Friday, July 31, 2009

Much Richer for the Experience by Abby Kirkland

Canine cancer is a terrible disease that touches and has taken the lives of many of our four legged family members. No one knows that better than Luke Robinson who lost his Great Pyrenees to osteosarcoma in 2006 after a long two year battle. Luke is committed to raising awareness to determine the causes of canine cancer, as well as promoting 'comparative oncological' studies (a fancy word for using the experiences of canines to learn more about both canine and human cancer). To promote awareness, Luke and his two Great Pyrenees, Hudson and Murphy, are committed to walking from Austin, Texas to Boston, Massachusetts, stopping along the way to educate the public on his cause. It is during his trek through Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania that I had the pleasure of meeting Luke and his 'boys.'

It began in February when my husband came across Luke's website, and mentioned it to me. After viewing it and noticing that they would be walking through Pittsburgh, I emailed his 'coordinator' and 'commander in chief, Ginger Morgan to offer our house for a night or two as they passed through, something totally out of character for me---but yet something I felt compelled to do. She graciously accepted and as the time grew closer to Luke's arrival in late June, Ginger mentioned that Luke was hoping to touch a lot of people in the Pittsburgh area. I became determined to help Luke in his endeavor.

Luke arrived in Pittsburgh on June 29 and our family was introduced to a very focused, compassionate man, who was determined to make a difference in advancing our understanding in the causes of canine cancer. He was a very outgoing man with several funny stories about his travels and clearly a man who loved his dogs---those with him and the one that had moved on. During Luke's week with us as he attended various events and walked around the Pittsburgh area, I was not only touched by Luke's compassion to those people he encountered, but also by the people who encountered him. People would come up to him on the street and begin pouring their hearts out about how their lives had been touched by canine cancer and Luke would listen and offer words of condolence and encouragement. They would pass by and hand him money, 'blessing' him as he continued to further his cause. And they would take the time to ask how they could help him going forward.

For me, what started out to be offering a man and his dogs with a mission a place to stay became much more. It was a wonderful example of the goodness and kindheartedness of the human race and how we all can pull together to support one cause. I was able to meet and work together with people that I never would have otherwise met--people who believed in a common cause. And Luke was able to offer understanding and comfort to many. However, it seemed to me that he got comfort from them as well as they shared their stories of illness and loss. Luke set off on the next leg of his journey this week and many of us will go back to our lives. I for one will go back that much richer for having this experience.

So, I urge you, as you see this man on his journey with his two white dogs, take some time to stop and offer words of encouragement, share your story, or just stop to chat. You won't be sorry that you did.

Abby Kirkland is a Brokerage Director and her husband Kevin Kirkland is a Features Editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. They live in suburban Pittsburgh with their 2 boys, 3 labs and 2 cats.


Anonymous said...

I second this!! When Luke stayed with us from End of February through lots of March, we too were touched by him, his cause and his buddies, Murphy and Hudson!!
We continue to follow Luke's journey, keep him and the pups in our prayers, and spread the word of his mission!!
Thank you for this great article!
Patty Gartmann
Loveland, OH

Marilyn Sue said...

Luke is a lovely man. I met him before the walk and saw him the first week. I was pretty sure he would do the whole thing and told myself if he made it across the Texas state line, he would make it to Boston. He is well on his way and has done a world of good!

Scout and Freyja said...

We are so touched about this adventure that our momma is having tears on her cheeks. Dogs who get cancer need lots of help and it made momma even cry more to see two Pyrs since she had one long ago that isn't with her anymore and is in Heaven.

Mareike said...

Amazing story - amazing man. My dog, Sparky, was just diagnosed with lung cancer. Traditional medicine is out of the question because of his age, but I'm doing everything I can to research alternative ways... More awareness must be brought to this horrible disease, and Luke is doing a wonderful job. Thank you.