Monday, December 31, 2007

Rescuing Sprite Part Two

The holidays are particularly tough for me because it was around this time two years ago that Malcolm's health began failing and so today was spent in reflection and contemplation.

I finally made it past page 146 of Rescuing Sprite and finished this wonderful book. I did so sitting under a giant Maple tree which offered me not only seclusion but comfort from its majestic timber. Murphy and Hudson weren't with me, a wise decision I made since there wasn't a tearless moment throughout and they hate to see me get all weepy.

My heart goes out to Dr. Levin not only for his loss but because he only had Sprite for 26 months. Along my trails, I've met parents whose pets were diagnosed with cancer as early as 12 months and as old 16 years and what I've learned is that when you love someone eternally, having them in your life even one day short of that is not long enough.

But that didn't stop them from adopting another dog, Griffin. It was Dr. Levin's wife, Kendall, who goaded him into it really because he was reticent to take the leap and open himself up again. Like Sprite, Giffin is an older dog with health problems, too, so Dr. Levin's hesitations were understandable. But while you never know just how long it will last, the journey's the thing. Thank you to the Levin family for sharing such an endearing and heartwarming story and godspeed on your new journey.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Dogs as Models

I received a heartfelt email from Pam, who recently learned about the Hike and is in school to become a pediatric oncology nurse. She suggested taking Hudson and Murphy to visit cancer patients after we reach Boston to share our story with kids who are hit particularly hard.

That got me thinking - dogs are ideal models for studying cancer in people as we've learned but they serve a much greater role for us than that. Especially in adversity. Their instinct for survival is so great that they're unaffected by self doubt or discouraged by uncertain outcomes or the opinions of others.

Perhaps even more importantly, they teach us self worth. A dog will never knowingly do anything to harm or hinder itself or its pack. In training and our travels, I often find myself learning even more from my relationships with my boys like abiding by the laws of nature and the importance of working as a team. Thanks, Pam, for reminding me that our dogs provide us with a much greater model for life and living.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Home for the Holidays

And for me, that's Belton, Texas where I spent (or mispent depending upon who you ask) my youth. Incidentally, it is also the hometown of George Eads of CSI fame, a factoid I only mention because I'm a fan of the show and Billy Peterson.

Sunday we set camp at Cedar Ridge Park, a coozy campground on the northern side of Belton Lake which is one of the largest bodies of water in Central Texas and perhaps best known for its hidden coves and steep white-rocked cliffs, many of which I've dived off of.

After we pitched our tent, we joined my family for dinner, Christmas carolling around the neighborhood, and a friendly (Hah!) game of Scrabble. The boys and I got back to our site just before midnight and were greeted by the most spectacular sight. The Moon and Mars hoovered right above us emitting a reddish glow. I tried to capture it with my camera and this photo was the best I could do with it. Still, you can make out Mars. Quite a terrific way to wind down a day.

And then the temperature dropped. And dropped. I don't know just how far down it went but it was well below freezing out at the lake. I had set the boys' collapsable waterbowl outside the tent and by the time I awoke, it was frozen solid. Ambient heat from Hudson and Murphy kept me from the same fate as did my puppy up! hoodie. I just can't help plugging our apparel any chance I can get.

When I returned to my parent's house, my father could tell I was still shuffling off the morning frost so he greeted me with a cup of hot cocoa. It was one of the most peaceful and pleasant holidays anyone in our family could recall. We wish the same for you and yours.

A Christmas Carol For You

A few weeks back, I took the boys out to a Christmas tree farm to cut down ours and, of course, plant a seed in its place. It's quite a handsome Virginia Pine, perfectly shaped and fragrant, too. The boys helped me decorate.

What a lovely time of year and Hudson and Murphy wanted us to share it with you in song. It only took us 26 takes but we hope you enjoy. Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas

Friday, December 21, 2007

The Road from Austin to Boston

Travel plans are starting to come together. Our best estimate is a total distance of 2,235 miles and 264 days of walking. That's more than our original estimates because we decided to travel in a more northern direction to avoid hurricane season in the Gulf States.

We've broken the hike down into 7 Stages which are (1) Austin, (2) Texarkana, (3) Memphis, (4), Akron, (5) Syracuse, (6) New York City, and (7) Boston.

Thanks to all who've emailed and offered the boys and me a place to park it for the night.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Rescuing Sprite

Part 1 of 2:

If you haven't read the heartwarming and inspiring and book, Rescuing Sprite, put it at the top of your holiday wish list. Isn't he lovely? Truthfully, I haven't been able to make it past page 146 yet, which is why this is a two part series. I was reading it at my niece's State Championship soccer match today and a voice boomed, "Stop. Read no further."

There are few things more pathetic than a grown man getting all weepy at a non-betting sports event. No, this isn't an 'outside' book by any means but I will share with you some of the poignant and insightful passages in part 2. Hopefully, I can puppy up this week and finish this wonderful story.

The Dog Whisperer

Wow! What a thoroughly entertaining and informative seminar Cesar put on this past Saturday. I've only seen a few episodes of his show and had no idea he was more than just a dog trainer but profound philosopher, too.

His Effective Fulfillment Formula for a balanced and healthy relationship is a model that can be applied to our lives as well. Exercising with your dog establishes trust, discipline builds respect, and giving affection breeds love and loyalty. If I'd only known that in my last relationship... jeez.

Another bit of information I found fascinating is that puppies don't open their eyes for two weeks after birth and can't hear until day 21 but they smell from the moment they're born. And it's their powerful sense of smell that enables them to detect our energy. Cesar recommends achieving a 'calm assertive' state prior to interacting with them.

He also says the first thing we should do in the morning is stretch with them. I knew I was doing something right - is there any other way to start the day? It's a great seminar and I couldn't recommend it more passionately.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

South Padre Island

What a gorgeous Thanksgiving Day! A storm from the Northeast blew in late Wednesday night. The boys were loving it and I was grateful to have a breath of New England. The Atlantic Ocean has an aged smell to it quite unlike the brininess of the Gulf Coast.

Hudsy, Murphy and I took a break from training this week to fill our gullets full, do a little cutting up and spend some time with the family. Thankfully, everyone made it down for the holiday. Also, if you haven't seen Hudson's first day on the beach I posted last year, it's too cute! Happy Thanksgiving everyone.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Garner State Park

This weekend we're in the absolutely stunning Garner State Park which is in the Southwestern expanse of the Edwards Plateau, a range of limestone mesas known colloquially as Texas' Hill Country. The crystal blue waters of the Frio River cut its eastern front and are accented by the majestic Bald Cypress. Some of them are believed to be more than 700 years old like the one Murphy is rooting around in the photo nearby.

Aside from the splendor, it is densely populated with peaks some of which reach 2,000 feet, and that is the primary reason I chose Garner this weekend. The boys and I needed to do some elevation training and this is one of the most ideal locations in Texas. Crystal Cave was our first adventure and while it's only a mile roundtrip, the grade ranges from between 45 and 60 degrees and the narrow, rock ridden path added to the challenge.

Hudson was full throttle all the way and although Murphy had difficulty with footing from time to time, he was a true champion! That I kept reminding him his breed hails from the Pyrenees Mountain Range might have had something to do with it... heh!

Still, I was so proud of the ole boy for firing on all pistons but he was so spent when we returned to base camp, he conked out on his new collapsable water bowl. His big wedge shaped head plopped right down on it, nevermind that it was full of water. My sniggering must have stirred him because by the time I got the camera, he had moved. I couldn't stop laughing...

The temperature dropped to just above freezing as the first cold front moved in a day before our arrival. In our hasty departure I forgot to pack extra blankets and probably would've frozen my bollocks off if they weren't with me! They made perfect bunkmates. When I awoke Sunday morning, Murphy was spooning me on my left and Hudson sprawled out atop me to my right. Ah, what a glorious way to awaken!

In addition to training, we spent some time studying the indigenous ecosystem. For those of you who have never seen Little Blue Stem grass, it's really quite something. You can't really tell it from the photo but it is stalked like bamboo, bearded like wheat and it has a full palette of colors, too. Some of the other native flora at the park we learned about; Mexican Buckeye, Flaming Leaf Sumac, Escarpment Cherry Tree, Mountain Laurels, and the many, many species of oaks that are a staple of the Lonestar State's landscape. Not to mention the native fauna, too. Hudsy had his first encounter with an armadillo. Hehe... I'll save that story for another time. Quite a special place this is.... And, Hey, if you ever do come here, get to know Frank. He's one of the parks most endearing features.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Memory Walk

As some of you are already aware, my mother was diagnosed with Alzheimer's last year. Yesterday, the boys and I, alongside my brothers, their families and a few friends, participated in a Memory Walk in her honor. It was just a short, two-miler but hundreds of people were there and it was a quite a spectacular event. Over the years, this organization has raised over $200 million for Alzheimer's research and it's a great model for us to learn from. Thanks again to my brother Mark's wife, Dawn, who managed our team expertly!