If we told you that a four-year-old Aussie has completed two Tough Mudders, you’d probably wonder what’s going on over at Tough Mudder Australia headquarters in Melbourne.
But fear not: Roxie, the youngest Mudder to cross our finish line, is not of Australian citizenship but breed, and her owner, Army Staff Sergeant Desiree Rincon of Tampa, would never dream of putting her in harm's way.
Promising a shady spot for Roxie outside of TMHQ, we caught up with Desiree and her best friend during their recent trip to New York City.
First off, what brings you to New York?
My friend suggested I submit my story to the Runner’s World [magazine] cover search. I thought it’d be cool to see Roxie on the cover, so I submitted photos and a paragraph about why I run. First I got into the top 100. Then I received a phone call from Runner’s World asking me about further details, and I was asked for a Skype interview. They told me I was in the top 10. All [finalists] will be featured in the magazine and one on the cover.
Did you ever think Roxie might be famous?
A lot of what’s happened between Roxie and me has been at the suggestion of friends. After Roxie and I ran races, people would send me photos. My friends said that I should just have a [Facebook] page for Roxie. I thought that sounded asinine, but they said it’d be fun. So now Roxie has her own Facebook page.
What life events led you to Roxie?
In 2011 I was diagnosed with gastric cancer. I’ve had two surgeries and underwent radiation. As a result, I developed diabetes and found out that when I hit blood sugar lows, I suffer from seizures. Roxie is a seizure dog.
So Roxie knows when you’re going to have a seizure?
Yes. She can alert me when I’m about to have a seizure, so I can find a safe place to have the seizure. She only barks on command or when there is imminent danger to me.
Where did Roxie come from?
I have a caseworker at the VA for my treatment. She put me in contact with Pets for Vets, a nonprofit, and they put me in contact with a group that trains service animals. They happened to get Roxie from a guy who breeds [Australian shepherds] who was a retired officer from Missouri. He donated Roxie because she was the runt of her litter, and she wasn’t show or breed quality.
How many races have you done with her?
Wow. I have no idea. I run a race every week - sometimes two or three. I’ll go on a limb and say she’s done every race I’ve done. That would be over 100 races. She goes on all my training runs. She goes everywhere with me. As far as Tough Mudder go, we’ve done two together - South Florida 2015 and Central Florida 2014. This year we’re doing Central Florida 2015.
What got you and Roxie into mud running?
I did a mud run in 2009. It was my first and last before I got sick. My best friend and I had just come back from from my second deployment in Afghanistan, and we wanted to do this together. It didn’t really have an appeal for me, but then I got sick. When I was sick, I thought that if I get out of here, I’m never going to take being able to get out for granted. I want to be able to get muddy.
So not being active really got to you?
I missed being in the Army. I was in the Army for 12 years doing all sorts of crazy things all over the place. I used to jump out of planes and scuba dive. I did three combat tours in Afghanistan and Iraq. Being bedridden for eight months was the most miserable time of my life. I was contemplating taking my own life.
So Tough Mudder was able to fill that void?
Things about Tough Mudder and a lot of the obstacles require camaraderie, and it’s like the confidence courses in the military. I really missed it.
While your passion is obvious, do you think Roxie enjoys obstacle courses?
She loves it more than I do. For the log carry, she is my log, so it’s a nice break for her. She people watches while I carry her. She also swims like a fish.
Does she do all the obstacles?
[She does] anything that doesn’t require opposable thumbs. [The] Everest [obstacle] is tricky. She’s tried Everest and even got up in Miami and there was a huge cheer. She detests Arctic Enema, but Mommy went in so she had to go after her.
What do you think her favorite obstacle is?
She loves Mud Mile. That’s her thing. No hesitation. She’s a diva. She’ll go into a mud pit and do Mud Mile with no hesitation, but if there’s wet ground because of rain, she won’t sit.
What reaction do people have to Roxie on course?
People think they’re seeing things. Is that really a dog? Someone thought it was a stray that got loose. She runs leashless next to me. There’s lots of rooting and thinking she’s adorable. I have her bark at people for motivation.
A Tough Mudder is one thing, but you’re running with Roxie at the 24-hour World’s Toughest Mudder this November. How’d that come about?
I’d been meaning to do World’s Toughest Mudder and was going to put it off another year when a friend of mine said, “Hey, I have a registration that I want to give to you if you want it.”
What are your feelings going into WTM with a dog?
I won’t lie. I’m scared out of my mind for the both of us. I’m going to do it to prove to myself that I can toe the line - that I have the courage to toe the line.
What are your personal WTM goals?
If I can make 25 miles, I’ll be happy. Roxie has never done more than a marathon. I’m going to try to play it by ear and see where the night takes me. I’m not going to put Roxie in a position where any danger can come to her. If it looks like she might come across any kind of danger or harm I’ll stop and quit on the spot or hand her off and see how far I can get before it gets unhealthy. I want to prove I can do it, and just by showing up I’ll be okay. I’m not a competitive person. It’s a personal achievement.
Know some inspiring Mudders like Desiree and Roxie? Bring ‘em to our attention by writing email@example.com.
*Non-Tough Mudder event photos taken by Jaclyn Cavalier.