If he’s honest, Owen Thomas, editor in chief of ReadWrite, will admit that his dog Ramona, a sweet wiry-haired Jack Russell Terrier mix, was really his husband’s idea. After all, it was his husband who spent hours cruising rescue and shelter sites and his husband who found Ramona in a shelter in Pasadena. Owen agreed that a puppy would “liven up” their lives, and that since he’d just switched jobs and everything in his life was changing anyway, it was a perfect time to add a dog to the mix. But one suspects Owen didn’t realize just how hard and fast he’d fall for his “Love Terrier.” At the very least, it’s pretty clear Owen had no idea just how significantly Ramona would change his life.
Though Owen was starting to get serious about fitness around the same time he and Greg adopted Ramona, the arrival of his energetic puppy definitely kicked things into high gear. “I would take Ramona to the park and we’d walk around,” Owen says. When it was time to go “she’d look at me like, ‘That’s all you’ve got? Seriously?’ I rapidly learned I was not to walk her; I was to run her. She just loves to run.”
The challenge for Owen, though, was getting Ramona the exercise she needed in an already incredibly busy day. “I tried to figure out how I could give her a good exercise session and take care of me at the same time,” he says. “And I realized I just needed to make her exercise part of my daily routine.”
It took Owen 20 minutes to take the streetcar to work, but only an extra 10 minutes if he walked. So that’s where he started.
Then he found Coit Tower. The iconic concrete column on the top of Telegraph Hill was somewhere Owen often took his friends when they were visiting, but he says it only just recently dawned on him that it was basically in his backyard. “Let me just go there to exercise Ramona,” he says he thought one day. “I started discovering the stairs around Telegraph Hill, and it’s so gorgeous there …”
And so his daily routine became taking Ramona to explore the stairs and alleys. “It was an evolution, from ‘Let’s walk up to Coit Tower’ to ‘Let’s jog up to Coit Tower’ to ‘Oh, let’s take these other stairs down and then these stairs back up’ to ‘Let’s just do this all on a run!’ And Ramona keeps up the entire time.”
She isn’t fast on the flats, he says, but she can beat him up the steps.
Owen credits Ramona with turning him onto running, something he admits he never would have done by himself. And it’s that dedication to running, as well as frequent visits to the gym (Ramona gets to come and watch sometimes!) that has helped him shed more than 83 pounds.
Now that he’s discovered the benefits of an active lifestyle, Owen says that both and he Ramona get a little “cray cray” if they don’t get enough exercise. That’s what motivates him to get up at 5:45 a.m. every day and take her on a run. He then drops Ramona off with his neighbor so she can play with a doggy friend while he goes to the gym. (Yes, he goes on a run and then goes to the gym. He’s the kind of guy you both admire and hate a little bit; he admits that’s “the exact reaction I want to provoke.”)
On “rest” days, Owen and Ramona do the one-hour walk to the office together. Always trying to maximize his efficiency, Owen uses that hour for calls. “I actually really like to walk and talk,” he says. “So if I have a phone call, I’ll schedule it so I’m on foot.” An added bonus is that Ramona is usually pretty tuckered out after that walk, so she’ll sleep most of the day.
“Plus,” Owen says, “I get a lot of complaints if I don’t bring her to work. People aren’t here to see me. They’re here to see Ramona. Let’s face it: She’s cuter and more talented.”
When asked for his advice about how fellow dog people can get active with their pups, Owen says it’s all about figuring out what you can do with your dog. That’s why he got into running, something he was never into before, and why his bike now gathers dust in the garage. “I don’t bike anymore because I can’t figure out how to do it with her,” he says.
“People are stressed about time,” Owen says. “So it’s all about what you can combine.”
For Owen, that means going on a run or walking his dog to work, but he suggests people just think about where they can fit their dog into their schedule. “That phone call you have to make? Make it while you’re walking the dog. If you’re going to the gym and you’re on the treadmill, why not run with your dog? They love it.”
“I feel like Ramona is definitely happier if she gets outside and is really moving,” Owen says. And it’s clear from the look on the face that the same goes for Owen.
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