Thursday, November 11, 2010

Tuco Benedicto Pacifico Juan Maria Ramirez otherwise known as, The Rat. 16 of the most solid years ever lived and sad only for the ones he left behind

I met Steve Edwards an evening at the Greek Festival and despite asking him to walk me home I thought, "that guy is intense."

Then I started running into Steve Edwards at the coffee shop and he thought, "is she really going on about comic books?" and his bewilderment showed in his lack of warmth.

Then one day... "who's this?" and in his nonchalant, decisive way Edwards motioned by pointing his finger, "that's Ratso."

Nonchalant and decisive was the Edwards I knew, but the Edwards with this beautiful, fluffy, devoted, well-behaved dog... that is a man with a soft heart I had not yet met, but was extremely interested in.

As Edwards and I texted back and forth like middle-schoolers, many of his text were telling me about Ratso's eccentric behaviors. "The Rat is sitting in the car with the door open. He wants to go somewhere." "The Rat is barking at me and biting my hand, he wants to do stuff." "Well, The Rat and I went climbing today" (as if The Rat were his belay).
I married him and inherited Ratso who ultimately took to me. How does one know when Ratso "takes to them"? He let me touch his paws. :)

When we got married, Ratso was our family at home... the only one who had any inkling of what we were up to. Then we added Beata and I was so grateful for the example The Rat set for "not wanting any trouble", being "picky about food", walking off-leash, and manipulating situations. With his guidance, Beata started acting perfect and we had the makings of what anyone would call, a family.

We had almost 3 wonderful years together. Ratso survived a doggy stoke and some arthritis, but otherwise just got to grow very, very old. It was clear that life was no longer what it should be for a dog and his punishment for years of fitness... despite a real desire and willingness... was that his body just wouldn't crap out.

In the end, we had to help him along but we know he was ready. I take comfort in knowing that Beata is waiting for him, eager for him to introduce her to all his old friends. In this past terrible month the tragedy is that Beata's life was cut so short and Tuco's life went on so long. There is just no winning with death.

I read a quote that talked about how having your dog die and not adopting another is like saying the bad outweighs the good. Our family was pure joy and I am so grateful that Manners and Finn are here to remind us of all the good. A home without Ratso would be no home at all... unless Manners is here to act equally as cold and annoyed and Finnegan is here to be equally as energetic. Love doesn't dead-end.

R.I.P: Tuco, The Rat. You are missed by all.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Sleeping Beauty

When I first saw Beata she was waiting in the car with Tori. I didn’t know which of the two dogs she was, but I hoped that my dog-to-be was the brown one with the perfect little brown eyes, little brown ears, and white striped nose. Cara said, “which dogs is cuter… be careful…” and then didn’t make me actually tell before introducing me to Beata: The little brown dog.

It was just supposed to be an overnight visit to see how we got along, but once she chewed up my Harvard graduation flips-flops there was no going back.

She was a little angel of a puppy. We jumped feet first into training and mastered sit, down, off, stay, and heal without any hitches (and in two different languages). “Come” was another story, but all I ever really had to do was turn my back and yell “Bye-bye” for her to come sprinting over, with a smile on her face, excited about wherever we’d be going to next. Devoted but independent; Attentive but ADD. My little Beata.

For years, Beata put up with my long hours in the Mayor’s Office, even walking in with me on weekends for another boring day in the office. She got time in the wilds during the week thanks to her dog walker, Russin, and when we weren’t urban hiking to the office… we were playing together in the mountains. She was a funny little thing. She got out of her collar once and got to explore the Wild Oats on 4th South, she was always a good girl and never tried to eat Rocky’s parrot, Cardozo, and she kept intruders away from the house with her terrifying, bloodthirsty bark. She had a nice life. She was my constant, most patient, and most loving companion.

She also had her pack at Cara’s house. Tori, Copper, and Drizzit. Her best friends: two pit-mixes and a great dane, a formidable bunch. They grew up together. Drizzit, the Great Dane has recently passed, Copper and Tori are still with us. If ever I wanted to get her excited all I had to do was say, “Copper. Tori. Drizzit?” Sweet little girl would perk up and stare, shaking in excitement at the prospect of playing with her friends.

I have to admit to asking Cara to readopt her while I tried to make the worst relationship of my life work. The only good thing that came of this… ending the relationship and getting her back. This time, Steve Edwards was her gift for coming home.

Beata took to Steve like most girls take to tall, dark, handsome men. She became his groupie. She still liked me, but she absolutely adored him. His working from home allowed her to do nothing but stare at him all day. And she did. The cutest little Steve Edwards fan in the whole world!

The last two and a half years her life, that started out abused and abandoned, had become pure perfection. She had a loving boyfriend in Tuco. She got to play outside in the mountains or on the trails every day; she was an awesome, awesome rock climbing “crag dog”; was a bundle of irreplaceable joy; and made up the fabric of our family. We became the 3 generations of Romney-Edwards. Grandpa, Mom and Dad, and little girl flirt. She never wanted any trouble, only to play, sniff-stuff, be chased, chase gophers, and be with her family. While her love and concern for me was overshadowed by her love for Edwards, she was always, always happiest when the whole family was together.

Now, our family is minus one and I cannot believe she is gone. After a year of different vets misdiagnosing her with arthritis, we did our research and found out she had a torn ACL. We went to a veterinarian on a recommendation, looked up his credentials, met him, liked him, and committed to surgery. Unfortunately, he sent us home with a medicine that turned out to be nothing more than pure poison. He never said a word about the dangers. We were foolish enough not to research them ourselves. Previcox. "Just an anti-inflammatory". Never, ever give this to your pets.

For the past 9 years Beata has been my friend, family, and love. She has never judged me for my choices in food, films, music or men; or even been mad when I tell her not to bury her bones in the garden (because she always did it anyway). She never wanted anything more than to be loved and not abandoned. She was the cutest, sweetest, most loving little dog. My heart aches that I will never see her wag her body at me again, or get to cuddle on the couch with her while Edwards is on business trips. Edwards and I lost a vital member of our family last night, and Tuco lost his “girlfriend”. Every day she brought him energy and life.

I probably won’t stop talking to her for a very long time. And how will I deliver sour opinions of my husband's hygiene if she isn’t there to pass on the word? I plan to cry for days, and weeks, and years. I feel robbed. Tori feels robbed. Copper feels robbed. Cara feels robbed. Tuco feels robbed. And Edwards is the most robbed of all. She was our joyous, bizarre, beautiful little brown dog. I love her so much. I will always have a hole in my heart where Beata should be.

RIP: Princess Beata.

(more pictures to come. Top: A picture from the last evening we spent cuddled up on the couch together.)

Friday, June 18, 2010

The Experience of Heritage and Place in Sicily

Part I: Genetic Markers

Cathedral in Notto, Sicily

While being 100% Ethnic Mutt, there are a few pure origins in me. The first is cultural, my paternal grandparents are from Mexico; the next is ethnic, my maternal grandmother was full-blood Northern Italian. What I found in Sicily is that an impressive number of my natural tendencies seem to match closely with the Italian Genetic Code.
Piazza Duomo for Breakfast

First, and always first-thing, BREAKFAST. Most people consider it a bad and unhealthy habit of mine that breakfast consists of tea and brioche. Well, the Italians don’t and this traditional breakfast is the first manifestation of my Italian heritage. The best part of my vacation days was always at the cafĂ© on the Piazza Duomo having tea and a croissant with the my Italian brothers and sisters.

While on the topic of ingestible items, my tastes seemed to match perfectly with Giusi’s. She determined early on that I always made the correct dining choice and left it to me to pick restaurants and sometimes even what she ordered. Fortunately, Giusi and I were soul sisters, with our tastes and humors closely aligned. It was a lot of pressure, but having the trust of Giusi in food selection was an honor I wouldn’t have deserved without my grandma’s Italian blood. Dinner with Giusi, Normal Guy, Phil and Lena (taking the picture).

I think this one was obvious before I left for Sicily, and I’ve always just chalked it up to being a girl, but I love shoes. So do the Italians. Memories for the rest of my life will pale in comparison to the shoe shopping treatment I received as Giusi’s shop, Millepiedi, where I sat in the middle of a hundred pairs of shoes trying to find that one pair that would work for the London pub crawl and a few extras just for fun. Not only do we Italians love shoes, but also we love the process of “discovering” them. Edwards' Italian shoes from Millepiedi

The final, but most fun, genetic match I discovered was a mutual love of the opposite sex. It is no secret that I love men. Love, love, love men! It was clear in Sicily that men love women, women love men, and there is absolutely NO SHAME in behaving as such. Compliments, attention, and eye-candy abound in this pheromone-enhanced culture. Any time I was without Edwards, I got to taste the charm that is Italian men and while I’m not sure exactly what the cute, blonde Sicilian was saying as he gave me a private tour of the Duomo, I did understand that he felt I was as beautiful as the Duomo itself. Ahhhh, I love being Italian! My favorite male specimen!

As a nod to Edwards (as this was meant to be “our” blog), the kind of rock and type of climbing available in Sicily also seems to match our preferences. If we were rich people, we’d be there now, restoring an old farmhouse, harvesting olives from mature trees, and climbing in a spectacular cave with undiscovered artifacts of the Byzantine known only to those strong enough to make it up the routes. Italy has no shortage of climbing to suit our physical needs and our lifestyle goals. Now, all we need is a mastery of the language and we’ll fit right in! Normal Guy on a very hard route in a very nice cave.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Tuco's Dramatic Role

Tuco has more friends around the globe than any dog before him, and he keeps seasonal residence with two families who love him very much in Salt Lake City and Santa Barbara. He turned 15 this month and is the picture of health, as Edwards detailed in a recent blog.

Tuco's got his own ideas on things and almost all of his actions are premeditated. Last night, he must have been after the Oscar for Best Dramatic Role.

Around a lot of details, I had to leave Tuco at home while I took Beata and Copper on a hike last night. When we left, he settled onto the kitchen floor. No biggie. When we got home 1.5 hours later, he had moved in the kitchen, left one small turd in his wake (not abnormal these days), and was still just hanging out. I put his food in front of him and he wasn't super stoked to eat, but he didn't seem anything outside of normal. Halfway through my movie I decided to go say hi to him. Oh no! The Rat was splayed out and his underbelly was drenched in, well, not sweat. Poor guy was panting and unable to support his weight to move or even get his legs under him. Well, I'm not a real reactionary, but with Edwards gone for just over 24 hours, Tuco was not giving up the ghost on my watch.

Kindly, our neighbors helped me get our stinky dog in the car. Everything at emergency care went as expected, which is to say, there isn't anything wrong with Tuco. He stayed the night so they could monitor his heart, which is 15% weaker than it should be, but here's the thing: "He doesn't want food." (ah, yeah, if you aren't frying up some fresh bacon, he probably isn't interested) and "He has gotten snappy" (EXCELLENT. Back to normal.)

When I picked him up today he was alert, walking, and happy to be heading home. He had also run up quite a tab! Oh well, like I said, he's not giving up the ghost on my watch!

He is weaker than normal and I'll continue to keep a close eye on him, but my feeling now is that this whole "I'm having a heart-attack" thing had less to do with reality and more to do with a big fat pout about Steve Edwards going on an adventure without him. (That's right honey, he knows what you are doing in Mexico and he doesn't like it!)

For everyone who knows and loves Tuco, he's OK. However, if you are in the area please make sure you come by and wish him a happy 15th year. At 105 human years, I'm not sure how many more chances you'll have.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Birthday Challenged

My anxieties were growing Friday night when I picked up my packet for the Moab Red Hot 33k. The room was buzzing with all kinds of “we love running” and “we love running together” energy. I felt lonely, but gave myself a cheesy little reminder to relax and focus on the fact that the challenge will be meaningless if I don’t learn more than I already know.

WHAT I ALREADY KNOW: I know that I can somehow finish a 33k. I know that I’m so good at judging myself that I can suck the joy right out of any experience.

WHAT I DON’T ALREADY KNOW: I don’t know if I can run 33k in less than six hours. I don’t know if I can quiet my self-judging little mind enough to enjoy it.

Off to a rocky start at the condo, my Birthday Challenge morning started out with a lot of fear and frowning. At the starting line, everything changed. Everyone was so… nice. Edwards, of course, knew people in the field and they immediately invited me to run with them. This little group split up within the first mile but their support got me off-and-running.

Next, there was a girl from Colorado whom I paced nicely with until the first aid station. It would be the furthest she had ever run as well and it felt good to have some company in the experience.After the first aid station we separated and I trotted on ahead.

After running alone for a little, I found another girl – not chatty – whom I would begin a game of “leap-frog” with. Looking back I guess I would have passed her and stayed ahead the whole race if she hadn’t gained advantage twice when I a. got off course and b. hit the deck when my right foot slipped in an icy little divot. I didn’t realize it because she’d taken her jacket off, but I passed her on the way to the finish line. She was walking. I hope she wasn’t injured and I do appreciate that she always gave me someone to chase after.

From mile 8-12 there was George. George runs with two walking poles and I was very envious (just imagine the pressure I could take off my hips if I had my own walking sticks)! George was super nice and tagged along behind me encouragingly for quite awhile. I thought maybe he was just going my pace, but then I saw a picture of my backside, which I believe explains his company a little better. With so much inspiring scenery, I'm flattered to have had George right behind me.

When Edwards met me at the halfway mark it was a curse and a blessing. First, the curse. When my man showed up something in me got all “girlie.” My man had arrived! How had I survived without him? How was I going to survive without him carrying me? No matter how much I tried to ignore it, I couldn’t help the emotional shift that happened when Husband got there. Mostly though, it was a blessing. He scouted the course, found easier routes, let me know the last aid station was a lot further than it was supposed to be, gave me water, talked to me, encouraged me, popped Cliff Blocks right into my mouth, and took pictures. He was just fantastic.

The elevation map they published pre-race was a bit of a sandbag. The steep uphill part was correct, but the steep downhill part? I guess if they mean the last 2.5 miles (not the last 9), sure… It made 6.5 miles a lot longer and harder than I had pictured, but, what was hard? The whole thing was quite miraculous. I was running, in spectacular country, I didn’t care about my time, and I was smiling.
I didn't even know I was smiling, that's how good it was.

I was surprised to find near the end that although I expected to have gas left in the tank to power up for the last few miles… I didn’t. I had enough to coast in at a reasonable pace, but there was nothing left for a glorious, arms up finish line performance. I guess for a Birthday Challenge, you know you picked a good one when you have just enough fuel to finish.
You can almost see the word FINISH between all the people. I was SO excited to be there!

My time was a surprise. 4:34 minutes. Since 6 hours was my goal, I was very, very happy. Despite natural inclination, I continue to NOT compare myself to other people. I did AWESOME for me. It was difficult. It was further than I have ever run before. It was a magnificent way to spend my birthday.

WHAT I LEARNED: I can run 33k on a trail in less than 6 hours. I can turn down "the noise" and have fun!
Look at the little girl "gaining" on those lean ultra-runners!

Celebrating with a little Veuve Clicquot and conspiring for next year... 34.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Romney's Red Hot Birthday Challenge

When Edwards and I met, he was in training for his 47th Birthday Challenge.

47 Miles on his fixed-gear road bike.
47 on-sight climbs
47 Miles on his single speed mountain bike
47k of Running

To be completed in 24 hours

He succeeded and I was so much amazed that I proudly and adamantly proclaimed that I would never do a Birthday Challenge!

Fast forward two short years and someone went and organized a Valentine’s Race in Moab called the Red Hot 50k. Only, it’s not just a 50k, they also have a 33k, and don’t it be it all that I’m turning 33 this year? Two days before my birthday I have the opportunity to run my first ultra which happens to be 33k for my 33rd Birthday.
Training for the Red Hot in the FREEZING cold!

I realize that for many athletes and most trail runners this doesn’t sound like much of a challenge. For me, it borders on “damn near impossible”. Let’s weigh the governing factors which have shaped my running career.

1. Auto accident #1: I broke my femur. The surgery required cutting through the length of my Gluteus Maximus and I still have two screws above my right knee and a rod that sticks out of the bone and into my hip. When these foreign objects catch nerves… it hurts.

2. Auto Accident #2: Two torn ligaments in my right knee, pelvis cracked in five places. Physically all it really did was add insult to injury (and further hinder my performance in sports that require strong, fast legs).

3. I am predominantly slow twitch muscle fiber which never really allowed me to shine in the sports people care about. Sure, I was always decent at The Mile but that never overshadowed my poor performance at Dodge Ball (or Baskeball, or Baseball, or Football, or Gymnastics...).

4. Recent knee injuries due to previous tears or new damaged caused by being old and active.

Needless to say, I don't run.

Darned but they don’t call it “The Birthday Pretty-Hard”.

So, the goal is 33k, before they close the course or - if I'm being ambitious - in under 6 hours.

There are days when I’m sitting around and think I’ll just get in the zone and run for however long it takes. Then there are days when I’m running and I think, “this is going to be impossible.”