If you haven’t heard of the world-famous ultra running weiner dog, you’re about to be blown away, so take a seat. Twelve-year-old Truman was rescued six years ago, and now he and his human have a book coming out about their journey together to becoming long distance runners. We caught up with Truman’s owner, Catra Corbett, while she was recovering at home from her latest 200-mile endurance race to check in on her and Truman’s latest exploits together.
Rex Specs: You mentioned you just got back from a book signing. When did you find time to write a book while running ultra marathons and what’s it about?
Catra: A publisher and literary agent came to me with the idea of doing a book about a year ago, and it came out in May. I collaborated on it with another writer – it’s about how I got clean and sober and how I got into adopting Doxins [Dachshunds] and ultimately ended up with Truman. He’s on the cover of the book. I actually recorded all of my stories as I was running.
RS: Wait -- you recorded your stories while you were running?
C: Well, the other writer and I often had to flesh stuff out together, so I’d go out on training runs and record the parts I needed to work on. I run every single day, and I’m out there a couple hours at a time, so it just made sense.
RS: Taking Doxins running isn’t very common. How did that come about?
C: My ex-boyfriend some 25+ years ago had a Doxin. I was terrified of dogs back then. His dog would always come at me and bit my ankles even though she was blind. Then I had a roommate who had a Doxin named Didi, and I really bonded with her. That was around the same time I got clean and sober and started running, and so I got my own puppy, Oscar. I tried taking him on runs with me, but he would go on strike after a few miles. When he passed away, I got Rocky who was a rescue mix, and he would run a lot longer, but he’d eventually go on strike as well. [laughs]
RS: Why Doxins? Why not adopt a more traditional running breed?
C: A roommate of mine started volunteering at the local animal shelter, and then we became involved with a rescue group for Doxins. We signed up to foster them – we’d take them in and evaluate them and then put them up on the website for adoption. My roommate ended up adopting the first dog we fostered, but I held out a bit longer because I didn’t want the responsibility of a full time dog.
RS: And so Truman was one of the dogs you fostered?
C: One day I was out running in the mountains, and my roommate called and said we got a rescue who was afraid of everything and was hiding behind the couch. He couldn’t get him to come out. I came home and peeked over the couch, and he was trembling and didn’t want to move. I finally coaxed him out and sat with him for a long time. I started working with him, but I couldn’t even take him for a walk at first because he was scared of everything. I had no intention of ever adopting him – I was busy with racing, and he was 6 ½ years old. I definitely didn’t want an older dog.
RS: But you ended up with him.
C: He came from a home with an elderly woman who had 22 Doxins. He’d never even been outside, and he was 6-years-old. I tried taking him around the block, but I’d have to carry him because everything freaked him out. He was scared of people and noises and cars – absolutely everything. One day I just decided I was going to drive over to a trailhead and take him off leash and start running to see if he followed me. It was the only place where it was quiet and peaceful without all kinds of distractions and noises for him. And sure enough, he started following me on the run. So when it came time to put him up on the website for adoption, I thought, “Oh man, he didn’t have much of a life for the past six years, and he’d probably only be ok with an older person who’s inside most of the time.” But he was so happy to be outside running with me, so I decided to keep him.
RS: Did he go on strike like your other dogs after a few miles?
C: He’s never been like that, he’s never gone out and got exhausted and stopped. I’m the one freaking out that he needs water or food or whatever, and he’s doing totally fine. He’s quite an amazing little guy.
RS: So how did he end up doing long distance runs?
C: We started training together doing short runs, just like three miles. Then we were at six. Pretty quickly he started running 10k’s and then half marathons. After a year he did a full marathon, and after two years he did his first 50K. His fastest 50K was this year – at age 12 – he did it in 6 hours 43 minutes.
RS: Is long distance running OK healthwise for dogs? Especially a dog his size?
C: I’m obsessed with taking him to the vet – we go at least every three months. He’s 100% vet-approved to do what he does. In fact, he’s actually changed my vet’s perspective on Doxins. He now says running might actually be the best thing for a Doxin because they’re not jumping or doing anything that would twist their spine. Running isn’t harmful to them.
RS: Do people think you’re crazy to have a Doxin run such long distances?
C: I actually started getting full body X-rays three years ago so people would stop pestering me about it. I just want him to stay healthy – I would never want to cut into his life or health. He’s 12 now, and we actually just cut back his max distance to 15 miles because he just got a heart murmur. So now when we get to 15 miles, I put him in a backpack and keep going. He’s totally happy in there.
RS: So he’s never had any running injuries? What about the pads on his feet, that must be a lot of wear and tear.
C: He’s never once had a cut on his paw or anything, and we run in the mountains up to 14,000 feet. It’s like he was meant to run. The only injuries he’s had have all been related to eye damage because he’s so low to the ground. I’ve spent thousands of dollars on eye surgery – he used to wear different goggles, but he would scratch and paw to get them off. Then a friend of mine found Rex Specs and saw they had a size x-small and got them for him. He doesn’t try to get them off at all – so then of course I had to buy a few other pairs in different colors because he’s stylish [laughs].
RS: Are his eyes OK now?
C: Well, he has to have eye drops every day for the rest of his life because of the previous injuries, and he has dry eye so the Rex Specs are exactly what he needs. I think all dogs should wear eye protection when they’re outside, there’s just too much risk.
RS: What about you? Any injuries while you’ve been out training with him?
C: No, but I’m out there in the mountains alone with him, so I have a sat device now. I was going down a mountain one day and had him in the backpack, and I realized if I went down and got seriously injured or couldn’t move, he’d die out there. I used to work with the forest service, and I’ve seen so many people’s dogs die out in the mountains because they couldn’t carry them out. I can carry Truman out, but if something happened to me, I don’t want him to be in danger. So I always run with my sat device now.
RS: He’s a pretty amazing little guy.
C: Every race he’s ever done inspires me. On his first 50k I remember just looking down at him and thinking, “Wow, how the heck can this 9-lbs, 4-inches-off-the-ground weiner dog run this far? It’s like running 100 miles for a human -- it’s so inspiring. I always tell people who want to run but are struggling to do it, “Hey, if my weiner dog can run a 50k then you can run a 50k.”
RS: So what’s next?
C: I’m running the Tahoe 200 Mile Endurance Run in September, and I’m hoping to finish it in about 80 hours. The last aid station is 13 miles from the finish, so my boyfriend will be there with Truman, and Truman will run the last leg with me. It’s great seeing him at the aid station, it gives me a huge burst of energy. He’s been through this incredible journey of going from addiction to being an ultra runner – I would say he saved me and not that I saved him.You can follow Catra and Truman to keep up with their adventures on Instagram at @dirtdiva333 or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/TrumanTrumieDirtDoxie. You can also find Catra’s book, Reborn: On the Run, on Amazon or at your local bookstore.