My new trainer is a real animal

This is a bit blurry because Hank is so fast!

This is a bit blurry because Hank is so fast!

For four weeks, I’ve been trying to be a runner. I started a beginner running program and, through horrible pains in my feet, ankles, and calves, I have managed to stick with it. I won’t say there hasn’t been whining because there has been considerable whining. I hate running. It hurts. It goes against the pleading of every cell in my body. But, I’m doing it anyway.

I give all the credit to Hank.

Hank is one of the new additions to my family. He is Ben’s dog and a genuine angel. He’s the sweetest, kindest, gentlest dog I’ve ever met. And, thankfully, he likes to run at a very slow pace with me. Hank is the ideal personal trainer.

• He times his potty breaks to my walking breaks. This week, I’m doing intervals of five minutes running and one minute walking. Hank is perfectly happy with that arrangement and makes pit stops accordingly. (Sidenote: When Barley and I used to run together, his breaks were his breaks and he wouldn’t lower himself to observe my schedule. He also had no patience for my pace. We went his pace, no exceptions. He was such a stubborn little dog when he was young. He always took life on his own terms. I love that little turkey!)

• When we get close to home, Hank gently picks up the pace, a technique that helps me “dig deep,” as my old rugby coach would say. I’m sure I’m in full-on Zombie Shuffle mode by the time I hit the home stretch, but Hank makes me feel like Rocky.

• He’s mindful of the timer. When the alarm signals a running interval, Hank starts the run. When the walk alarm signals, he pulls back. He’s so smart and he keeps me honest.

• He never barks at me when I’m having a bad day. Barley was really sick on Tuesday and I was having a hard time with it emotionally. Hank and I went out for our scheduled run and it was a disaster. I was plodding along even more slowly than usual, which seems impossible considering I practically go in reverse when I’m at my top speed, and I wasn’t meeting my time goals. Hank just adjusted. He walked with me, let me cry it out on public streets, and brought me back home safe. An angel.

In a lot of ways, it’s hard for me to run with another dog. Since I was 22, Barley has been my running partner. To see a brown dog trotting by my side feels like a betrayal of my oldest and best friend. But, I know in my heart it’s okay. Hank is helping me through Barley’s illness and, for 30 minutes three times a week, I can let a lot of that pain and grief go. I can leave it at the front door and have my Hanky time.

I’m not dead, I’m getting married

In the words of King Lear, “I have ta’en too little care of this.” That’s my hoity-toity way of saying I’ve been an asshole about keeping up this blog. Things have been stressful, but that’s when blogs get juicy, don’t they? No one wants to hear about the non-busy times. So, I officially apologize. Here’s what you’ve missed.

I'm officially engaged! This is my hand at the beach in Bandon.

I’m officially engaged! This is my hand at the beach in Bandon.

• I got engaged. Ben and I went to the coast for my birthday. He stopped to pee on a rock and I put my back to him to serve as watch (it was a nice Sunday and the beach was busy). He was taking a long time, so I asked if he was done yet. He said yes, so I turned around and he was down on one knee with a ring. I was absolutely shocked.  The urine-based ruse was not terribly romantic, but it was perfect for me. It’s just the sort of thing that lends character to a story. I thought it was adorable. Obviously, I said yes, then proceeded to double over and threaten to puke. There was romance all over that proposal.

• I love my ring. Through all the pre-engagement talk, I insisted I only wanted a plain gold band. Give me something practical that won’t hurt too much to lose. Thankfully, Ben didn’t listen to me. I had a moment that could only be described as “when Sheldon gave Amy the tiara on ‘Big Bang Theory.’” Observe.


I freaked out about getting a real ring. It’s a very traditional solitaire and I absolutely love it. In fact, I even love worrying about it. It’s the only girlie thing I own and it’s my absolute favorite. I spend far too much time staring at it…and putting lotion on my hands. I look like a princess in this!

• I have to plan a wedding. I allowed a week or so to loll in engagement haze before considering that now I have to plan a wedding. (Insert dramatic music here.) We want to get married in September, but, as of right now, I have zero plans. No location. No guest list. No dress. No date. All I have are love handles, a farmer tan, and a growing sense of anxiety. I want to have a wedding, I just don’t know where to start. It doesn’t help that I’m incredibly cheap and, when I consider spending money on a wedding, I want to hightail it to the courthouse. For $100, I can get married in my sweatpants by the county clerk? Where do I sign! However, I know 10 years from now, when my farmer tan is droopier and my love handles are jigglier, I’ll regret not wearing a dress and doing the whole thing. So, let the planning begin.

Barley's riding in style these days.

Barley’s riding in style these days.

• Barley got a stroller. As you all know, Barley’s cancer is terminal and we’re just trying to keep him comfortable as long as we can. We decided not to put him through painful surgeries or treatments, since the success rates for both are not good. So, we’re managing his symptoms. Part of that is getting him a new ride. He gets tired easily and, with three other healthy dogs to walk, it was hard for him to be out with the family. So, now he can walk a mile or so, and ride the rest of our morning walks. It’s a perfect situation. Plus, I’m getting a heck of a good  workout pushing his 20-pound butt up the mega-hills by my house. Watch out, Pippa! I’ve got your butt number!

• I’m off dairy. Again. There was an incident last weekend. I don’t want to go into too much detail, but let’s just say that from now on, I will not be hiking without toilet paper. That damn dairy got me again! I wish there was a 12-step program for dairy addicts. Lact-Anon. We could all go around in a circle telling our rock bottom stories. “Hi, my name is Amanda and I had to wipe my butt with a sweaty hiking sock.” So embarrassing. But maybe this time my lesson is learned. No more dairy. At least until after the wedding.

So, there are the biggies. Sorry again for my two-month absence. Work is ridiculously draining and, with Barley getting sicker, I haven’t had the emotional energy to do more than maintain my semi-pleasant demeanor. We’ve all been treading water down here, waiting for summer and good hiking weather. You’ll be seeing hiking pics from me soon enough. Bring on the sun! (But not too much!)