Friday, February 29, 2008

Bootie Check (Or Hudson and Murphy Try on Socks and Shoes)

I just had to share this video. If you've haven't seen a dog's first reaction to booties, it's an absolute riot. That is unless putting them on is a daily ritual.

It's quickly become apparent that half an hour each morning will be spent 'dressing the boys'. I hadn't budgeted that much time but I'm tellin' ya, they're just like kids. After I put socks and shoes on Hudson and I turn my attention to Murphy, he's pulling them right off.

Just got some great advice last week from Jody with the New England Pyrenees Rescue about using vet tape to keep the booties in place. I was thinking duct tape will work just fine but the ASPCA might have something to say about that.

In doing some cursory research into why dogs don't care for footwear I couldn't find anyone who could say definitively. Unlike people who use the heels and balls of the feet, dogs walk on their toes. This is something I'll have to study on the road.

Meet Marilyn (and Crockett, too!)

She has generously volunteered to take over the technology aspect of the walk and that's no small order - the website, the Flickr Memorial Wall, Blog, and our new mapping system which should launch soon. Boy are we glad our paths crossed but not only because of her help but because she has vast experience with working with volunteers and for dog causes, too!

Marilyn is a retired federal webmaster and was recommended to me for her work coordinating a large group called The Stealth Volunteers that reunited over 1,000 Katrina animals with their missing families. She's also an incredibly dynamic person often taking trips that included a Shakespeare play, Prague before the Velvet Revolution, and a safari to Tanzania where she heard a lion roar while camping in a tent. In her youth she rode her bicycle from the Pacific to the Atlantic.

I have not yet had the pleasure of meeting Marilyn in person, but I can tell she is pretty laidback with a good sense of humor and she attacks the projects she cares about with great zest and zeal. Marilyn says she spent roughly her first 25 years in Indiana, the next 25 in Chicago and at present she lives in the Texas Hill Country where she follows the San Antonio Silver Stars and the Indiana Hoosier basketball. GO IU! (She made me put that in here).

Marilyn recently conscripted the help of a volunteer friend of hers, Aaron, who has always been an animal lover, actively campaigning for pets since 2000, locally and online. His household consists of 2 dogs (Noel is in the photo), one of which is a shelter rescue, one rescue cat, and 10 birds, 4 of which are rescues. He's also the volunteer coordinator for the non-profit, Missing Pet Partnership and hopes soon to help start disaster relief for pets in his area. Aaron lives in Maple Valley, Washington - just 35 miles south of Seattle. Thanks for your help, mate!

If you'd like to help Marilyn and Aaron with any of the tech stuff you can contact her at . Thanks to both of you for generously giving up your time and energy. Our success will be due in no small part to your efforts.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Whole Earth Provision

Whole Earth Provision was kind enough to donate a backpack to our journey. But they didn't just donate a backpack. This is the 'James Bond Aston Martin' of packs: the Osprey. "Q" himself could've designed it. As I learn all it's secrets and mysteries on the road, I'll share them in a series of Gear Check videos.

I got my first tutorial, however, from Ted, the Gear Lead at Whole Earth's San Antonio store. Not only did he custom fit the Osprey pack on me but was a fount of information about all the many ways we can use and adapt it for our purposes. Ted even showed me how I could carry my seven iron (the only golf club I know how to hit) with me. That's him and the backpack on the right.

Pictured below are Max (left) and Mike (right). These guys know all things socks and shoes and they helped me understand how to protect what Colin Fletcher referred to as the foundation of walking. I'm no good to myself or my boys with injured feet so their input was invaluable.

Max also regaled me with a story about a journey he recently took, circumnavigating all of Ireland on foot - that's 1450 kilometers or approximately 900 miles of coastline for the S.I. impaired.

I learned a lot from all the folks at Whole Earth Provision and feel very fortunate that they have made Hudson, Murphy, and me a part of their family. Thanks also to Randall (Assistant Manager pictured top left in front of their very stylish San Antonio store) and David, too. And to Tanis Jones who also gave the boys a rocket launcher for the walk!

Tripawds Heroes and Tributes Book

Jim and Rene recently published a book celebrating three-legged dogs, 22 of them actually including Malcolm, and I just received my copy yesterday. Because my mother was there during his last days, they graciously sent me a copy to give her before I left.

Words couldn't begin to express how deeply moved I am by the gesture and by their beautiful book . As is often the case when I find myself at a loss for something to say, I look to those who can. It's only fitting that I quote from the preface of their book.

"Dogs do not feel shame over the loss of a limb. When faced with adversity, they persevere. For them, once the pain is gone, life goes on. And they live it to the fullest.

In our continuing efforts to raise awareness about cancer in dogs, and educate pet guardians about the resilience of animal amputees, we are proud to present this first edition of Tripawd Heroes and Tributes, a collection of personal stories about how beloved tripawd dogs have forever changed the lives of their human companions.

Our deepest sympathy goes out to anyone who has lost a beloved pet to cancer or faced the difficult decision of amputation. We extend our greatest gratitude to everyone who has shared their stories with us. With their help and yours, we can prove to the world that it's better to hop on three legs than to limp on four."

Indeed it is, my friends. You can order a copy of Jerry's First Tripawds Book on their site and for $10 more you can customize it with a photo of your own three-legged loved one on the cover and their story printed on page one. Jim and Rene are generously donating $5 per book to the Morris Animal Foundation's Canine Cancer Campaign.


We had to postpone the cookout til Sunday due to decidedly dreadful conditions but boy, was it worth the wait. We couldn't have asked for a more auspicious day not only from the sunny, sixty degree weather but the turnout was great, too. We had four 3-legged beauties show up, three of which are in the photo left (Becky & Cassidy, Jim & Jerry, and Kathy & Rocky).

In addition to all of the wonderful people and pets we had there, the very righteous Bare Naked Family showed up. I can't say enough about them. The father, Greg, was an exec with Dell back in the day working out of Microsoft's Redmond campus, an ideal life he and his lovely wife, Jenn, decided to trade in for a more idyllic one. The sold their stuff, bought an RV, and roamed the roads of this great country of ours until recently settling back in Austin.

Their son Austin and his friend, James, came a'packin their guitars and graced our cookout with a couple of tunes. They even dedicated a song to the walk entitled quite appropriately, "Walking Down the Line". I captured most of it on my camera. Quite an unplugged performance, mates! Not sure what Murphy was doing - maybe he thought he was part of the show? Or perhaps he just wants to be their roadie...

Janet and Brian (and their baby, Bella pictured right bottom), the folks at Living Arts Bakery, brought delicious scones and pastries.

Jim, Rene, and Jerry from Tripawds also came bearing gifts. Prior to traveling to Austin, they were in Florida and visited the manufacturer of Syn-Flex, who generously donated two bottles of their liquid glucosamine which were raffled. They also sent bandanas which the boys wore with pride.

Kicking back and reflecting afterwards, I couldn't help but feel that we drew the finest crowd to the cookout. Thank you to everyone who joined us, brought their lovely dogs, shared their stories, helped out, came out to show their support, cooked and contributed food.

From left: Eric, James, Austin, Shiva (poking her big ole Great Dane head into the frame), next to an even Bigger Dog, Kesley, Jenn, Trixie, Greg, Jerry, and Sunny!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Saying Goodbye to Mom

The boys and I traveled to Temple last Saturday to spend some time with my parents. I had hoped for more than a day together but weather conditions dictated otherwise making us move the cookout to Sunday which cut short my visit.

My Mom has Alzheimer's so it was especially tough for me. She doesn't understand what I'm doing or why and I'm worried that her condition will worsen while we're on the road. The Aricept seems to have slowed the progression though there isn't really a diagnostic test to confirm that.

What makes it particularly hard is that she's always been such a proud and independent woman. She raised four sons while running her own business and, ironically, once received a 'Man of the Year' Award for her civic activities and work in the community. In a town run by good ole boys, that was quite an accompishment. We couldn't have asked for more in a mother.

That she still retains the sweetness and generosity she's always been most known for is a blessing. Please keep her in your thoughts and prayers.

Fiat Lux

"Let There Be Light"

We're finally getting around to shooting some Gear Checks. In this Episode, we're testing two products donated by Princeton Tec, the Pilot and the Eco Flare. You can't fully appreciate the power of the Pilot from the video but it's a fraction of the size of a Maglite and packs more of a wallop. Thanks to Rob Cash and the people at Princeton Tec!

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Animal Cancer Foundation

It's humbling the outpouring of support for our journey but we're only walking 2,300 miles. Some of history's greatest travelers are scientists and their quest never ends.

Dr. Geral Post, a veterinarian oncologist of national repute, began a similar quest when he started the Animal Cancer Foundation in 1998. Their mission is developing and funding research that advances the prevention and treatment of cancer for people and pets.

When we had the good fortune to meet back in December, I asked him to put together a list of five of the most pressing areas of research needed right now. Epidemiological studies was one such topic and on a conference call, we discussed it further. No one knows exactly what types of canine cancers are occuring around the country, how common they are, and how fast they're growing.

As stunning as it may seem in this Age of Information, such a comprehensive nationwide study has never been conducted mainly because it's expensive. I think I can help out with that was my response. Since then I've spent some time with him and his right hand, Charlotte Lee, and recently they invited me to participate in ACF's last board meeting. Though it seemed more like I 'bribed' them with the cookies and creme cake I had delivered for the occasion.

No doubt about it, they're perfect partners for us and we've taken that one step further. On the Contributions page on our website, you can now make donations directly to ACF on behalf of 2 Dogs 2,000 Miles and they'll keep those funds restricted for this monumental study we're all working towards.

We look forward towards a long and successful relationship with Dr. Post, Charlotte, and the Animal Cancer Foundation.

The Big Dog Goes to School..

Yesterday, I attended a Pet CPR and First Aid class and I can't tell you how happy I am I did. No matter how much you think you can learn by watching youtube videos, it helps to have hands on practice and that we did. Over and over again. We started with the Primary Pet Assessment and worked our way through a whole host of critical situations we might encounter on the walk.

In the photo above are our volunteers for the day who generously allowed us to practice procedures on them. The curriculum was developed by a company called Pet Tech and the 40 + page book you get is quite comprehensive covering everything from Emergency Situations to Snout-to-Tail Wellness Assessment. Even if you're not planning on a cross country hike with your babies, it's just good common sense to take this course.

Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Bastrop State Park: January 30th 2008

The boys and I were able to steal away for a day to this little garden of Eden, east of Austin known as Lost Pines. The name comes from the loblolly, a towering conifer with deeply furrowed, reddish-brown bark one of our volunteers cleverly described as cracked brownies. Mine was nerdier, referring to its trunk as having saurian like scales or techtonic plates.

Aside from getting a little training in plus much needed rejuvination, the trip served another purpose. I wanted to shoot some sample video to give everyone an idea of what my video feeds and podcasts will be like on the road. It's a bit rough but I published it on youtube anyway.

One of the dominant themes was Hudson gnawing on bark and pine combs. A little roughage in the diet never hurts, but given the dangerous and deadly vegetation we'll be encountering - some I know about, some I won't; it's a behavior I must discourage.

Another of his pecadillos is digging (photo above). I started to shut him down this time but a thought occured to me. One of the issues we'll have to deal with is waste disposal and the most common procedure is burying it. Why expend my energy on the task when I have a much younger, much more effective digging implement in my team. Have at it, my boy.

At the end of the day, this is what it's all about. Midnight with me mates. I forgot to affix the tarp so were awakened by raindrops about fifteen of five. Thunderstorms came, too, completing the overature and the system stayed with us well past my 8am tee time. It would have been nice to get a round in before we had to leave but we had a heck of a time nonetheless.