Published: Sept. 1, 2017 By

Rachel Edson

Ralphie's Leading Lady

Rachel Edson (Soc’18), a 21-year-old senior from Boulder, is one of two women on the 16-member Ralphie Handlers team. Here she talks about life as part of CU’s most distinctive sport, road tripping with Ralphie — and getting along with CAM the Ram.

What’s it like to be a part of the Ralphie Handlers?

It’s a bond that is kind of hard to explain, because it’s so different than a regular sports team, because you’re also bonded with an animal. There’s an aspect of the team that can’t communicate with you, so you have to really communicate with each other to get the job done.

Can you read Ralphie’s emotions?

You can definitely tell when she’s in a new environment. When we took her to the Alamo Bowl, we left her at a ranch an hour away from the stadium. When we first released her into it, she was like, ‘What’s going on?’ It was kind of playful, but taken aback, like, ‘Where’s my old ranch?’

Is there anything you do that you know makes her happy?

She loves being pet everywhere on her body. We just try to give her as much love and attention as we possibly can. You can’t really give her a treat like a dog. You can’t take her to the park. Our main thing is just positive reinforcement.

Why did you choose CU — did it have to do with being a Ralphie handler?

My older brother also went here. He’s three years older. I was going to run track and I was looking at some other track schools, but then my coach asked me if I’d ever thought about Ralphie running. I thought I would rather try out than never know what would have happened.

What’s it like being one of two women on the team?

Generally, I don't notice. It is nice to have another girl on the team to create a tight friendship with, but I also share the same friendships with all the other guys. As girls, we get the same amount of participation in games and practices as the men. Our coach is gender blind by expecting the same amount of effort and hold[ing] us to the same standard in the weight room and [practice]. I have created the best friendships with the [men] and know that they will always be there to support and protect me.

How does Ralphie relate differently to the women?

On game days, when Ralphie gets a little jazzed up, our coach specifically tells us to sit next to her and talk to her to calm her down a little. I think she feeds off the boys’ energy, and they get a little bit hyped up on game days and I think that maybe fuels her intensity. She hears the softness in our voices.

Where does Ralphie live?

We get that question very often, but it’s a secret.

What’s your best memory of being with Ralphie?

It was a 12- or 14-hour drive [to the bowl in Texas]. We had to stop along the way and make sure everyone got some sleep, but we also had one or two people making sure she was OK throughout the night. One of my favorite memories is just sitting with her in her little trailer at 5 a.m. making sure she’s OK and I’m so tired and she’s sleeping.

Is there any sort of rivalry with CAM’s handlers at CSU?

No, we all get along with them pretty well. It’s sad to say, but it’s not really comparable. It’s just little CAM and then Ralphie. If they were doing something that was fairly similar to us, maybe we’d have a bit of competition, but we’re mostly just friendly and try not to get in the way of each other. We both share the feeling of being with a live animal, so it’s not like we’re trying to win, because there’s no winner.

What advice would you give women thinking of trying out for the team?

As long as you are putting in your best effort, the Ralphie Handling team will not focus on your gender, but your ability.

Condensed and edited by Jennifer Osieczanek.

Photo by Glenn Asakawa