Sunday, February 5, 2017

Yer Big Dog Turns 36

Wait a tic I'm on central time now.  On the Eastern seaboard I'm actually 46. 

And it's been more than a month since my birthday but  as I alluded to in my previous post, it's been kind of a breakthrough month for me.

Turning mid 40s your body starts to say, "HEY!!! REMEMBER ME???" and it was time for me to stop and take inventory.  Maybe it started talking to me earlier but sometimes I don't listen so good.  

Louis CK says it best in this video - it's absolutely hilarious but as per louis, it's a little ripe with the language.  

2018 will be the most important year of my life and that's the reason I'm focusing intensely on getting to peak performance.  No spoilers now and probably not for months but you'll understand soon enough.

Here's what I'm working on.  

Body

For most of my adult life I've suffered from a bad lower back caused by a work related injury that was exacerbated by being rear ended by a Dodge Ram when I was en route to a deep sea fishing excursion in Corpus Christie. I was at a dead stop and he was doing about 40 mph and that herniated a lower disc to say the least.  Backpacking 4,000 miles with an FSO of 100+ lbs didn't help and it's been a battle since, two steroid injections not withstanding.  

Then there's the knee but there's no sense in going into detail - we all have to learn how to walk with wounds.  

I've never been a gym junkie before but I can't go more than a day away from it now.  Plus, Planet Fitness has a hydromassage table and I could live for days on that machine.  I'm also back to walking a few miles daily typically after my workout.    

Mind

I have a hyper functioning brain which is cool at times especially when I need to summon my creativity but it also makes me highly susceptible to noise and distractions.  Just ask anyone who watches TV with me.  Advertisements - I really wouldn't even call them that since they're often the lowest common denominator - drive me nuts.  AND... hah - caught myself. 

Also I'm a political junkie since half my family comes from Louisiana where politics is a blood sport so I've had to filter that out, too.  Except for Mark Simone since he covers culinary trends in NYC and film.  Still it's hard at times since I've always prided myself with being current and well read but given the volume levels nowadays, it short circuits my CPU.  And ya gotta protect that. 

Instead, my earbuds have become myelinated sheaths which both insulate my thoughts and along with workouts and walking, propagate them at greater frequencies.  More on this and music choices later.... 

Diet

You'd think after as many miles I've logged, I would have this figured out.  But, traveling with the fuzzybutts required me to make tough decisions about pack weight almost always to my detriment.  Their food, comfort, and safety always came first and when backpacking every gram counts.  Which meant many days and night I feasted on whatever I could find at C-Stores or not at all.  Just ask Mommy G how many boxes of nuts and dried fruits went unsent because I just couldn't afford the pack weight and sometimes it was 30-40 miles between towns.  

No ma'am, my diet on the road consisted mostly of Pork Rinds and pickles for salt and Sour Patch Kids for sugar and that messes with you the older you get.  

Spiritual

See previous blog, Midnight with Murphy, but it won't be my only one about it. 


Garbage In, Garbage Out

This is a common phrase you encounter in the technology world.  Basically it means crappy coding begets shitty software and that's so, so true of your body, mind, and spirit with diet affecting them all.  I don't pretend or presume to be an expert in any of them but I'm learning.  Nor will I turn into some freaky fitness creep that you encounter on infomercials.  

In turning 46, I have to focus on all if I hope to reach optimal performance by this time next year.   Me and my shitty back.  And my shitty knee.  

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YBD's Notes:  FSO = From Skin Out calculated by everything you carry and wear minus your nekkid self.  Couldn't find a quick and easy link about it.    


Friday, February 3, 2017

Midnight with Murphy

I should've been fasting these past 10 days out in the hinterlands of Tennessee.  All alone in my trusty tent starving myself of sustenance in order to achieve some greater clarity, understanding and context that occasionally is lost to me.  Heck I was packed up and ready to head out and then something stopped me.  Can't say what for sure - but the cascade of events set in motion since have been nothing short of metamorphic.   

Recently, I met a man who showed me another way and for the past two weeks I've been doing some serious transcendental shit; acupuncture, chanting, Reiki and sensory deprivation (not like Altered States - I'm already a beast of a man but more internal, intrinsic).    If I didn't know better I'd think I'd been smoking some serious Humboldt county style Boo-Ya.  Yes, yes I got a PhD in weed on the west coast.  

Sure, I've acknowledged the possibility and potential of and even dabbled in these Eastern type practices but never personally, truly, and profoundly have I explored them.  And now I'm down in it.  

So where is it going to take me?  What's the endpoint of it all?  To this, I am as yet uncertain.  But here's what I have learned thus far on this new path.

The Fallacy of 'What Should Happen Should Happen'

I was never any good at Logic - not the concept or application of it - but in the scholastic sense and  as a subset of philosophy.  So in attempting to make sense of the sequence of events that led me here to this time and place - I made up this fallacy which is basically the basis of flawed logic. 

People often ask me why did you walk those thousands of miles.  Oh sure, I've got a pocket full of reasons.  The fun, flippant one - everything is bigger in Texas and when we lose a dog to cancer down there we don't walk around a park, we walk cross country.  Then I've got the media sound bite version - sharing Malcolm and Murphy's story from town to town to raise awareness of the epidemic of canine cancer. I've got many more but you get the point.  

Perhaps they are all truths or variations of the same one but for me it's because I believed walking from Austin to Boston would help heal my loss of Malcolm, to soothe my savage heart. And then within weeks of the final mile, Murphy was diagnosed and, well, most of you know the rest of that story.   

And so I walked another 1,700 miles doubling down on the belief that THAT would heal me.   

You see the fallacy in this logic?  That because I believed it should, it should've.  But it didn't.  

Luke 4:23

You know, it's commonly thought that the origin of my name is 'light giving' and the best known example of it is the apostle Paul's traveling companion and doctor.  This proverb - I had to look that up since, um, well I usually skipped Bible study in search of less pious pursuits shall we say - in Latin reads cura te ipsum  - 'Physician heal thyself' something that's been a bit of an impossibility for me it seems.  

I suppose my post-facto rationalization has always been - I never spare myself any emotion for Malcolm and Murphy no matter how painful.  I can endure it.  Just like so many nights on the road and asea, I can weather this storm.  But I have suffered so.  

Self-imposed or not.  

Disconnection

Back to this newfound friend of mine, whom I barely even know. He showed me that pain can be a way to separate yourself from others.  To disconnect from them.  Furthermore, he said that people like me unknowingly use tragedy to spare themselves from the need and necessity of love and letting others in.  

I'm not sure if I believe all of his bullshit yet - but hey, I'm listening.    You see, it's one thing to turn tragedy into action - oh, I've done that and then some.  It's quite another thing to allow that experience to truly transform you.  And it's here I find myself at this intersection.   

Life Off Road

Not to put too fine a point on it but I've become a bit of an expert on backpacking the byways, highways, back roads and farm roads of this incredible land of ours.  But take me off and away from it and I tend to fall apart.  Perhaps it's because I'm always in pursuit of an idea, a belief, a cause - our cause - that remains elusive to me.  Or maybe it's as simple as finding sedentary existence unsettling and like Carthamus I'm damned to a life of wandering and wondering.   

And while I have been pretty good at chronicling and sharing my journeys on the road with you, I've been decidedly deficit in talking about it off, especially post west coast.  From now on, that will change.  I won't let fear, doubt, uncertainty, darkness or utter despair disconnect me from you again.  

In part because some of you have said to me you find the latter much more inspiring and relatable if not essential than the former.  And in part because my new friend tells me to.  

That and I need a simpler formula for existence.  I live.  I learn.  I write.  Something like that... just less cheesy and Julia Roberts sounding.  

Postscripts

Two blogs in draft right now (1) On Turning 36 - My travels and adventurin' have taken their toll on Yer Big Dog so I lick my wounds and tell tales about it; (2) The Theory of Cancer - lately my thinking has gotten so abstract and theoretical about the evolution of cancer. Where is it going and how can that affect our thinking about the future of therapeutics? On societal and civil re-engineering?  Reflections on my conversations with thought leaders and a whole host of other ideas - this will definitely be a multi-part project. 

There are more... lots more but I'm attempting to do a better job of prioritizing my crazy.

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YBD's Notes 1: The name of this blog has a special meaning to me.  Back when I was a businessman in Texas I would often take Malcolm up to my office in the evenings and that inspired a series of writings I entitled Midnight with Malcolm.  Dunno what the change denotes quite yet...

YBD's Notes 2: I stuff hyperlinks in my blogs if'n anyone wants to learn more about things that fascinate me but be forewarned - logic will make yer eyes water.  

YBD's Notes 3: Upon further reflection 'What Should Happen Should Happen' SHOULD be a fallacy. Oh boy.

YBD's Notes 4: Coincidentally, whilst recently consolidating all of my scant worldly possessions from around the country, I found this photo of me taken at the blessing of my childhood home.  I've seen too much of this world in this life to believe in coincidences.  Thanks to my sister-in-law Linda for preserving it.  Nice bowl cut, Mom

YBD's Notes 5:  I should choose a name for my new friend - he's not imaginary.  I Promise.  At least in my mind.  In this room.  That's white.  And padded.  

YBD's Notes 6: Perhaps it's still too early for me to write - no, I'm always doing that - to publish about these transcendental, metaphysical experiences and experiments.  But hey, at least I'm rounding again.  

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

damn dog

That'll be carved into my tombstone. 

I always found it to be a cosmic irony that I was the guy picked for this job if that's even the right word for describing my life's mission.  But trust me this was not the path that I chose for myself.  

Today is the anniversary of when I lost Malcolm - he was a gift from an ex from some distant land some distant time ago.  I didn't know a damn thing about dogs back then other than I didn't want one.  I worked 12 hours a day times 7. I was the chairman of this, the director of that... the creator and entrepreneur and my life didn't lend itself to distractions.

And that's what a dog was to me. A distraction.  

You see Malcolm & me was no easy thing.  He balked when I wanted him to obey and for six long months he and I were at war.  I didn't know back then but I believe now he was fighting for my soul. 

And isn't that the lesson?  No spirit should be secondary.  Not to anyone or because of anything.  

It's been a decade since lung mets sent him into congestive heart failure and Malcolm died in my arms.  It was an inglorious death to a giant and only those who understand, understand.  

damn dog. i miss you. damnit. 

YBD's Notes: What better way to celebrate Malcolm's life than by damning him. I'm quite certain he would've done the same about me.  He was a beautiful boy.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Shadowcast

November is #PetCancerAwareness Month.  Now I don't know who made this month but for more than a few reasons, there's a cosmic irony about it.  The first of which is Malcolm (the first dog I lost to cancer and whose death inspired our travels) - his birthday was the eve of.  

It's been many years since his loss and I don't reflect on it oft but his light of life emanates from me still. And recently, it was all brought back.  

I was grateful to be invited to participate at the Connecticut Shoreline Puppy Up Walk last Sunday October 30th and it was an absolutely gorgeous day - a bit balmy but cloudy at times.  Everything was going great though the proceedings seemed to be delayed until the news came down.  The Dog Cancer Hero, Medalla, whom we all had been awaiting her arrival, collapsed in the parking lot, was administered CPR by her vet, but tragically passed away en route to the clinic.  

And everyone's crying and the microphone was given to me to keep the proceedings ongoing.  Those of you who know me I'm not usually at a loss for words but I wept, too, and publicly something I hadn't done so since Murphy.  After a moment of silence we all soldiered on and walked the two miles at Guilford Fairgrounds.  All of us except Medalla.  

Perhaps that's why I wept.  Some of us cross the finish line.  Some of us don't.  And with Murphy it was close. 

And while, at least for now, we don't know why, we should all give thanks that we're shadowcasted by the great brilliance of those we have lost. 

This month, more so than others, give some goddamn great love to your companions, with whom your time together is transient but will walk aside you for thousands of miles until the end.  

I want to thank MariAnne for sharing Medalla with us all and nearby is a bit about her in MariAnne's words.  



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Medalla was a mixed breed rescue from Puerto Rico. While I was there on business, we found each other on a secluded beach in the small town where I was staying.  She was just a puppy, between 3-4 months old.  From that day forward, she was the most loving and faithful friend I could ever hope for.  She never left my side. If you asked anyone at Guilford Vet Hospital, they would say she was a shy, quiet dog, but like most children, at home she was very talkative and the alpha of her pack.  

At six years old, Medalla was diagnosed with Lymphoma. After Chemo, she immediately went into remission.  This summer, she came out of remission for the second time. This was her third round of treatments. She immediately went back into remission again.  She was such a little trouper and took everything so well.  Unfortunately, I lost her to a heart attack, before she could finish her Chemo.  I want to thank Guilford Vet Hospital and all canine cancer research for giving me an extra 3 years with my wonderful baby girl. 

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

The 19th


For whatever cosmic reasons beyond my complete comprehension the Week of the 19th of June is what the Japanese call, "Mono no aware" - both beauty and pain, celebration and sadness...

It's always the week of Father's Day, the anniversary of the Final Mile in Boston, the passing of my boy Murphy, and the birth of Indiana Jones. It's also the week of the summer solstice whose Latin translation roughly means the day the sun stands still.  When there is the least darkness. 

Every year it's a week I'd just like to fast forward through and move on because it can be too much for even me to shoulder.  And I've carried a ton of weight for some time.  But no one gets that option when you allow yourself to love absolutely.  

Five years ago today I gave Murphy rest and five years later I still weep inconsolably when I write about him.  His final days we spent together listening to Garth Brook's song The Dance and he loved it before I even realized the significance of the lyrics.  Paraphrasing them, 'I'm glad I didn't know the way it all would end.  But even if I did, I wouldn't have missed the dance.'  

Just like every light begins with darkness the Week of the 19th is about the lessons from life's inflections.  For me it's been both a beginning and an ending and the promise and the pain of love as well.    

And what a beautiful dance it's been.  Happy 19th!


Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Puppy Up Nation

Six years ago this Sunday, Hudson, Murphy and I walked the final mile from Back Bay Fens to the Boston Common alongside hundreds of friends and hundreds of canine companions who traveled from 21 states to be there that day. 

When I started out on the road from Austin, TX, I didn’t have much – just a couple hundred bucks in my pocket and a few friends helping me out.  The focus is so intense on each and every step and each and every mile it seemed unfathomable just how far and how long our journey would take us.  And we have gone far! And as we celebrate our sixth anniversary the Puppy Up Foundation has achieved so many incredible milestones. 

Recently I traveled to Madison for their record breaking year, over 1,100 people, and over a $130,000 raised. It’s such an exciting energy to be a part of Team Madison and during a speech by our Scientific Chair, Kai Shiu, said how great it was to be a part of Puppy Up USA.  And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s neat.’ 
 
But then I thought ‘Our reach is international and all of us really are brought together by a common thread that spans border.’  In many ways I feel like we're becoming an institution and that’s when it hit me.  We are a Puppy Up Nation!

I feel like that at every walk I’ve had the privilege to personally participate in.  I am often asked, ‘What are you most proud of?’  And my response has always been, to go from town to town and see how excited the communities are and successful they’ve been putting on walks – that makes me the proudest.’ 

And that’s why I wanted to share this inspiration with a commemorative T-Shirt to celebrate our 6th anniversary.   And as a way to say thanks to everyone who has made this such a successful organization and as a reminder that we all are together in this and we stand in solidarity.  You can order a shirt here.  

Thank you.  All of you for being a part of Puppy Up Nation!


Hudson, Indiana & Luke




Saturday, November 28, 2015

The Adventures of Chef Big Dog


Now that our Puppy Up events have winded down for the season, I'm up in CT helping out a friend with her food truck and it's been quite an experience so far.

I've cooked for farmer's markets, festivals, and for hundreds of families and friends I've stayed with throughout our journey but the food truck thing is a whole nother level. 

I'll be sharing my culinary adventures, how and why YBD became CBD, and what's next in 2016 at www.chefbigdog.com   


Thursday, September 17, 2015

Cancer for President 2016

I took time out of my crazy busy schedule to watch the debates last nite. I wish I didn't but I'm glad I did.  It's time to face facts folks.  No politician gives a shite that you lost a loved one to cancer or that you yourself have it.  DC has a 'deaf ears' policy towards cancer even though it is the greatest global killer ever.

Check out this graphic

Every scientific and medical organization agrees that cancer is the deadliest and most pervasive pandemic afflicting not only adults but innocent children as well.  It no longer discriminates.  

And yet as we bear witness to a cross species scourge that's killing not only millions of people every year but millions of companion animals as well, what does our president do - a systematical and systemic reduction in funding for the National Cancer Institute.  I wrote previously about this and put forward the facts in my blog #NotMyPresidentDay 

Now I'm not just Obama bashing since the past two administrations are guilty of hamstringing the NCI budget but the most egregious sin Obama committed was funding $6.2 billion in Ebola virus research - almost twice the budget of NCI for a disease that claimed only a few lives in the US.  

Oh and nevermind that he gave out over $20 billion last year to 'renewable energy' concerns that failed so piss that money down the toilet. 

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From all of the death and tragedy I've witnessed on my travels, I'm truly at a loss why cancer is not front and center in any and all national debate and discussion.  

Yes I've heard all of the reasons and rationalizations but my conclusion comes down to this: cowardice and political expediency.    

We used to be a nation of hope and resolve.  Of dreams and ideas.  It took us only 10 years to put a man on the moon defying all odds and previous scientific limitations.  

But now we either relent because big pharma is making so much money from selling blockbuster cancer drugs and politicians are in their pocket or we've given up as a nation and accepted the inevitability of complacency.  

There is no one in this world that has put their life and the lives of their dogs at risk for as long and far as I have for this cause but given the current political environment, every day I ask why?  

We're only a couple of fuzzybutts and yes, we've shown what two dogs can do for the world but it's not enough.  It's time to make cancer a national referendum or else..

#CancerWins2016

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Life at 3MPH

The fraternity of extreme adventurers is actually and quite understandably small.  I've reduced the reason down to one simple equation - the glory versus the grind.  If glory>grind no. If grind>glory maybe.  There's grit in there but that's a conversation for another time.  

Most begin with the finish line in mind and forget about the millions of steps it takes to get there and don't realize they're doomed from the very start. 

I've crossed paths with hundreds of would be adventurers who wanted to conquer the AT or the PCT, the vast majority of whom succumbed to the algebra but one, I'm happy to say, did not.  My good friend, John Stalls.  

What I can say about this lad is, other than that he walked from coast to coast, is that as a strapping 6'5 tall and ruggedly gaunt man, he's the poster boy for great adventures.  Even though I've walked many more miles than him, when and if I ever get a Wikipedia page, I hope they put John's picture on it because he looks the part. 

And lives it, too.  Since he completed his cross country journey Johnathan Stalls has built an organization committed to promoting wellness through walking.  Mile by mile his walk to connect has inspired many people in Denver CO and now he wants to expand it to other communities.  John is a man I'd put my money behind and I hope you will support him in his campaign to realize his vision for Life at 3MPH.  
  


Saturday, July 4, 2015

Puppy Up Foundation Funds Bone Cancer Study


Happy Independence Day all!  

I wish, really really wish I could be announcing our independence from cancer today but the sad sorry leadership in this country at every level doesn't deem it necessary to make the number one killer of pets and people a national priority.  

With cancer research funding levels at a record low at the NIH, that makes what we do at The Puppy Up Foundation increasingly important.  

I'll be brief because I have to go out and be Chef Big Dog today but what I love about this story is three things.  First the folks in Madison WI that continue to raise the bar for our Puppy Up Walks. Second is that Dr. Christensen heard my presentation at the 2010 VCS conference in San Diego.  

Half the audience left since I was the last speaker at a long event so I want to give a shout out to him for that.  And to Dr. Sue cause she stayed, too.  Trail magic, my friends.  Always. 

Third and most importantly is that this $100k study can potentially benefit all kids diagnosed with bone cancer - canine and human.  Even though I was unable to attend the presentation of this rather large and seemingly uncashable check, there are a ton of people throughout the country who made our first grant of 2015 possible. 

So to all of those people, light up a sparkler or hell, man the roman candles - today is your day.  I can't celebrate the leaders of this country but I truly, completely celebrate you.  



From left: Beth Viney, PuppyUp Madison co-chair; Dr. Neil Christensen; Dr. Kai Shiu, PuppyUp Madison co-chair; and Ginger Morgan, Executive Director of the PuppyUp Foundation.

We’re pleased to announce we have awarded our first grant of 2015 to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM).
Our ability to continue funding such outstanding research is because of the passion and commitment of volunteersdonors, and sponsors all over the country, who organize and join in our PuppyUp Walks, participate in our yearly calendar contests, play in our golf tournaments (one is coming up in August), and contribute their time, energy, and resources to our common goal of eradicating cancer from the lives of those we love, whether two, three, or four-footed.
Thank you for your continued participation and support.
(from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine web site)
July 2, 2015
Article and photo by Nik Hawkins
Osteosarcoma is a highly aggressive and painful bone cancer that affects both dogs and humans. With thousands of new cases diagnosed in dogs each year, it is the most common form of canine bone tumor, and most dogs succumb to the disease within a year of diagnosis.
Oncologists at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) have been investigating osteosarcoma for some time, looking to uncover its underlying causes and develop more effective therapies. And now, thanks to a $96,000 grant from the PuppyUp Foundation, the school will launch a new study aimed at improving mobility and quality of life for dogs afflicted by the disease.
Under the direction of Dr. Neil Christensen,  clinical instructor in the Department of Surgical Sciences and a member of the UW Veterinary Care (UWVC)  radiation oncology team, researchers will explore the potential benefits of stereotactic radiation therapy for osteosarcoma patients.
“Stereotactic radiation is a newer form of treatment made possible by recent technological advances,” says Christensen. “It allows for larger, more accurate doses of radiation while still sparing healthy tissue, in comparison to traditional palliative radiation, which involves smaller, prolonged doses.”
Specifically, the study will look at how stereotactic radiation performs in terms of pain relief for patients and in stimulating an immune response that helps patients’ bodies fight bone tumors on their own.
UWVC is equipped to deliver this advanced treatment with its TomoTherapy unit, which was originally developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison using data from SVM clinical trials. TomoTherapy is now used widely in human medicine, but only one other veterinary medical hospital in the nation offers this technology.
“Our hope is to help a lot of dogs affected by this disease in the future,” says Christensen. “And the data we generate should be applicable to treating osteosarcoma in humans as well.”
The Puppy Up grant stems from proceeds from the PuppyUp Madison Walk,  which helped raise more than $213,000 in 2014 and 2015. The PuppyUp Foundation aims to discover the links between canine and human cancers, as well as the causes of these diseases, by supporting comparative oncology research and promoting awareness of the field.
Christensen’s collaborators on the study include Dr. Timothy Stein, assistant professor of medical oncology; Dr. Michelle Turek, assistant professor of radiation oncology; Dr. Lisa Forrest, professor of radiology and radiation oncology; Margaret Henzler, medical physicist; Dr. Jason Bleedorn,  clinical assistant professor of orthopedic surgery; Dr. Peter Muir, professor of orthopedic surgery; and John Kloke, assistant scientist in the UW-Madison Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Puppy Up Golf

We all know the famous line from Apocalypse Now, "Charlie don't surf", but there's a lesser known one from my travels, "Pet parents don't golf".  

Never understood why really since alot of public courses let you take your companion with you. That's actually how Malcolm, my first great Pyrenees, and I became eternal mates.  Golf.  


That's him with Murphy's mum at the Alsatian golf club. He rode shotgun in the cart, never barked in my backswing, and gave me, ahem, a mulligan here and there.  What more could you ask of a mate?  

Well, he did have a bit of difficulty with yardages.  And squirrels. 

I've always wanted to promote golf as another way to spend more time with your companion and coming up in August, we're hosting the first annual 'Puppy Up and Putt it In' golf tournament in San Antonio, TX.  

It's hosted at the beautiful JW Marriott TPC Canyons Course and the proceeds from the event go to funding comparative oncology research and education and awareness about cancer in dogs.  

Come out and play 18 with us for the cause and to learn more about how you can participate as an individual golfer or sponsor, download the PDF or please contact lorraine.rose@marriott.com 


And yes'm we keep the tradition alive.  That's Indiana Jones at a golf course in Atlanta GA.  The question I get most about this pic - was he putting for par?  

That and is Hudsy giving him a read on the break?  

Puppy Up and Putt It In.


Sunday, May 31, 2015

Killed By Cancer


Today is Murphy's birthday.  

This photo was taken on our walk from Austin to Boston in McEwen  TN.  We pitched a tent the night before on the grounds of a local church and upon remarking to the pastor about the Bradford pear trees full in fall colors, he recommended stopping at a local farm completely encircled by them just east on Hwy 70.  

It was a magical moment that day perfectly captured in time.  

For whatever cruel twist of fate the Gods graced us with we made it the 2,300 miles to Boston but within only a few weeks of walking the final mile from the Rose Garden at Back Bay Fens to Boston Common, Murphy was diagnosed with nasal adenocarcinoma.

The tumor inside his head must have been growing for many months as evidenced by the CT scan nearby.  

Murphy went down hard and what he did for this cause will never be forgotten. #RememberMurphy #MurphySmiles


Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Cancer Can't Keep a Good Dog Down 2016

Hard to believe it's 8 years in the making since we started the 'Cancer Can't Keep a Good Dog Down' calendar in honor and memory of our canine heroes touched by cancer.  

Damn I remember our first one when I had to carry my 10 pound clunky Dell laptop for miles in my backpack on the C&O trail to upload the photos for the contest cause Erich was still on a 128k modem. Good times...

Unlike cheerleading tryouts in Texas, it's not really a contest - all are beauties and featured in the calender.  Nearby is the link to the blog about how you can participate http://www.2milliondogs.org/our-8th-annual-cancer-cant-keep-a-good-dog-down-canine-cancer-calendar-contest-has-begun/

Thanks Erich for being the Keeper of the Calendar.  



Tuesday, May 5, 2015

A Journey Without Tears

I can't recall
a love without fear

Nor a journey
without tears

So don't embark
unless you're clear

On all the costs
across the years

Because love etern
bears a price that burns

A flame forever
astem. astern

Thursday, April 30, 2015

Hudson

"With every damn dog I love, I learn something I didn't know."

Since I've been off the road from the West Coast Walk and perhaps what I witnessed while on it, I've been wondering why Hudson has had 3 mast cell tumors in less than 2 years despite favorable path reports and negative genetic indicators.  

Even though we've had two allergy tests on him for some odd reason I never thought to consult an allergist.  Until Tuesday.  We met with Dr. Shanley at Hope Vet Specialists in Malvern PA on our way to the Puppy Up Walk in Madison WI and our conversation confirmed that I'm not alone in my suspicions that there may be a correlation between allergy prone dogs and mast cell tumors.  


That Hudson is my third son with cancer, I always feel I'm so far behind no matter how far I walk.  

  


Saturday, April 18, 2015

Old White Dogs

I always wondered why after risking our lives on the Pacific Coast Highway for 7 months and 1,700 miles the media really didn't give a shit and now I know.

Read this article http://www.latimes.com/local/california/la-me-rethinking-muir-20141113-story.html#page=1

Well at least you clarified that for me why we matter so little in your existence.  We're old white dogs.  

Thursday, March 5, 2015

The Endless Winter

Can't help but find a bit of irony in that I just left San Diego in December, a city that never snows, to record breaking snowfall in New England.  It's been a long, harsh, unforgiving, and at times perilous winter but it's impossible not to appreciate the absolute beauty of it.  

There are two photos nearby that embody this dichotomy - the first is of while taking the boys out for their evening constitutional, shadowcasting.  Nothing more than a rustic rotted out fence and a distant light but witness the symmetry and the simplicity.  


The other photo is of Hudson trying to take a piss in the several feet deep of spongy soppy messiness that makes it difficult for him postoperative.  I'm sure there's a greater metaphor here but right now it's buried beneath two tons of snow.  It's been so unending here we're about to make Winterfell look like the Sahara.  

He's recuperating super well, we slept on the kitchen floor last night but brother, can you spare some green grass?  

YBD's Notes 1:  Didn't post it here but Hudson had a mast cell tumor removed yesterday.  Off social media sites for a spell to prepare for the upcoming filming for the interview.  To get updates here's the link: Puppy Up Foundation

YBD's Notes 2: Ginger called me up this morning to complain about the 3 inches of snow they got in TN but in all fairness, she has a Doxie and I'm sure his pecker is snowier than Hudson's.  

Sunday, March 1, 2015

The Little Flower

Fiorella La Guardia once said.  "If even a sparrow dies in Central Park, I feel responsible".

The Interview.  First Episode.  March 16th.

Saturday, February 28, 2015

I'm Badder

I fought you for 4,000 miles. And the fight has only begun. #companionsagainstcancer

Friday, February 27, 2015

Tracing Lines


Sydney didn't make it.  She was due to be discharged this morning but an unexpected cascade of events occurred last night that was unstoppable.

She never made it home but after she was given rest, we got back to Valerie's house and found Hudson on the pile of comforters and pillows
meant for her as though he was awaiting Sydney's return.  And Valerie asked me if I believed Sydney's spirit did make it back.    

Do I believe in that, she asked me.

As a man of both science and faith, I've borne witness to many inexplicable, unresolvable things on my travels. Long ago, I wrote a poem whose opening lines were;

"Cast before a silver sheet,
Tracing lines that never meet."

Reflecting now back on those words I once wrote, I think what I meant was that a life, a love, a mile, a moment in time can be captured photographically but never truly and wholly represented.  

I believe that there is a spiritual connection between loved ones that does and maybe should defy our scientific understanding.  Energy is an expansive thing that is neither created nor destroyed.  And  though the lines never add up and never meet - that connection may change, it is never lost.  

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Miles to Go Before I Sleep

Recently my good friend, sous chef (she hates it when I call her that), and the princess of pastries -  Valerie - her dog Sydney went from seemingly happy, healthy, full of life and love to lethargic with loss of appetite. 

An ultrasound Tuesday revealed a 17 cm mass in her spleen with possible liver involvement.  Valerie had to make the heartwrenching decision most of us have had to make but in a fraction of a moment.  Once hemangiosarcoma is suspected, time is of the absolute essence.  

For Sydney, 13 years old though a spirited lass by all accounts, the clock was ticking.  Valerie opted to spare no effort to save her life.  

Her surgeon, Dr. Taylor, successfully performed the splenectomy and a liver lobectomy as well as removing an intestinal tumor that wasn't evident through the ultrasound and I'm happy to report that Sydney has made it to Day 2 of postoperative care.  Though her status still guarded, hopefully Sydney can go home today and be with her mother.  

Three times I've gone through this personally with Malcolm, Murphy, and Hudson and I've been by the side of many friends with dogs with cancer.  That is one of my jobs. I awakened early this morning relieved by the promising news of Sydney's condition but reminded of a poem by Robert Frost.

"Whose woods these are I think I know.   
His house is in the village though;   
He will not see me stopping here   
To watch his woods fill up with snow.   

My little horse must think it queer   
To stop without a farmhouse near   
Between the woods and frozen lake   
The darkest evening of the year.   

He gives his harness bells a shake   
To ask if there is some mistake.   
The only other sound’s the sweep   
Of easy wind and downy flake.   

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,   
But I have promises to keep,   
And miles to go before I sleep,   
And miles to go before I sleep."

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YBD's Notes 1: I want to thank Valerie for her courage in not only fighting to save her girl's life against all odds but for allowing me to share Sydney's story.  She just isn't able to speak about it yet but she knows I must.  

YBD's Notes 2:  Nearby is a pic of Sydney with my Puppy Up neck gaiter I gave her to keep her warm.  Isn't she a beaut?  

YBD's Notes 3: Perhaps the main reason we got Sydney into the vet before her spleen ruptured is by noticing her distended belly which will be added to our list of early warning signs of cancer.  

YBD's Notes 4: BTW Sydney is NOT a boy (inside joke).

Friday, February 20, 2015

#NothingElseMatters

After pitching a tent in a grove of Eucalyptus Trees along the Elkhorn Slough of the Pacific Coast Highway just outside of Moss Landing - there's a video somewhere about it- , a song got caught in my head and like some things on our journey, I didn't understand its significance at that moment.  

Invariably life is reduced down to one step, one song, one mile, one moment, and even just a snuggle, all of which inspire us.  To keep going.  


The more ironical thing is - I'm not sure if I ever heard this song before the slough so why did it resound relentlessly in my tent that night?   

Maybe the love of a child never needs a rationalization no matter the kind and that's the message.

Does Anything Else Matter?

Monday, February 16, 2015

#NotMyPresidentDay

It's president's day but I'm in no mood for celebration.  

Oh it's not because I'm not a patriot as I believe in values like freedom and equality - all of the things that we've fought for as a country. That I've walked for.

But we have a fight of a different kind now and we've been abandoned by our leaders.     

This blog is about the funding for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), this government's, our government's, decade long disregardment of, what the World Health Organization called the deadliest disease in 2010 and nothing else.   

Let's take a look at the numbers.  They represent the total budget of NCI in billions of dollars.

2000 $3.3
2001 $3.8
2002 $4.2
2003 $4.6
2004 $4.7
2005 $4.8
2006 $4.8
2007 $4.8
2008 $4.8
2009 $5.0
2010 $5.1
2011 $5.1
2012 $5.1
2013 $4.8  

Let me give you some context.  This past fiscal year, the current administration earmarked $6.3 billion for Ebola virus research, a disease that affected, what, 1 or 2 people in the US and yet 1/2 of all men and 1/3 of women will be diagnosed with cancer. Nevermind the 2-4 million dogs that develop the same types of cancer every year. Why?

But I get it - it's politically expedient. Ebola grabs headlines.  

On my first walk, I met with a few legislators and lobbyists and what they said was, 'Great cause, just get a spokesperson and a celebrity around it and then we'll listen.' And so I walked the entire expanse of the West Coast in search of someone who would stand up. No one did.  

Even though celebrities talk about how devoted they are to animal causes.  

In my little world of walking 4k miles for this cause, you get tired of those that just talk and talk
which is why I've walked the walk. No one has the right to present themselves as a dog lover unless they stand up to the number one killer of dogs. Cancer.  

I return to DC in June without a celebrity or a spokesperson.   I am no longer a naif.  Having witnessed all of the death I have from cancer I will stand up and be heard.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Reflections on 4000 Miles

Divers have to decompress before resurfacing and the greater the depth of the dive the longer the decompression. I've pretty much been unplugged and down and out right disconnected since the completion of the West Coast Walk because I needed to.  

But I haven't just been making angels in the tons of snow that's blanketed CT - tho Hudsy and Nanners (nice snow stache BTW) have - I've been deep in reflection on the enormity my accomplishments but more importantly how to tell it.  The right way.  

The story's the thing.  

Beginning March 16th, the 7th anniversary of the start of the first walk, I'll be posting a seven part interview with Yer Big Dog wherein which I will talk not only about the great and the glory of this grand adventure but the trials and tribulations, too.  From the fantastic people we've met on our path to the fantastical things we've experienced.  

And we're making it interactive.  I've gotten thousands of questions over the expanse of our journey and haven't always been able to answer all of them so also we're opening this up to you.  If you have something you'd like to personally ask YBD, send me an email by Feb 15th.  Not via FB or TW or in a comment here.  Hopefully we can get it and we'll try our best because I have a lot to say.  Over 4,000 miles and 1,044 days, I've walked the walk now it's time to talk the talk.  #4000miles

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

The Anatomy of Graying

I recently aged 44 and while I've never been one overly preoccupied with age, my chest hair turned gray.  First of all, unlike Geraldo, I spare you a selfie proving it.

But there's a bigger philosophical if not medical question involved here - why does hair gray differently?

I grayed first in my head hair which jokingly I attributed to my first cross county walk.  My beard came next but now it's trickled its way down to my chest which I can only blame the PCH for.

But it's only a few gray hairs which I hope means I still got game.  How and why does hair gray is my question today?

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Love Actually

I often joke that after Malcolm died I sold my truck and put my stuff into storage but it wasn't just a soundbyte.  Nothing I do or say ever is.

But after almost a decade, tucked away on the I-35 corridor in a 10x10 closet, it was time for a reckoning. That's an interesting word.  Reckoning.

Its origin can be found in old English which gave rise to such concepts of calculation and conclusion.

2014 is the 10 year anniversary since Malcolm was first diagnosed.  How many miles, how many years have I walked since then?  How many people have we touched and inspired?  How many lifelong friendships have we forged?

It's incalculable.  Just like love.

Another true joke is that in short order, in 2004 my dog got cancer, my girlfriend left me and she took the truck.  The pathetic irony is well, I'm from Texas.  But that year I was all alone I watched a movie Love Actually.

You see, I'm the last person to watch romantic comedies or really anything to do with Hugh Grant but it spoke to me about the messiness of life and love and how little I knew about it all.  But I've watched it every year since and today is no different.

Happy XMAS.  Love actually.

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YBD's Notes 1:  There was a reckoning tho - I cleaned out my storage locker most of which ended up in a landfill, the rest I've given away to friends and family.  I am unencumbered.  Except by love. 

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

No More


It was no choice
That set this course

Astep, astride
The road abides

And through its length
I cried,

'Oh beauty burns
Your trail etern.

The silence of your roar
That swept me neath

No more. No more.'

--------

YBD's Notes1:  The west coast walk was long and hard, harder than any stretch of the road we've been on before.  But the much bigger lesson here is we're in this together if we have a ghost of a chance to eradicate cancer in us and our companions in our lifetime, puppy up damnit

YBD's Notes2:  Happy XMAS

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

We Made It Murphy

At 11;30 PST, in the shadows of the Laguna mountains we walked the length of Coronado Island to the edge of Oneonta slough and Hudson, Indiana and I completed our border to border West Coast walk.  

And like most of our Southern  California days, it was sunny and 70.  Indeed, it was a glorious day.  


And like all great endings one not without its comedic twists, cosmic ironies, and poignant moments. 


The morning began with a seven mile hike to the meeting place for our Final Mile which Ginger joined us though I'd quickly learn less for the honor and privilege of partaking in such a powerful experience but more for showing off her new kilt.  Really Ginger???  There can be only One Who Rocks The Kilt...


A couple dozen friends met us to walk the final mile, some we had met along our travels, some were new.  But to my utter shock and surprise, two of my oldest and dearest friends were there:  Jim and Renee with Tripawds.  Man was that way awesome.  And it made a circle round.  You see, they were in Austin to launch our first walk and now at the ending of our second.  Yep I got all choked up. Thanks for the avocados guys - only noticed yesterday you put them in a poop bag.  Hee hee.



Inspired by another of our friends, John Stalls, who walked from Delaware to San  Francisco, I had hoped to jump into the Pacific Ocean to punctuate our tremendous accomplishment but was greeted by this sign.  Apparently Tijuana thinks the slough is a dumping ground for their sewage sludge.  Precise opposite of the pristine Canadian border where began our adventure but the two constants throughout all of it were mountains to east and the ocean at our west.  And my companions by my side.  And that includes not only Indiana who made the entire trek but Hudson who made it to the California border and Malcolm and Murphy in spirit.  


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There are so many people to extend great thanks to - the friends we made along our path, kind and courteous strangers, and even the idiot drivers who although from no lack of trying, didn't kill us on the PCH.  Walking through and across 19 states now, I know of no more treacherous stretch of road.

Thanks to my team and all of the volunteers who helped out in various capacities to ensure our safe passage and make this experience matter, to those who walked the virtual final mile with us, and to our sponsors.  

I have lots of thanking and reflecting to do in the coming weeks but without a moment's rest, I leave now for Texas to catch up on a lot of work, rest a bit, and spend a week with family....









Wednesday, December 3, 2014

#GoFuzzybuttsGo

Twelve days til touchdown in San Diego.  We made it to LA and ironically, we've had only four rains days the entire West Coast walk, through Washington, Oregon, and Northern California and the week we arrive in LA, we're greeted by a monsoon.  

Completely drenched in Malibu and now navigating around mudslides and flooding, we're making our way through the 75 mile swath that is the LA area.  

Still, we've been trudging onward in the dreary drizzly, record breaking rainstorm sharing the message and spreading holiday cheer, the nearby pic was walking on Rodeo Drive, 

We're on schedule to walk the final mile to the Mexico border Sunday December 14th and our friends are making final plans for the day's events.  Between now and then we have a couple of events planned leading up to the final mile:  

Saturday Dec 6th.  4-6PM.  The Shore Break Hotel. For details, 714-465-4528.  
Tuesday Dec 9th. 2-4PM. VMSG. 31896 Plaza Dr. San Juan Capistrano.  

It's been great having folks coming out and walking with us on our final stretch. To find out where you can join us for a mile or a day on our historic trek, the following sites will be posting our locations: 


Or on my Instagram - 2dogs2000miles.  And on Twitter hashtag #GoFuzzybuttsGo