New Program Trains Dogs to Deliver Music to Stranded Runners

John Fogerty was running the Clearwater Trail in Creedence, Missouri, alone last summer when he stumbled over a root and twisted his ankle. In the blink of an eye, he was too injured to continue—and miles from civilization.

“It was pretty scary,” Fogerty said. “That stretch of trail is remote and pretty technical, so I knew it might be hours before anyone could get to me. And my phone was almost dead.”

Lucky for him, he was able to complete a call for help. Even luckier, Clearwater State Park was home to a pilot program that trains dogs to locate missing or stranded runners and deliver emergency music to them. Within 40 minutes of his call to park rangers, Fogerty said, a Vizsla named Lodi bounded into view. When Fogerty searched the dog’s bright orange pack, he found an unlocked iPhone loaded with music from a variety of genres, replacement earbuds, and two fully charged external battery packs.

That dog really saved my life.
— John Fogerty, trail runner

“By that time, my phone was at about 5%,” said Fogerty, “so that dog really saved my life.”

The prospect of being stranded in the wilderness without music terrifies many runners, said Stu Cook, a spokesman for Missouri State Parks. And the effects can be serious.

“We were seeing [rescued] runners come in after two, three, four hours with dead iPhones, and they were not in good shape,” Cook said. “Their boredom levels, when we measured them, were dangerously high.”

That, said Cook, was the impetus behind the Music Dog program.

Launched early last spring, the program began with a single dog and has since grown to six. The dogs undergo rigorous training to learn to locate missing runners and, when needed, to assist them with selecting a playlist. So far in the program’s 16-month existence, Cook said, Missouri State Parks’ Music Dogs have saved 22 runners from tedium.

Fogerty, the injured runner, said he’ll always be grateful for his Music Dog.

“Without that dog,” he said, “I might have been left alone with my thoughts for more than an hour.”