voice of UNC Asheville

The Blue Banner

Pilates with Puppies combines exercise with cuddles

Kye Johnson 
A&F Staff Writer
[email protected]
Asheville Humane Society’s Pilates with Puppies combines exercise with a group of puppies to cheer on participants. 
Asheville Humane Society and Cisco Pilates use ticket sales to support animal adoption.

A puppy lays on top of a Pilates with Puppies participant. Photo courtesy of Alexis Miller

“Puppies make everyone happy and I think that it’s a really fun and affordable way to get this sort of animal therapy,” said Alexis Miller, owner and instructor at Cisco Pilates. “You can’t be sad if there is a puppy running at your face, wanting to lick you.”
All of the proceeds go to Asheville Humane Society. Classes take place at the AHS facility, fitting 40 people into sold-out classes with a new group of puppies everytime, Miller said.
“It’s a basic class because most of the people have never done (pilates) before,” Miller said.
Pilates normally uses different props during class, but in this version of the exercise the only props needed are a soft mat and a puppy, Miller said.
The puppies add to the classes by jumping on people, playing and running around the room. One even managed to snag an earring from a participant and sometimes they do have accidents, Miller said.
“We’re all just there getting a fun workout with these adorable little puppies running around,” Miller said.
Miller said she wanted to make Pilates with Puppies a reality after she got into contact with Asheville Humane Society. She said the opportunity to give back to the community by offering this unique experience while helping support Asheville Humane Society was a no-brainer.
“There are so many animals that need homes and I don’t think it makes sense to keep breeding animals that are in shelters that are in need of homes,” Miller said.
The United States government does not require national statistics to be kept on animals in shelters. Surveys conducted through the National Pet Owners Survey by the American Pet Products Association and the U.S. Pet Ownership & Demographics Sourcebook by the American Veterinary Medical Association give the most accurate data on shelter animals, showing that six to eight million animals enter shelters annually with 2.4 million being euthanized.
Adam Cotton, manager of community alliance at Asheville Humane Society, wants to raise funds while seeing the bigger picture of Pilates with Puppies.
“A goal of the class is to get new faces in the door that have never been to the shelter before, as well as hopefully get some of these puppies adopted from the class,” Cotton said.
Cotton has worked in shelters for seven years and wants the public to come in and experience the shelter. He said he wants to teach the public it is a positive experience to volunteer, to adopt and to be involved.  
“If we can get them in our doors, they often leave with an animal that they’ll love for the rest of their lives,” Cotton said.
Animals find themselves in shelters for many different reasons. They are all deserving of a home and should get first pick over going to a breeder for a forever friend, Cotton said.

A participant uses a puppy as a prop while doing pilates at Asheville Humane Society’s Pilates with Puppies. Photo courtesy of Alexis Miller

“We are seeing more than pitbulls and black cats in the last few years,” Cotton said.
Taylor Beck, an animal lover and successful foster parent to two dogs and a cat, advocates strongly for adoption if accessible. If not, there are benefits for both the foster parent and the animal in fostering.

If seeking to adopt, research the breed beforehand to see if it might be a good lifestyle fit. If the breed is unavailable at the local shelter, seek out organizations which rescue that breed. Ultimately, make sure you have time for the animal, Beck said.

“I’ve always wanted a husky and before I adopted I did a ton of research on the breed and what I needed to do. I also hired a trainer when he was a puppy to help us get off to the right start,” Beck said.
Adopting an animal is a lot of responsibility and not everyone is financially able to afford a pet. Volunteering and fostering are great ways to give back to animals in need. If deciding to foster, most of the costs associated with the animal are taken care of by the shelter, Beck said.
“Usually when you foster, you don’t pay for anything. They supply you with the crate, they supply you with the food. You just take care of the dog until it is adopted,” Beck said.
Shelters aim to match the right animal with the right owner. If a prospective adopter knows what they want but have not found it yet, the Asheville Humane Society will take down their specifications to help them find what they are looking for, Cotton said.
“We do get a wide variety of pure breed, or mix-breed dogs that do not fall into the pitbull or hound category. If anyone is ever interested in adopting a specific breed and we don’t have it in our care, people can always call up the Buncombe County Animal Shelter and leave their information for that requested breed,” Cotton said.
Cotton said he is a foster failure after he adopted a pitbull puppy with back problems he fostered. She now comes to work with him every day.
Pilates with Puppies has been going on for nearly a year. In the beginning they held only one class every couple of months. Next month there are seven Pilates with Puppies classes on the schedule, Cotton said.
“We’re excited to do Pilates with Puppies as long as the public is interested,” Cotton said.
The Asheville Humane Society hosts other events to help raise funds, such as yoga with cats, and a monthly tea with cats held at Asheville’s Ivory Road Cafe & Kitchen. Asheville Humane Society brings cats for visitors to pet while they sip their tea, Cotton said.
“We are always looking for active types of events where we can incorporate animals,” Cotton said.
To sign up for Pilates with Puppies you can visit or To get on the waitlist you can email [email protected].

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