Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Volunteering at the Animal Shelter

I began volunteering at the Animal Shelter this Sunday. I spent 5 hours in the blazing sun, sweating as I walked hyper, pulling dogs. I picked up poop and came home exhausted, sore, and covered in slobber, fleas, and God know what else. And I absolutely LOVED it. I can't wait to go back next weekend. It was one of the most gratifying, rewarding experiences I've had in a loooong time.

After I got Travis in October, I wanted more doggie time. And then when Floyd joined our family this spring, I realized the only way to get more doggie time would be to volunteer. I couldn't wait to give back to the other dogs at the shelter. After all, Travis has turned out to be such an exceptional dog. If I could help bring some joy and happiness to the other shelter dogs and somehow help them get adopted, well, words can't explain how good that would make me feel.

--Travis, the day I brought him home from the shelter.

--Floyd and Travis, bosom buddies; these guys are now inseparable!

I learned a lot about dogs on Sunday. 99.9% of dogs are joyous, love people, and just want a little love, attention and exercise. Although I could only spend 20-30 minutes with each dog, they relished every second. Dogs know how to live in the moment. Also, since the majority of the dogs at the shelter are pit bull or pit bull mix, I'm quickly learning that the bad rap these guys have is undeserved. I haven't met a pit bull I don't like. Contrary to popular belief, instead of being aggressive, these guys are huge sweeties! They loooove people and attention and are mostly low energy, easy-going and mellow. Of course, since Travis is half pit, I know this from personal experience as well. Can't wait to go back next week!

Please, please, please, if you are thinking of getting a dog, cat, or bunny (or most any pet--the shelter has reptiles, birds, mice, hamsters, roosters, and even a few pigs!), look at your local shelter. There are so many loving animals there that desperately need a home.

Some of the dogs I walked on Sunday:

--sweet, young and plaful

--one of my favorites! Great with other dogs, easy on the leash, affectionate. Loves belly rubs!

--Very polite and mild-mannered. This gal LOVES walks. Who can resist that face and floppy ears?

--Look at that beautiful steel gray coat!

--The first guy I met. Handsome, polite, and very affectionate.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Thanks! I Needed That.

I've been battling with some depression lately, evident in my last post. Needless to say, it was quite the timely e-mail that I got the other day:

"Hi Rachel,

We just posted an article, “50 Informative & Inspiring Blogs for Triathletes” ( http://www.physicaltherapyassistantschools.org/50-informative-inspiring-blogs-for-triathletes/ ). I thought I'd bring it to your attention in case you think your readers would find it interesting.

I am happy to let you know that your site has been included in this list.

Either way, thanks for your time!"

Thanks so much for the shout-out!

Friday, August 06, 2010

Reunited with Torch

--Spring Sprint '08

I'm almost too embarrassed to admit this but yesterday was the first time I rode Torch in 3 months. Ironman Utah really took it out of me. I've never experienced this before. I simply had no interest in Torch after Utah. Of coures, the 6-week-long period of physical chronic fatigue didn't help. Every now and then, I'd take Pandora out for a ride, hike or do a leisurely run with the dogs, and maybe pop into the ocean for a dip. But even that was becoming more and more infrequent.
I would be lying if I said everything was fine. Work is tough right now. Very tough. I'm actively searching for my first "real job" at the age of 32. I have a PhD in Cell & Molecular Biology, and I can't find a job. The economy is shit. I keep getting turned down because I'm overqualified or don't have enough "biotech" experience. It's frustrating. What I need right now is an outlet.

I wrestled with Torch for about half-an-hour, replacing the race wheels with training wheels. Undoing the aero bottle from the bars, still half-full of dirty Ironman Utah water. Slapped a spare kit in a bag under the seat. And took off.

I was a bit worried. The one thing I didn't need right now was a bad ride. A bad run a week ago had popped the last little bit of wind out of my sails. How would I feel on a 16-mile ride? I feel like I'm starting all over again. It's just been too long.

I quickly settled into the aero position. It was like putting on an old pair of your favorite jeans. Like walking by a bakery and reveling in childhood memories of your mother's chocolate-chip cookies. It was like, well...it was like riding a bike. You never forget. I remembered all those hours, all those hills, all the bottles of water, the eons of time riding next to friends in idle conversation. The long, endless Saturdays of starting out with the group at the crack of dawn and riding non-stop until mid-afternoon. The feeling that there was nothing else but that moment. Nothing else existed. The ocean stretching endlessly to the left. The bright sun in the cloudless sky, cooled by a soft, mist breeze, carried from the waves crashing on the shore. I felt strangely free and at peace. The knowledge that you had nothing else planned for the rest of the day, and the only thing that mattered was finishing that ride. Afterwards, a hot shower, lots of comfort food, and lounging in front of the t.v., gleefully weary and totally satisfied. Then, going to bed early to get ready to wake up early on Sunday and do it all over again (this time on foot).

This ride, in and of itself, was uneventful. I rode on the path I had ridden on hundreds of time before. But I relished in it. Appreciated the sleeping power in my core and glutes. Took advantage of the knowledge of every turn and bump in the road. Enjoyed the predictable westwardly wind. I loved the familiarity of the ride. Something within me stirred.

Monday, August 02, 2010


Bad Floyd:
What was supposed to be a relaxing, mellow late-night walk turned into an anxiety-ridden, harrowing 9 mile rescue search. Friday night, Greg and I decide to go for a night walk with the dogs. We trekked along a dirt path in one of the plowed fields behind the house, illuminated only by moonlight. About halfway out and 3 miles from home, Floyd disappeared. One minute he was there, and the next, POOF! Gone.

We speculated on the rationale for his absconding into darkness without warning. What was going through his little head? Did he get spooked? Took one path, and we took the other? Chased a rabbit until we got separated? Or did he simply get bored of the walk and decide on his own to take off? In the end, it was just Greg, Travis, and me, searching endlessly for someone who was no longer there.

Amazingly, Travis, usually quite mischievous about coming when called, came straight away in response to my whistling. He actually seemed somewhat worried. He put his head into the leash as if to say, "Okay. I'm done with this game. Let's go home." I gave him some water and lots of pats.

We walked back and forth in search of Floyd. Traversed the path to the point where we had seen him last. Went to each fork in the road. We went back and forth like that for awhile until we were quite disoriented. Luckily, I noticed that whenever we turned down one path, Travis surged ahead. When we went down the other, Travis obediently followed but more sluggishly at our heels. Hmmm. Let's go down the one where Travis pulls ahead. Just like horses, dogs seem to have an incredible honing instinct for sensing direction of home. We decided to let Travis lead us home and prayed that Floyd would be there waiting for us.

When we got a call from my housemate, we were both instantly relieved. He confirmed our suspicions: Floyd had been waiting on the front porch when he had come home from the pub. Little bastard had gotten tired of our wanderings and taken upon himself to steal away silently and go home. We took our time walking home after that, knowing Floyd was safe and sound. I stood for several minutes, gaping in awe, when we passed directly underneath a giant, great-horned owl, swiveling his head this way and that, in search of prey.

Bad Travis:
We went for a run Sunday evening. We waited until the sun was setting and the temps had cooled off. As the shadows grew long, we took the dogs off leash and set off on a familiar trail, aiming for 3-4 easy miles. The dogs were always better at staying with us when we were running; I had no doubt we would run together as a pack.

The dogs darted in and out of the bushes, stirring up critters and cavorted in the fields. They seemed so happy. About 2 miles out, Travis darted into some thick shrubs alongside a narrow creek. Oh, Travis, I thought. I whistled and waited for him to come out. I heard jingling and rustling. He was taking his time. I ran up ahead and whistled again. He never failed to follow. Except for today. Several minutes elapsed. I whistled repeatedly. I doubled-back on the path, whistling. When I returned to where I had last seen him, only 50 feet back, I was met with nothing but silence and a family of red-tailed hawks, excitedly flitting about in the trees as the field mice skittered about below. A horrible sinking feeling tore through my chest. Travis was gone.

I had no doubt what had gone through Travis' head. It was dusk, when the rabbits, his most favorite thing to chase in the world, were most active. He had seen rabbits! and taken chase. Now he was gone and completely disinterested in returning. I was pissed. Greg, Floyd and I ran along the trails snaking through the fields and creek in a futile search for Travis. Travis had no interest in listening to our calls and whistles. Darkness was only minutes away from encompassing the land, and I knew it would be pointless to search for him after the sun set.

Frustrated, I took Floyd and set off for home. Greg refused to surrender. He set back out at a mad sprint to find Travis. I scoffed, thinking it was impossible. It was a long walk/run home. I was relieved to be in the company of Floyd. In my head, I was already putting together the "Missing Dog" fliers, thinking of the best places to hang them, and calling the local shelters. By the time I got home, I was shaking and almost in tears.

Just a mere 5 minutes later, Greg burst through the front door with an exhausted, panting Travis at his heels. I stared in disbelief, overcome with conflicting yet simultaneous emotions of immense relief and fury. I took Travis out back to check him for wounds and hose him down to cool him off. He's a bit tired but doesn't have a scratch on him.

Needless to say, it will be awhile before these guys go off leash again!