Monday, November 24, 2008

2,000-mile trek focuses on canine cancer

Activist uses grief over stricken dog in a positive way

FRANKLIN — Dog owners know that their pups like going for walks. But for Luke Robinson and his two Great Pyrenees, this just might be going a little overboard.

Robinson and "the boys" — Murphy, 7, and Hudson, 2 — are walking more than 2,000 miles from their home in Austin, Texas, to Boston to combat canine cancer.

Still less than halfway to their goal, the trio was passing through Williamson County when they stopped at Winstead Hill, the Confederate overlook during the Battle of Franklin in 1864. The symbolism wasn't lost on Robinson as his two big, white dogs took a breather at the picnic table.

"A great battle happened here a long time ago. But when we started this walk in March, this became our own personal war," Robinson said.

Personally, Robinson knows the sorrow of losing a pet to cancer. His Great Pyrenees Malcolm was diagnosed with bone cancer in 2004 and passed away two years later. To use his grief in a positive way, he decided to spread the word to those who had never heard of canine cancer.

"Our goal is to get the message out about the canine cancer crisis," he said.

Robinson opens his jacket to reveal a T-shirt decorated with names such as Marshmellow, Tango and Duchess written across the front.

"I'm a walking memorial. These are 160 names of the pets touched by cancer. They are my walking angels," he said.

To accompany him on the long hike, which is known as "2 Dogs 2000 Miles," are playful Hudson and the more stoic Murphy. Robinson calls himself — the leader of the pack — "The Big Dog."

Memories made

Robinson was very impressed with the Williamson County topography.

"I've got to say, this area has some of the most beautiful landscape and most unique terrain I've ever seen," he said.

An unseasonably cold wave that gripped the Middle Tennessee area this week didn't bother the dogs. They enjoy walking in cooler temperatures, Robinson said.

Usually, the trio hikes eight to 10 miles each day. The dogs wear booties to protect their paws from rough pavement. And Robinson walks closest to traffic just in case he needs to quickly push his traveling companions out of the way of danger — a scenario that's happened several times on this trip.

During their travels, Robinson also has been mistaken for homeless and for "some dead guy on the side of the road." And there was that time he and the boys battled a brown recluse spider infestation in a way station in Texarkana, Ark.

These adventures and more can be found on their blog. (Visitors to their Web site also can buy merchandise.)

But mostly, he's impressed with the generosity of those he's met. One woman who had lost her dog to cancer drove hundreds of miles just to meet The Big Dog and the boys.

They plan on completing the journey when they pull into Boston, probably in May or June.

"We're not even halfway there. And I can't tell you all the colorful characters and wonderful adventures we've had.

"I used to watch that show with the crab fishermen — The Deadliest Catch — and think they were fearless. But now, that's nothing," Robinson said.

Thanks to Bonnie Burch and The Tennessean for writing this article.

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