BLACKSBURG — Jesslyn Mundy surveyed the room Tuesday morning, including the three women dressed for her exercise class.
“I don’t anticipate much Pilates happening today,” she said.
The problem was the puppies. Ten baby Australian shepherds waddled, tussled and trotted around the Blacksburg Community Center activity room.
But Mundy had only herself to blame for the distraction. They were her puppies.
The six males and four females — all named for beverages such as Sangria and Riesling — waddled from person to person for petting, played tug-of-war with an onlooker’s bandanna, shredded a reporter’s notebook and often stopped to scratch at their new collars.
“I’m just here for the puppies,” said Julee Farley of Blacksburg.
Farley, a personal training client of Mundy’s, was one of three women intrepid enough to travel through a morning snow storm for the event. Retired Virginia Tech professor Christine Kiebuzinska and Tech senior Taren Woelk also attended.
Kiebuzinska said she has taken Mundy’s exercise classes before and has been impressed.
“Everything she does, she does very well,” Kiebuzinska said.
A personal trainer and fitness instructor, Mundy also breeds, shows and competes with Australian shepherds. She said the 7-week-old pups she brought to class are one of three litters currently living at her kennel, Arrow Stone Aussies in Radford.
Exercise classes that feature animals have become something of a national trend. It started with goat yoga in Oregon in 2016, and has expanded to dogs, cats and even horses and birds. Last year, Christiansburg offered a free monthly goat yoga class.
Tuesday was the first time in at least the past two years that Blacksburg had introduced animals into its official schedule, said Josh Sharitz, assistant director for parks and recreation.
It started as a bit of joking around between Sharitz and Mundy. But when Mundy mentioned bringing her Aussie puppies to a Pilates class, Sharitz said he decided to experiment.
“We try and foster new ideas within the department. If you sit still, you get stagnant, and we don’t want to do that,” Sharitz said. “This is a trend, a new aspect to try and keep people active, and that’s what we’re shooting for.”
Usually, at animal-assisted classes like these, the critters are the stars, and the exercise is secondary. Rather than the plank poses common in Pilates, on Tuesday there was mostly puppy play.
That was OK, Sharitz said, because it was a test run.
Mundy said she plans to have a little more Pilates at the next class, which will feature a different litter of puppies.
All the critters in the room appeared to benefit in some way. The humans smiled the whole time, and Mundy said the puppies learned to deal with a new environment and new people.
All 10 of the little dogs in Tuesday’s class were born to one mother, Cardie, and they will soon be old enough for adoption, she said.
Some will go to farms as working dogs and others will be adopted as pets, Mundy said. She sells them to homes across Virginia and in other states.
The next free Puppy Pilates class is set for 10 a.m. on Jan. 21 at the Blacksburg Community Center on Patrick Henry Drive.