Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Three Days Til Dawn

I turned 41 today.  Out of the hundreds of FB posts and emails I got, the most asked question was 'what do you wish for on your birthday'?  

A few of my instinctive answers were that the Kardashian family go away for good  in a reality show called KTHNXBYE;  Season 2 of Game of Thrones gets here earlier than April; and Ricky Gervais and Louis CK win the election next year in some strange power sharing constitutional thing I don't even know about and Anthony Bourdain becomes the First Lady.  

Those are all noble and global wishes but the truth is I just want to feel something, anything on my birthday. The 18 day fast I took after losing Murphy was one of the hardest things I've ever done physically but I didn't have the emotional reconciliation and release I had hoped for in the solitude of Tennessee's sweltering forests. And I really tried to give up the pain.  

Then Buddy died from Congestive Heart Failure secondary to lung cancer metastisis shortly after I returned from the fast.  Since then I have felt nothing and that's a very sad lonely place for a person of great vision and passion to be.  

So my 41st birthday wish was to feel something again until I realized the world wasn't built on wishes.  It was built by dreamers who defied the absolute odds against them. 

I haven't finished Book 1 of our story yet because the sadness of our tale consumed me and I just lost sight of it.  

But I made a promise to you to have it out in December 2011.  That leaves me with three days...

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

2012 Cancer Can't Keep a Good Dog Down Calendars

I want to thank everyone again who voted for Murphy to be the 2012 cover boy and Ginger for being a big part of that as I was unable to.  I still can't look at his picture without my heart breaking and spiralling down into absolute sadness. 

This year is slighty different in that you can choose from two different covers.  The first is of Murphy's last trip to Bowling Green - a pic in which I called him 'C'oeur de Lion'.  The second is the controversial photo of me carrying Murphy the last few steps of our journey together. 

It's a strange feeling that the calendar I started in 2009 to honor the great undaunted spirits of our companions with cancer that my own would one day adorn it's cover.  Murphy gave his life for this cause and this calendar is a lovely tribute to him and all the other canine kids in it.  To purchase a 2012 calendar and help continue our fight, please follow this LINK or you can learn more about the calendars at 2 Million Dogs website

Keep the Faith & Puppy UP!

Hudson, Indiana & Luke

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Holiday Event with The Fuzzybutts

As we're holed up in Winthrop MA for the winter, the three wize guys have been invited to Plymouth Saturday December 3rd for Santa photos(pic nearby from last year).  Afterwards, we'll spend the evening singing Christmas carols, a tradition that began in 2009 in Bryant Park when Hudson, Murphy and I walked through Manhattan. 

We hope you can come out and join us for a very special holiday event with the me and the fuzzybutts.  The information is nearby. 
------------------

On December 3rd Pawz Doggie Daycare and An Unconditional Love with our Special guest the Founder of 2 Million Dogs, Luke Robinson will be hosting Pet Photos with Santa.

Saturday December 3rd 12:30pm- 4:30pm
At PAWZ Doggie Daycare - 50 Independence Road Kingston MA.

Photos are a $10 donation, ALL proceeds will be donated on Christmas Eve to 2 Million Dogs.  We will be collecting pet supplies that Mr. Robinson will personally deliver to the Kingston Animal Shelter in his sleigh. 

Followed by an evening of Christmas Caroling at Plymouth's Colony Place 174 Colony Place Road  Plymouth, MA.  Come join us for a day of  holiday cheer for an important cause and meet the man that started this incredible journey!.

RSVP at the Facebook Event page

Monday, October 31, 2011

The Rock The Ripple and The River

It hasn't been the year we all thought it would be. I had big, big plans after we reached Boston last June and immediately afterwards drove out to Colorado to work with my editor on the book about our mission.  I was only there for a few weeks before Murphy was diagnosed with nasal cancer. 

When I learned of his diagnosis I told her, "I don't know how to tell this story anymore".

One year later, it came to me how.

Our story can't be told in one book, but three. 

"The Rock, The Ripple, and The River"

It's Malcolm's birthday today and he's where the trilogy begins.  As a dogless, self centered Texas boy in his late twenties who wasn't raised with any sense of respect for companion animals, Malcolm became the rock that broke me.  Of my upbringings and my preconceptions.  He fundamentally changed me as a human being and my love and devotion to him set off a sequence of events that has touched thousands and thousands of lives. Book two is about that Ripple Effect that has sent shockwaves through time.  

In the third book of the trilogy I'll talk about the spiritual aspects of our journey.  Of a man who lacked the faith to take even the first step... of the grace and glory given to a once godless man who, though his travels, has learned the cost of eternal love and price of being so blessed. 

The whole story will begin being told December 2011...

The book poster was designed and expertly crafted after hours and hours of collaboration with Jamie Dennis. 

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Raising Indiana

Being a pet parent again for the first time in 5 years I realize I have a lot to learn. So I started a series of podcasts to tap into the expertise of the network of people we’ve built along our travels.

From training to nutrition, veterinarian care and psychology, ‘Raising Indiana’ will explore all aspects of puppyhood. The good, the bad, the puppy…

And since the story of Indy started in Bowling Green, KY, the first episode is a conversation with the Executive Director of the Humane Society there, Lorri Hare, a dear friend and long time supporter. But you have to go to the Finding Fuzzybutt Four blog to download the audiocast. Every Thursday at 7pm EST a new episode will be posted there.

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Puppy's Name Is....

When Hudson came into my life there was never any doubt his name would be an homage to the girl who blessed me with Malcolm. Great gifts should be honored thus.
By that time she was living in Manhattan and I didn’t have to scan my memory of the city long before I reached its west river. And while only five years has past, it feels like eons and I wasn’t really certain how I wanted to go about naming our new BFF (Baby Fuzzybutt Four).

Given the giant pawprints before him I decided to travel with him for a stretch and get to know the lil fell’r first.

As everyone who has met him can attest to, he is absolutely fearless. Alone in Patty and Pascal’s Cincinnati backyard with five Bernese Mountain dogs piling on top of him, he never cowered, never whined and indeed set about to attack each one systematically. And of the dozen or so laps he’s ridden in on our daisy chain to Maine, he slept sweetly and soundly.

Okay. So far, he’s adventurous, fearless, and travels well but we had lots of really cool names put up on facebook that could apply and nothing was really standing out.

Some of the ones suggested that appealed to me were Miles, Rio, Montana, Lash (I came up with that one), Huck, Jackson, Aspen, Link, Austin, Bond, Dallas, Hume, Finn, Tucker, Drake, and Kelvin among others… And yet…

I felt no connection to those names. He could be any one of them.

The easy obvious choice was Miles. I liked it as it had a southern, bluesy feel and from a marketing perspective it’s pure genius. But I’m not a man given to gimmicks so I returned to the tradition I started with Malcolm’s successor, Hudson, and that was no easy thing.

The woman who brought Murphy into my life was also one of the unfortunate few who felt I was making him suffer in his last months so I regrettably cut ties with her after a twenty something year friendship.

But that doesn’t mean the tradition shouldn’t carry on…

So uncork your champagne, do a little jig, the national crisis is over… I christen him ‘Indiana’ after the fearless, albeit fictitious, rakishly handsome adventurer who also shares the same last name with said woman.

Cheers to everyone for your creative and at times kooky suggestions and to Ms. Jones for Murphy.

Keep the Faith and Puppy Up!

Hudson, Indy, & Luke

Sunday, September 18, 2011

2012 Cancer Can't Keep A Good Dog Down Calendar

Back in 2009 while walking cross country I wanted a way to honor all off the cancer dogs we met on our travels and I came up with the 'Cancer Can't Keep a Good Dog Down' Calendar. 

This year marks our fourth and I didn't know then that Murphy would one day be a part of it....

If you have a dog or even a cat in a dog suit as we had in our first year that's been touched by this dreadful disease, join Murphy and show that while cancer can take lives it'll never keep them down and their memory will always live on within us. 

Click this LINK to go to the calendar page and if you have any questions or would like more information, please direct them to Erich, at 2MDcalendar@gmail.com

Friday, September 9, 2011

Charm Bracelets

Growing up in a small Texan town my mother used to own a jewelry and antique store called Mrs. Robinson's Neighborhood where my three brothers and I worked at various stages in our youth. I'm the smallest of my siblings so we're pretty big guys and mostly my mom used us to move heavy 100 year old oak tables and such but for some curious cosmic reason I developed an eye for designing jewelry and sold lots of pieces at her store.

I'm older now, my eyesights changed and my fingers not as nimble but aside from writing and speaking engagements both of which were put on hold after Murphy's cancer spread, there aren't a lot of ways to make money on the road and living in a tent. So I've made the decision to revisit my previous skill and make jewelry.

I'm starting out with charm bracelets since they're really quite lovely and don't require as much inventory to travel with. I've designed two styles:  a Puppy Up! charm bracelet and a Custom one with your pet's name.

As it has been decades since the last piece I strung and I have no idea what people are buying these days I've come up with six starting designs though I have more in my head.   All charm bracelets are designed and hand made by me and consist of Sterling silver 5.5mm letters and semi-precious gemstones and other spacers and artistic beads.  Bracelet sizes are available in 7 and 7 1/2 inches but if you need something special you can email me your request (see below).    

Amethyst

In this bracelet I've used amethyst chips with silver antique beads and Rose quartz rounds but as they're each custom made according to the name of your pet, the number, size, and type may vary.  Silver lobster clasps are used in all bracelet styles.     

The Puppy Up! charm only incorporates Amethyst chips but also may vary according to what's available or my particular mood at the moment but the end product will be comparable.
 Crystal
  
In this design I've incorporated both Aquamarine and clear brilliant crystals as well as light blue glass spaces between the letters.  Solid silver rounded beads are used, too. 





The Puppy Up! charm is similar to the custom bracelet except I used a solid aqua round bead to separate the words. 


Gold and Silver

In this style I've used a mixture of gold filled rounds and rondelle spacers as well as silver twists as an accent in both charm bracelets. 
Lapis Lazuli

Lapis has always been one of my favorite stones with its flecks of gold brilliant colors.  Ovals and rounds of lapis along with silver spacers complement this charm bracelet. 

Malachite

I've always thought something magical about Malachite with the black striations in the stone.  In this design you'll find a mix of Malachite chips and hand carved rounded beads with silver. 

Turquoise

Black onyx, curiously shaped and styled silver beads, as well as two porcerlain beads perfectly complement the Turquoise stones in this charm bracelet. 
Ordering

There are lots of changing going on with my website so I'm using Click and Pledge for now and it confuses some folks including me. This LINK takes you to their secure check out page where you can choose the style: Amethyst, Crystal etc and type: Puppy up or Custom in either 7 or 7 1/2 inches. If you select Custom there will be a place for you to type in the name of your pet on the next page.

I've priced the Puppy Up Charm Bracelets at $99.00 and the Custom Pet Name ones at a flat rate of $109 no matter how long their name unless it's 'Joey Joe Joe Junion Shabadoo' - a nickname might be better. I've looked at comparable charms that weren't as nice and I think this is reasonable. Plus the price includes shipping.

Since each bracelet is handmade by me allow two weeks for delivery. We'll be travelling for the next couple of months I'm going to have to have the supplies sent to each city. If you're purchasing it as a gift and need it by a specific date put that in the space for Custom names or email me at 2dogs2000miles@gmail.com

Also if you have a special request send me an email and I'll see if I can accomodate you.


Keep the faith
Puppy up!
Support your local animal shelter and rescue
To learn more about cancer in companion animals go to http://2milliondogs.org/
Join the Fuzzybutt Fight Club http://facebook.com/fuzzybuttfightclub.com

Hudson, Luke, and our new BFF (Baby Fuzzybutt Four)

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Circle of Life

























After I picked up our new BFF (Baby Fuzzybutt Four) last Friday outside of Nashville, I took him to the Bradford Pear Farm outside of McKewn TN where that special photo of Murphy was taken on our walk.  

Friday, September 2, 2011

The City of White Squirrels

We’ve traveled through some pretty magical places but there’s always been something a little different about Bowling Green, KY, that I’ve never been able to quite define. Even though it's a smallish town of less than a 100,000 people I suspect it is home to more dog lovers per capita than anywhere else we’ve been.

But then, during our most recent trip to Bowling Green, it became apparent why it's so special.  I was on an early morning walk with Hudson when I began to think about Buddy. The Crestmoor suburb we were staying in was loaded with squirrels and seeing all those insolent rodents running amok and unchecked reminded me of just how much I missed him.

You see, if the Bud Man was there with us he would tree every single one of them but he had passed away a few weeks earlier from end stage lung cancer and congestive heart failure.  But even in his final days squirrels remained his singular obsession.  He never met one he didn’t want to chase making him the anti-Will Rogers of squirrels I suppose.

He was much on my mind that morning when Hudson and I rounded the next corner and I saw something that sent chills down my spine: a white one. The short span of time between thinking about Buddy and then seeing an albino squirrel was spooky and surreal, but we are no strangers to seemingly impossible coincidences. Trail magic has always followed us on our travels and I wasn't surprised to feel Buddy's presence.   

Shortly after our morning constitutional, I put Hudson up at our host home and headed to Lost River Cave to help the BG Humane Society setup for an event later that day. Arriving early, I walked the grounds studying the geology and history of the place and then I spotted another white squirrel.  WTF?

I didn’t have my iPhone with me for my first sighting but I did this time. Though hard to see in the photo nearby it’s high left on the main tree trunk. I had never seen one before so twice in a few hours seemed particularly peculiar. Once Lorri Hare, the head of the Humane Society, got to the Cave I asked her about this strange occurrence and she said for some odd reason albino squirrels were common in that part of Kentucky.

And then it all made sense.

Bowling Green, the City of White Squirrels, is to dogs what Mecca is to Muslims.  It's a Holy place that Hudson, Murphy, and I were drawn to on our walk back in the winter of 2008 while on our own pilgrimage. 

And though the reason was not apparent to me back then, today as I adopted a Great Pyrenees puppy from them, I finally understood why. 

The circle is now complete.  One journey has ended and another has begun. 

Behold, Hudson’s new Brudda….


Monday, August 29, 2011

Puppy up! Song Live on iTunes

Long distance adventurers need the patience of an executioner and the hide of a battleship.  And so do songwriters who want to publish their work on iTunes. It took four excruciating months to get the puppy up! song up since Apple has cornered the market on music downloads but baby, we're live!

What started out as a simple phrase that I came up with before Hudson and Murphy and I set out on our 2,300 mile journey to keep us motivated and remindful of Malcolm's spirit and that of all those touched by cancer became a battle cry for people all over.  I get 'Puppy ups' every week from all over the world... Africa, Croatia, Australia, Israel, Canada and it's amazing that this grass roots movement that began with just me and two fuzzybutts has touched the hearts of so many. 

While walking through New Jersey I met a veterinarian oncologist named Joshua Louis who in addition to devoting his life to companion animal cancer is a singer and songwriter, too.  It was trail magic when our paths crossed and we began collaborating on a 'Puppy up!' song to share the inspiration from our travels.  Dr. Joshua, as he's known, is a gifted pianist, soulful singer, and helped capture the spirit of our mission.  He wasn't able to walk the final mile in Boston so I took his place on the stage and gave er all I got. 

How You Can Listen

It's available on iTunes for 99 cents to download and having never owned an i-Pod myself and only recently an i-Phone user I was totally unfamiliar with the process of even downloading an i-Tunes song until now.  For those of you who know how to do it just search 'Joshua Louis' and the song is at the top of his recordings or you can follow this Link.  For those like me who don't, you'll have to get the iTunes app first on your desktop or PDA if you don't have it and you'll be able to download it then.
Supporting the Cause

Dr. Joshua and I jointly own the copyright to the puppy up! song and I am donating 50% of my half to 2 Million Dogs in their mission to eradicate cancer in people and pets and he has agreed to donate a percentage of what he makes from the song, too. 

The Music Video

If you love the song and are anywhere near Manhattan September 16th, come be a part of the filming of the music video.  Dr. Joshua will be performing the puppy up! song live at The Delancy Friday at 8pm and god willing, I'll be there. Hudson, too and perhaps a new puppy to put the puppy in 'Puppy Up!'

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Silpada Rep Supports 2 Million Dogs

August 1st through September 2nd purchase any of Silpada’s extraordinary, handcrafted .925 sterling silver pieces from http://www.mysilpada.com/lisa.stark  and Mrs. Stark will donate 100% of the sale profits from the 2MD Hostess site to 2 Million Dogs! Millions of customers love Silpada’s products because of the individual artisan details that make each piece a one-of-a-kind, all backed by a lifetime guarantee!
To view Silpada’s latest looks in jewelry please visit http://www.mysilpada.com/lisa.stark

Ordering is an easy, simple process:

1) Visit http://www.mysilpada.com/lisa.stark
2) Click “Shop Now”
3) Select your .925 sterling silver jewelry pieces from the Virtual Jewelry Box and add to shopping bag
4) Checkout & create an account (easy & quick)
5) Select hostess “2 MILLION DOGS”

2 Million Dogs Foundation is committed to discovering the common links between canine and human cancers and the causes of these cancers through comparative oncology research. Our organization will accomplish that mission through Education and Awareness, Empowerment and Mobilization, and finally Investment in Research.

For more information on 2 Million Dogs, upcoming events and ways to get involved please visit http://www.2milliondogs.org/

Why did Mrs. Stark want to share her love of Silpada with the 2 Million Dogs family?

“Our three furkids, Harley, Mojo, and Fielding (all adopted from shelters) passed away in 2010 within a 7 month time period. Mojo was thought to have had hemangosarcoma but was misdiagnosed. Sweet Fielding had a tumor around his aeorta. Harley had kidney disease, but was also thought to have had some possible GI cancer that they were not able to confirm. Giving back to the animals is a way that I can keep my furbabies memories alive.”

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Four

The new blog for finding a mate (My fourth fuzzybutt) for Hudson is live and already there are 70 or so dogs up there – Finding Fuzzybutt Four

All of these beautiful puppies need a good home and if you find one you fall in love with, please contact the shelter or rescue about adopting them. This is not a competition and we want all of them to find the right family. We are adding new ones as they come to us so check back often.

This week I’m going to take Hudson to meet a few and will post videos of the experience there.

Email Sheila Rinks with any questions...

puppy up!

Hudson & Luke

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Finding Fuzzybutt Four

Hudson turned 5 today and now that I’ve laid Murphy to rest and had my time alone to reconcile his loss, it’s time to find Hudson a brother.

I am starting a separate blog entitled Finding Fuzzybutt Four to chronicle the experience and open it up to the public and anyone who would like to be a part of the process.

We’re still working through how all of this is going to work but I’ve made a few decisions:

(1) I’m going with another Great Pyrenees. Meeting so many awesome mixed breeds on the road I thought back then my next one will be a plain ole American mutt, just as long as I always have one Pyr in my pack. But after losing Murphy I realized I’m 2 for 2. I couldn’t have been blessed with better mates than he and Malcolm - the jury is still out on Hudson. So life is short, get a Great Pyr, I decided.

(2) It’ll be from a rescue or shelter which makes (3) harder but it needs to be a puppy, 2 – 6 months old. I want it to be young enough to grow into our pack and full of puppiness for Hudsy. He hasn’t gotten to play a lot this past year and it’s his time now.

In setting up a separate blog I want to share what I learn throughout the adoption process and enable others to participate in it as well. If you’re a shelter or rescue you can post prospective mates for Hudson here as well as share best practices for a successful adoption, qualities to look for that fit your pack, and best ways to introduce them into their new environment. Other people will be allowed to share success stories with their adoptions as well which we can all learn from.

I am working with Sheila Rinks on this and she’ll be the blog admin. All you have to do is email her at sheila@2dogs2000miles.org what you want to post and as long as it fits the criteria, she’ll invite you on as a guest blogger (I know there are a ton of great dogs out there looking for homes but I’d like to keep the focus here on finding a prospective mate for Hudson).

We’re still working out the kinks in this concept but the process is probably going to take a few months and we want to get started with it now. Let’s find Hudson a brother…. Keep the faith and puppy up!

Happy birthday, my boy

Hudson and Luke

Support your local animal shelter or rescue
To learn more about cancer in pets and people visit http://2milliondogs.org/
Join the Fuzzybutt Fight Club

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Luke 12:48

I leave this evening to fast in the forest for 18 days.

I’ve done juice fasting when I lived in Austin because it was hippy and earthy though in hindsight I must’ve sounded like a pretentious boob back then talking about detoxing on milk thistle, wheat grass and organic carrot juice. The longest I could do it was for a mere three days which you’d understand if you ever had pork ribs at Sam’s barbeque.

Yep this is an experience of a whole other order.

First of all, though I’m leaving to setup camp tonight the fast will officially start Wednesday June 13th at 8am ending July 31st 8am. I hope my math is right anyway. At that time the cell phone and computer get shut off and the only line I’ll have is to Ginger to coordinate rendezvous times for water re-supply. She will also be bringing Hudson to see me so he won’t feel as though I, too, have left him.

I’ll be living in a tent near Wolf River the entire 18 days and subsisting only on water although electrolyte powders are needed given the extreme, constant heat I’ll be exposed to.

The first three days are the most grueling when the hunger pains are the worst after that my body will quiet down.

This is the critical stage and why I am fasting… to quiet myself and listen.

I’ll have with me a moleskin to write my sermons in stone and a camera to record them, too.

My relationship with my faith is deep and profound and it’s as much a part of my journey as the fuzzybutts are. It has blessed me with a righteous mission, has guided me throughout our travels, and enriched our lives with so many wonderful people.

Perhaps I will never understand why after the walk Murphy was diagnosed with cancer but I have at least accepted that that part of my journey has ended.

This is the next stretch and this one I must do alone. And when I return the mission will continue...

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Post Mortem

Thank you to everyone who attended Murphy’s virtual wake Saturday evening which ironically I couldn’t participate because we’ve made too many friends on Facebook. Over 2,000 posts of pictures and stories about one for every mile we walked.

I’m going to keep the page open since it reflects just how many hearts Murphy left his pawprints on - here’s the link if you’d like to share your own.

Since I wasn’t available to answer questions I’ll try to do that here.

Why wasn’t Murphy euthanized Monday?

Quite honestly, I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. I didn’t want to do it despite all of the tough guy talk in my father’s day blog. But then I got over myself and since I did not want Murphy’s last moments spent indoors, there was a scheduling conflict with the vet on Tuesday.

Where was Murphy given rest?

Bartlett city park at Bartlett blvd & Stage rd next to the pavilion.

Why did you choose cremation over burial?

Personally I do not believe in burial for spiritual, conservation, and scientific reasons. I myself will never be buried.


What are you planning on doing with Murphy’s ashes?

I wish I could say I had that already mapped out but I don’t. They will continue on our travels as long and until…

Why did you post that picture of you carrying Murphy’s lifeless body?

First of all, there’s a lot more to that photograph than anyone knows. But it speaks for itself.

How is Hudson holding up?

He’s gotten fatter than a opossum in a peach tree. After radiation last August Murphy really couldn’t hike very far anymore and we only walked as far as he could. But Hudson’s been well fed on Honest Kitchen and Nature’s Variety throughout and well, he’s a whole lotta biscuits and gravy now. Hudsy’s so fat he’s not Hugsy anymore – he can’t even get up on his hind legs to hug people.

But he’s my butterball and since there isn’t a Biggest Loser Dog Edition, we’ve got a lot of work to do together. Monday we started walking every morning just a mile or so until he regains his fighting weight and then we’ll ramp up from there.

What’s next?

Tuesday or Wednesday next week I am headed to the forest to fast for 18 days. It’s looking like that’s somewhere near Wolf Creek in Memphis though I have to scout it out this weekend. The battle over the past year has exacted a tremendous mental, physical, and spiritual toll on me coming off of an 826 day walk. I’m not sure I can articulate my reasons any more clearly right now other than, it’s what comes next.

Hudson won’t be with me but he will be near enough that Ginger can bring him out every couple of days along with water supply. I’ll post more about it as details finalize. Yes, it’s dangerous but do not fear for me.

What can I do?

Remain steadfast for now. When I return from my fast I will be calling on each and every one of you. There’s a lot going on in the background which I didn’t have the heart to talk about until Murphy was given rest. I’m going to need a few things before I leave next week and will post them here.

puppy up!

Hudson & Luke

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Invictus Manet

You know, when I lost Malcolm I cursed god and was alone. Murphy carried me through that hard sad time in my life. Then god gave me this amazing mission which I could have never undertaken without my beautiful boy by my side. Yesterday I carried Murphy back to god

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Sermons in Stone

"And this our life, exempt from public haunt,
Finds tongues in trees, books in running brooks,
Sermons in stones, and good in everything.”

I love this passage from Will Shakespeare’s As You Like It and for this Father’s Day, I couldn’t find one more appropriate. It speaks to the fascination and beauty found in the simple wonderment of nature. It’s reminiscent of my father who first taught me that and as a dad myself, it’s a lesson my own boys, Hudson and Murphy, always keep me mindful of.

Life is a messy thing but there’s no finer, more effective therapy for it than a good piece of wood in your hand, the path beneath your feet, and your sons at your side.

This Father’s Day for me is a bittersweet celebration. It was one year ago today we walked the final mile into Boston but it’s also Murphy’s last day. Tomorrow he will be given eternal rest.

A few weeks back Murphy’s left eye ruptured and I made the decision to have it surgically removed rather than euthanizing him then. He was still willful, eating healthfully, and in true Murphy tradition, full of piss and vinegar.

It was a controversial decision and one which tore me up internally. I suspected the rupture probably meant the tumor had breached the orbit, a suspicion that was confirmed by the vet during surgery. At most I hoped for a couple of months together and if we were lucky, a few more than that.

Since the surgery, we have seen a deterioration of mobility in his right hind leg which can only mean motor cortex involvement - that the cancer has finally spread to his brain. And though he has had some really good days this week in Eureka Springs and yesterday at 3 Dog Bakery, I know what comes next and that I cannot allow to happen to my boy.

I have no doubt now the decision I made to extricate his eye was medically unsound but it was not an inhumane one. I don’t write this because I feel a need to justify it to anyone. I absolutely don’t give a goddamn what people think about the choices I have made on behalf of Murphy.

I am writing about it because to me this is what being a father means. It means having to make extremely hard decisions often in the absence of any certainty and always in the face of adversity.

A father’s love is the grit and iron will that cannot be ground down even at the end. It’s looking into the eyes of your dying son and finally admitting, “I can’t save you.”

To all of the fathers who have had to say that and to the ones who thankfully haven’t – this is our day.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Reflections in Stone

Sunday is our one year anniversary for walking the final mile in Boston and not coincidentally, it’s also father’s day.

I got an email a few weeks back that asked simply ‘Whatever happened to that stone business you were writing about?’

My guess is they were referring to the series of blogs I published starting with 61 Stones not my Facebook discussion thread about medical marijuana for dogs.

If you haven’t been with us since last July, shortly after Boston Murphy was diagnosed with nasal adenocarcinoma and given 12 to 15 months to live. I went to a river basin in the Cheeseman valley west of Colorado Springs to collect a series of stones. Each week I resolved to remove one of those stones from a glass jar.

Maybe it was my way of celebrating his life while it remained or maybe I was deconstructing my own in a mathematically dissociative way. It’s hard to say exactly why we do something in the first place but at the time it made sense to me. Perhaps it was the only thing that made sense to me.

I didn’t always post a blog every week as there were many when the cruel irony of his cancer embittered my heart and kept me silent. I think the last one I posted was ‘9 Stones’ after which Murphy’s health spiraled downward, a deep descent that took me with it.

Since then I have made many medically difficult decisions on his behalf that only time will tell whether they were sound or not but I can’t stop fighting for him as long as his spirit tells me he is not ready to leave this place.

Zero stones came and went and Murphy is still here. We just returned from Eureka Springs where we spent many good hours on the swollen banks of Beaver Lake together (photo nearby).

How long Murphy has left is up to God and Murphy.

For me there are no more stones to remove. It’s time to start replacing them.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Dude, Mark it 10

Murphy officially turned 10 on the 31st and it was a bittersweet birthday. May just wasn’t a good month – twice I came damn close to euthanizing him but in both cases he rebounded. That lasted for a few days, a week if we were lucky and then it was something else.

It’s been such an up and down, side to side month every time I’ve tried to post an update here for everyone that’s not on our Facebook page, things changed so drastically.

First it was pemphigus which sounded to me like a disease caught on Sesame Street but can actually be quite problematic especially in a cancer patient. The scorched furless skin on his snout that radiation permanently branded him with started sloughing off until all that remained was like a bloody pulpy mess.

He stopped eating and consequently stopped taking his meds which is a frikkin nightmare since the only way you can administer pills when that happens is through an oral syringe. Dogs don’t like fluids squirted into their mouths so you have to hold on to their snout but that just tore away more flesh… for now I’ll spare you the graphic details of those fun nights…

Fortunately the pemphigus turned out to be a drug reaction to SMZ TMP and once we discontinued the sulfa drug the mucosal membranes affected began to heal. And the prednisone not only aided that process but it stimulated Murphy’s appetite as well.

We enjoyed almost a week of healing and healthy eating and then his left eye which had wept blood and pus on and off for two months shut for good. Initially, I chalked it up to the pemphigus and hoped steroids + antibiotics would resolve it.

Memorial Day, Murphy wasn’t mostly Murphy so I took him to Dr. Blackburn. The pain was so severe that we couldn’t open his eye so we had to sedate him to get a better look. His eye had ruptured. Probably from a cascade of events but we’ll never know for sure.

The following day the vet removed his left eye…

Bruised, bloodied, and embattled Murphy made it through May and his spirit remains undaunted. His fight is the same as every person and pet diagnosed with this dreadful disease.

puppy up! to all on National Cancer Survivors Day…

continued…

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mommies!

To All the Mommies We’ve Loved Before

A Duet by Murphy Iglesias and Hudson’s Willie er…. Hudson Nelson

Play the song here to the following lyrics:

To all the mommies we’ve loved before
We’ve travelled in and out their doors
We’re glad they came along
We dedicate this song
To all the mommies we’ve loved before

To all the mommies who have caressed
And may we say we nosed the best
For helping our lil walk
You guys just rock
To all the mommies we’ve loved before

The winds of change are always blowing
And though we would’ve like to stay
The winds of change continue blowing
They just carried us away

To all the mommies who share our story
It’s because of you our glory
We’re glad you came along
We dedicate this song
To all the mommies we’ve loved before

To all the mommies who care for us
Murphy can’t find a rhyme so he wants me to remind he’s a genius
You live within our heart
We’ll always be a part
Of all the mommies we’ve loved before

The winds of change are always blowing
And though we would’ve like to stay
The winds of change continue blowing
They just carried us away

To all the mommies we’ve loved before
We’ve travelled in and out their doors
We’re glad they came along
We dedicate this song
To all the mommies we’ve loved before

To all the mommies we’ve loved before
We’ve travelled in and out their doors
We’re glad they came along
We dedicate this song
To all the mommies we’ve loved before

Thank you to all the wonderful beautiful mommies who are so much a part of lives….

Happy Mother’s Day

Luv u Hudsy & Murphy

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Murphy Writes His First Blog

It began with the camping trip that Papi and I took a few weeks ago. I decided to impersonate a “good” dog just enough that Papi let his guard down. I no longer had to be tied up or held with the white knuckled grip Papi has used all my life.

Freedom at last…

I really wondered like Papi did “what could I do with this new freedom”? However, I think we were looking at it in two different ways. Papi was thinking Murph has cancer, a low energy level, has blood, snot coming from his nose and/or eye… where is he going to go and how fast can he move that I can’t catch him? I on the other hand have been thinking when am I going to bust my move?

Last night, while camping with the “family” I was dozing off by that little puppy Dash when out of the corner of my eye I saw the most regal dog walk by. Her long auburn hair was flowing in the wind as she tossed her head from side to side. I caught a whiff of her scent as she walked by again. I even heard Papi comment on her beauty. Mommy G said something about an Irish Setter. I began thinking French meets Irish… love at long last.

I waited and waited. Finally, Papi began showing Mommy G how to cook outdoors (like she’s gonna do that since she doesn’t even cook indoors). Mommy is listening to him like she may actually try this some time. I continue to wait… once Papi puts the fish on the grill and is focused on cooking I slowly begin to rise. Once up I notice no one is watching so I tip toe out of our camp site unnoticed. Once I hit the road I pick up the scent of that beautiful creature and off I go. I am busting my move!


I made it all the way to her campsite before her owners heard Papi and Mommy G calling my name. They remembered walking past us (I hope that beautiful creature remembered too). I was busted! Papi made me get in the truck with Mommy and he walked back to camp. Mommy told me I was bad, but she understood that I just had to see that beautiful creature again.

Papi called me all kinds of not so nice names and tied me to the pole with Dash. I wonder how long it will be before I fool Papi again?


Murphy (not Mostly Murphy, but All Murphy and then Some)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Murphy Canvases are Ready

Finally!


And they look amazing...

These are limited edition canvases of three different photographs taken from our walk. Each are printed on canvas, signed and numbered by me with Murphy's pawprint. They come in 8x10 and 11x14 sizes and originally I was going to ship them out as just the canvas until I saw them framed. Absolutely stunning so I decided to have each of them framed as well. The frame nearby is a rustic walnut wood that matches the fencing in the background.

The three photos are:

McKewn TN (pictured above). This photo was taken while resting at a farm lined with Bradford Pear trees in November 2008









Tent (pictured above): Perfectly captures the three knuckleheads waking up after a night sleeping on the banks of the Youghiogheny River











Fuzzybutts (pictured above): In step and in stride this photograph epitomizes our cross country walk for cancer as we headed to the C&O towpath outside Hancock MD


The pricing for 8x10 is $100 and $125 for the 11x14 that includes shipping.

If you ordered yours awhile ago - thank you so much for being patient. They'll be arriving soon.

To purchase a limited edition canvas, click Here

If you have any questions, contact ginger@2dogs2000miles.org

Monday, April 18, 2011

Coeur de Lion



Prince Geoffrey: My, you chivalric fool... as if the way one fell down mattered.

Prince Richard: When the fall is all there is, it matters.

From The Lion in Winter

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Quality of Life

I'm not entirely certain why I'm posting a sequal to my blog 'Mostly Murphy'. Maybe it's such a visceral issue and one of severe importance that just deserves it.

I doubt I'll shed new light on it for you but some of the responses I've received have caused me to further contemplate.

So I went to the park to ask questions and seek answers I had shelved five years ago when I was first confronted with the issue of euthanization with my dog, Malcolm.

There are people much smarter than me who have tried to quantify quality of life - the Tripawds folks posted a link to an article in the comments section of the previous post that's probably worth looking into though I haven't read it yet.

The two times I came close to euthanizing him this past week were based on 'criteria' like significant debilitation in hind legs, reduction of appetite, and neuralgia from nerve damage. Taken together, it's no stretch I was ready to let him go.

But I didn't because on one of our daily outings - last Thursday - he led me into the woods at Overton Park on his own. And then Sunday he surprised me again.

You see, in a big way I was looking at his symptoms to dictate my decisions. We know even the most advanced diagnostics or keen clinical evaluations cannot communicate the will and desire to live.

Yes I pray for guidance daily and I listen to Murphy as best I think I can but even the generally accepted 'He'll tell you when he's ready' just isn't enough for a father like me.

Honestly can you really tell the distinction between when your dog has tummy upset and malaise from mismedication and infection versus cachexia from cancer? And before you answer that - would you bet their life on it? When you're dealing with cancer there is a complexity and cascade of symptoms that makes a definitive assessment next to impossible.

Throw in the maelstrom of emotions all of us go through and that further complicates decisions. So when I was able to finally reduce the question of quality of life down to two simple words, 'Mostly Murphy', trust me I wasn't trying to be cutesy or soundbitey.

So long as most of the personality traits I've come to know and love as his dad continue to shine through, I cannot take his life. That supposes of course he's able to eat, is ambulatory, and has normal body functions but that assumption can be made for most of the pet parents I know.

What I have reevaluated through all of this though is the conversation we're having which should be about euthanizing too early NOT about suffering. Pain doesn't go with you when you pass so holding on a couple of more days just to be sure is not unusually or unnecessarily cruel.

I'm grateful I didn't let Murphy go yet because he still has so much love in him and quite a lot of pep in his step. In fact, I am taking him to Kentucky this weekend to see some dear friends of ours and I think a road trip can do us some good.

To misquote the late great Davy Crockett, former Senator from Tennessee, "Cancer may go to hell... We're going to Bowling Green".

Monday, April 11, 2011

Mostly Murphy

This will be my most difficult & perhaps controversial blog but it's a topic that needs to be discussed, debated, cried over, cursed about and maybe even one that we all need an ass-kicking for.

Murphy should be dead by now.

I've come close to euthanizing him twice. But each time he's rebounded and I thought better of it.

True, he's dying. No doubt about that. The tumor has overtaken his left eye and he's tired from the 10 month battle.

But how do we establish a criteria for quality of life?

I've finally realized that it's - is Murphy mostly Murphy?

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

1 Stone

It's not likely Murphy will survive the week

'His candle hath burned at both ends.
It may not last night.
But oh our foes and ah our friends.
It hath cast a lovely light.'

variation of one of my favorite poems by edna st vincent millay

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

11 Stones: Angel

It's been a frikkin awesome week. Murphy has been mostly smiles since our third anniversary.

The edema in his left eye has improved significantly. Too early to call it trauma unrelated to tumor but it's an improvement nonetheless.

His snout is still snotty but it's not draining as much... could be the spring pollen count in Memphis is plugging him up... dunno.

Another curious development is since late January, Murphy has reeked of decaying flesh from radiation necrosis of his nasal tissue I suppose. Some days it was pretty ripe. That's gone now, too.

I don't know whether taken together these are a new manifestation of the disease but I haven't spent much time chewing on it. We've been too busy.

We had an overindulgent St. Patrick's, picnics at Overton Park just about every day, and we recently had dance nite! I turned on my tunes from the 80s & 90s... Mommy G dressed Murphy up in a tux and top hat (yeah, that didn't last too long) but he really got into it and after a few songs kicked Hudson and Buddy off the dance floor.

Nearby is a video of Ginger and Murphy grooving to Sarah Mclachlan's Angel.

Hell, yeah, Murphy still has a few hoots and a hollerin left in him...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Arc, goddamnit

“Arc, goddamnit”

The last time I spoke those words, screamed them really, I was naked and dancing wildly about a campfire a few clicks south of Hancock, Maryland on the C & O towpath to DC. I had stopped in that interesting little town earlier in the day to replenish our water supply and pick up a bottle of Lignanore Terrapin White at a packy, or package stores as they call them in that part of the country.

The wine would complement the two ears of sweet corn I picked from a field the boys and I discovered just off the trail that morning. Farmers always plant a little extra for raccoons I had learned and probably wouldn’t mind us helping ourselves to a modest share of the harvest.

Our goal that day was the Little Pool campground right around the 120 mile mark, a primitive site with a pit, picnic table, and flat piece of ground for a tent smack dab on the bank of the Potomac River. Though it was late August the summer season had been kind and gentle to us and most of our three months on the trail system were slight, neither too hot nor too cold.

The breeze off the water, campfire at my back, boys at my side, a good drink, and roasted sweet corn fresh off the stalk, perfection doesn’t get anymore perfect for me. And yet my mind was caught on something and I couldn’t shake it.

Pittsburgh was more than a month behind us but a conversation I had there had crept alongside ever since. Over dinner with my future literary agent we discussed the idea of writing a book about the walk. Of course I had given it some thought prior to that evening but I didn’t want to get weighted down by it.

“One thing a great story needs”, my agent related to me, “Is a good character arc”. Now I knew what she meant despite never having published a book before. One of my favorite movies is Adaptation in which Charlie Kauffman struggles with the issue but I never really put it into a personal context.

Yet there I was 214 miles later, supping on sweet corn and swilling wine and reflecting on her words…

“What if there is no arc at the end of the walk? How does one make oneself arc? To sell a book you need an arc. The public demands that you arc. Arc me. Arc you…”

And so went the inner monologue until it became quite maddening. Stripped from all pretenses by the wine and fueled by the fire beside me, the rage I’d kept inside all those years since I lost Malcolm fulminated into a fury.

I tore off my clothes and danced feverishly around the campfire screaming at myself, “Arc, goddamnit. Arc”. As though the savage in me could some how summon the will of God.

Perhaps it was my own one act, one man rendition of Lord of the Flies. But trust me; it wouldn’t be something you’d pay to see.

Today is the three year anniversary since Hudson, Murphy, and I left Austin and although I have managed to keep my clothes on most of the time since then, that night still burns so brightly in my mind.

Looking back I guess I had hoped and prayed for, even naively believed that the walk would somehow heal my busted heart and crossing the finish line would forever close that chapter in my life. Instead, it’s more shattered now than when I started and if there has been an arc, it’s inverted.

Meteorologists say the second half, the one after the eye of a hurricane is the worst and maybe that’s why Murphy’s cancer has been harder on me than that of Malcolm's.

There’s no great quote, no profound metaphor or life lesson I have today.

Instead, I’m taking Murphy to a local Irish pub appropriately named Murphy’s to toast a pint that we’ve made it this far.

Happy third… cheers to the fuzzybutts. Long live the fuzzybutts!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Lily

Lydia Best, a long-time supporter of ours and a board member of 2 Million Dogs recently lost her beloved English Bulldog, Lily, after a long battle with chronic seizures.

The boys and I spent several weeks with her and husband, Pat, in Leesburg Virginia and let's just say Lily and Hudson had a, ahem, special relationship. Nearby pic almost says it all. We all know that Hudsy is quite the ladies man and Lily wasted no time in letting him know she was available.

I never got to meet Daisy, Lydia and Pat's first bulldog they lost
to cancer but Lily was really quite something. She had a complex set of emotions and grunts, snorts, huffs, and puffs to vocalize them and before I met her I had no idea dogs could emote so theatrically.

Our hearts go out to their family...

Friday, March 11, 2011

13 Stones: Bucket List

Two things have happened since my last post:

First Murphy has gone a little gammy in his hind legs. His mobility hasn't been affected yet but getting up and down occasionally gives him fits and starts. This I don't believe is tumor related. It seems more likely to me that it's a progression of the spinal arthritis I first noticed back in Colorado rather than motor cortex involvement.

Second, I discovered a white membrane developing on his left cornea Tuesday. My kneejerk reaction was the cancer had breached the orbital bone and it was threading through Murphy's eye socket like a kudzu vine. I thought to myself, well it's only a matter of time now, but an inconsistency convinced me to consult with Dr. Blackburn, his Memphis vet. Why wasn't there pronounced protrusion of the eye as I have seen in so many cases?

Blackburn diagnosed it as corneal edema secondary to Murphy's nasal cancer. He feels the tumor is commandeering the blood supply around his eye to feed its own growth and that's causing fluid retention. There is an outside, way outside, chance it could be as a result of trauma but regardless the consensus is Murphy isn't in any discomfort for now. We started him on topical steroids and hopefully that will reduce the swelling.

Both of these developments got me thinking with lightening speed and clarity. Time is running out on me and Murphy. What haven't we done together?

So I've started a Bucket List and since then we've checked off two things you should do with your dog before they die.

1. One word. Ragtop. Have you ever taken your pupper for a drive in a convertible? It's the ultimate ride for a dog. Smells coming in from all directions... a smorgasboard of sensations. Belt them in, take down the top, and turn on some badass driving tunes for a righteous experience. Cost: If you get caught giving the middle finger to cancer at any point during your drive you may have to pay a fine subject to the state you're driving in.

2. Art class part I. I should've known there was an artist inside of Murphy. We took he and Buddy to Seize the Clay to ceramictize(?) their pawprint and Murphy had such a whopping good time that his nom de guerre is going to be Murphyangelo. Bringing the clay out on a giant sized plate may have inspired him as he tried to snarf it down. But damn no artist for their indulgences... The nearby pic is his pawprint and the mold I chose. Cost: $10


Budman did good, too but he was restless and I think he had to pee. Perhaps he's more into performance art...

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

15 Stones: On Suffering

If the doctors are correct in their estimation of Murphy's prognosis, he will be dead in 15 weeks.

Why not kill him now? Isn't that the question we all ask at some point when we have a loved one with a terminal illness? Spare them the suffering? Spare ourselves the pain and save some money, too? That's certainly the subject of many emails I've been receiving lately.

Because I am a Christian, God's grace and will are something I think of just about every second of every day when it comes to Murphy's cancer. We pray for one yet know so little of the other. How can we presume then to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves?

I think that question will haunt us all til the end of our days.

With Malcolm after he was given rest - for months I replayed his last moments in my mind like being caught in an endless unrelentling video loop. I couldn't turn it off.

So am I keeping Murphy alive to avoid a sequel? Or is it my own arrogant belief that I can somehow fix him, that I can out-think the experts, beat the odds and save him?

I remember reading something someone said sometime ago about when you know you're going down the manner in which you go down is all that matters. How stupid was what I thought at the time...

Maybe not

How do you want to die? Peacefully and painlessly? Yeah that's the way we all want to go but we don't have that option do we?

Whether you believe that suffering is an extension of God's love or proof of his non-existence, personally I would endure just about any suffering to be loved completely. We all go down, surely some harder than others, but Murphy will not die from apathy, societal values, or a resignation of will.

As long as he feels loved I will fight for him against all odds and in defiance of criticism

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What Price Life?

I wonder how much Murphy is worth?

I mean not to me but in the marketplace.

Kim Kardashian gets $10,000 for every tweet she twitters. Two of those would get us to the breakeven point in Murphy's care. The cast of jersey shores make seven figures for acting like frat boys who honestly deserve a beat down.

Is this what we value in our society?

You have no idea how hard it's been for me trying to reconcile the generosity and goodness of the people we met on the road with the inanity, insanity & absolute dissolution of decency I've seen since.

That's why I haven't asked for any more money for Murphy's care. And won't. I want no part of this travesty.

I'll flay myself first and to the bone before I accept this is the best we can do.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

17 Stones: Dei Gratia

If I had to sum up this past month it'd be: heavy hopes, long odds, hard choices, and secondary consequences.

With no evidence of potential therapeutic benefit, I chose to follow up Murphy’s 2nd course of radiation with chemotherapy and then to compound my temerity I decided on a cocktail never tried in canine nasal adenocarcinoma before; carboplatin and gemcitabine a protocol used primarily for osteosarcoma and lung mets.

Wednesday, January 19th, the day Murphy was to receive the first round of chemo his breath was stinkier than normal. We'd tented out the night before on the banks of Lake Somerville and the three of us were all a mite ripe, so I didn't think much of it until I unclamped his maw and noticed an ulcer on the roof of his mouth.

Radiation erosion. Goddamnit.

I knew this was a risk when he went under the Gamma Knife in December at CSU and I knew what it was the second I saw it. It looked like the pink rubber eraser students are required to purchase in grade school only carved out canoe-like.

Not everyone at TAMU was convinced it was erosion – some speculated the tumor was punching through from above, a sort of 'Here's Johnny' from a maniacal, axe wielding Jack Nicholson. Scares the hell outta you either way you look at it.

But I wasn’t particularly thinking about the ulcer that Wednesday. My focus was on stopping the tumor’s growth.

“Start the chemo”, I said simply.

Week one was uneventful and it wasn’t until several days after the second dose of gemcitabine the floor fell out beneath us. Murphy spiked a temperature Monday the 31st and spent two nights in ICU at Texas A&M Vet School. The chemo had wiped out his bone marrow, stripped him of his defenses, and made him susceptible to spontaneously bleeding out from even the slightest laceration.

To make matters worse I had compromised my boy’s immune system at a time when he could ill afford it. The ulcer in his mouth deepened and darkened ominously foreboding a serious infection. Murphy’s body was being thrashed about in a perfect storm, a collision between the maximum effects of both chemotherapy and radiation and we had no way of knowing if the eye was ahead or behind us.

I had convinced myself my aggressiveness, my absolute unwillingness to compromise in saving his life would be his undoing. Try as you may to remove your own ego from making decisions, it’s inextricable.

I picked Murphy up last Wednesday afternoon, late, and drove all night to Memphis not knowing whether he would even survive the drive. He received two days of IV antibiotics and fluids. We brought his WBC and platelets back up to within normal ranges and he’s shown signs of significant improvement.

And while we’re still weathering the storm…. yesterday, when I inspected Murphy’s mouth, the ulcer had almost completely healed. It didn’t perforate nor penetrate and it definitely isn’t tumor.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Go Stillers

Yes'm that's how Yinzers pronounce their own team (not Steelers like the industry which built Pittsburgh but Stillers as in Ben, the actor). That they butcher just about every part of the English language is one of their many endearing and charming qualities.

First and foremost I must disclose, I'm a Patriots fan but they're "Grrr...." not playing today so I won't go into why. But why I'm pulling for the Stillers has less to do with the team itself and more to do with the people of Pittsburgh.

We spent some time there on our way to Boston... we watched Fourth of July fireworks from the rooftop of the Western Pennsylvania Humane Society; had a police escort to Pup Nite at a Pirates game; and toured the Duquesne Incline. It's filled with hundreds of photographs that I stared at transfixed with tremendous appreciation for how hard life must've have been there only a few decades ago. The industrial parts of Pittsburgh were trapped in a permanent midnight from all of the smoke and soot from the mills. Daylight just wasn't let in and so many workers endured those conditions to make a decent living.

And when steel production got exported, they picked themselves up, dusted the soot off and a new city was reborn. Pittsburgh has lost 50% of their population in the past half century but you'd never sense it because their spirit remains unbroken. It's a city of grinders... it's a place where the average person can do the extraordinary. But most important for me, being born the year of the dog, is their loyalty.

I didn't know much about the Stillers back in summer '09 except that growing up in Cowboy country, many of the NFL's greatest rivalries were between the two teams. It was only when I was invited out to training camp in Latrobe to meet Big Ben (pictured nearby) that I began to understand that they don't have fans they have believers.

They care less about who's quarterbacking than the legacy of the team itself and they're so loyal that the mass exodus from the loss of the steel trade created Stiller bars all across the country like a secret cult. I must confess I've never been to one but being in Memphis today on this historic Super Bowl Sunday I should find my first one, hole up, and drink myself silly.

Go Steelers (Long 'e' guys, long 'e')

Love ya & puppy up! which you Pittsburghers (hah!) definitely know how to do...

Saturday, February 5, 2011

NOVA Dog Magazine Blogathon Benefiting 2 Million Dogs

The folks at NOVA Dog Magazine have begun an 18 hour Blogathon to bring awareness to canine cancer and benefitting 2 Million Dogs. Thanks to Janelle, the driving force behind this & to the contributing bloggers - Chicks Love Beer and our Beloved Blogging Bob who is finally BACK!!!

Join the fun and if you make a donation you'll have a chance to win an Amazon Kindle - how cool is that?

This is the Blog I submitted....

That cancer has become the greatest scourge ever known is without any doubt, our own damn doing. Not so long ago 4 out of every 5 men smoked and almost just as many women.

Over the past century we’ve engineered and manufactured thousands of industrial chemicals, products, and materials that were either directly sold to consumers or otherwise introduced into our society without their full impact on our health and environment ever studied. The byproducts and waste were then discarded into landfills and even dumped into our water supply wreaking havoc on our ecological systems and forever corrupting our gene pool perhaps making cancer the inheritable disease it is today.

It should be of no surprise then that for the first time in history the World Health Organization recently revealed that cancer is now the number one cause of death worldwide beating out all other diseases. In the United States alone one out of every 3 females and one out of every two males will develop cancer in their lifetime. That’s 33% and 50% respectively in case you have a hard time with math like me. Has there ever been a pandemic so far reaching, so catastrophic throughout our recorded history?

And increasingly it is affecting our companion animals. It’s guesstimated that anywhere from 2 to 6 million new cases of cancer naturally occur every year in cats and dogs. Some breeds are harder hit than others. At least half of all Golden Retrievers, it is believed, will die from cancer.

I didn’t know all of this almost three years ago when my two dogs, Hudson and Murphy, and I decided to walk from Austin TX to Boston MA for cancer. Our story started out simple enough; my mother is a breast cancer survivor and my family has been touched by the disease but it wasn’t until my Great Pyrenees, Malcolm, died from metastatic osteosarcoma that cancer became my mission.

I just wanted to walk across the country and share Malcolm’s story and let people know that dogs, too, get cancer. But as I talked to more and more oncologists and scientists I learned that there isn’t a lot, if any, difference. That’s not surprising since dogs drink the same water we do, breathe the same air, and are exposed to the same environmental toxins.

At the tail end of our 2,300 mile walk we formed a foundation devoted to raising awareness, educating, and funding research about the common link between cancer in people and pets and area of science known as comparative oncology.

That foundation, 2 Million Dogs, has an ambitious nationwide effort that was launched this year to have 2 million dogs walk simultaneously throughout the country for cancer. On November 7th 2010 our first such event was held in 12 cities and 2011 will at least double that.

Please join us in our efforts to eradicate cancer in companion pets and people, too. Thank you and… Puppy up!

Hudson, Murphy, & Luke