Friday, November 29, 2013

The Shhh Hour

I've pitched a tent in so many places I couldn't recount them all. But everytime it was just before night fall because we didn't want anyone to know we were there since we were literally trespassing on either private or public land either of which could end us up in the pokey or at the business end of a shotgun.

Once I got the boys in and fed it was quiet time... No barking, no talking, & definitely no lights. So I would lie in silence, motionless for hours at a time.  The goodnights were when I was so tired from the days walk i fell asleep swiftly, the tough ones were when my body ached too much to slumber.

I think about that tonite on my 2nd night of fasting and that it probably was the vast repertoire of music in my head that kept me at peace.  tonite I'm listening to Bach prelude in G.

I'm grateful that ginger loaned me her iPhone power booster so I can journal about this adventure as I won't have much time to after its completion next Thursday. 

Today was productive - I read through chapter 7 of small animal clinical oncology, came up w some new product concepts for chef big dog, started the process of prioritizing my 2014, and then i sat by the riverside basking in the fleeting warmth, shed a few layers & wrote poetry for the first time in years.  It was a good day...

Back to Bach and sleep soon I hope as the third day is when the hunger pangs crescendo

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Puppy Up!

Before I head off for a week for my fast I wanted to share my speech from the Chicago walk with you.  I had intended to post it when we arrived in Memphis but that Monday kinda threw a monkey wrench into my plans with Hudson's diagnosis.  
But here it is.  

I wrote on Facebook awhile back as response I made to one of our supporters who said, 'You sure have started a great organization.'  

'I didn't found an organization', I replied. 'I started a family.'  

And at every Puppy Up! walk we've been to these past four years that's precisely what I've felt.  A simple pride not only for all of the people a part of it but how 2 Million Dogs has effected their lives, too, and the pleasure it gives me when a city organizer, or PUPP as Ginger calls them, puts on a successful walk.  

Two years ago back in San Antonio, one of the participants in the walk there said, 'I've been to a lot of these dog events but none of them had an energy like this.'  Well said.  

As we continue to grow this great grass roots movement of ours, my Chicago speech was about the meaning of 'Puppy Up!' since I'm the knucklehead who came up with that rally cry prior to my Austin-to-Boston walk back in 2008.  And I still get questions about it.    

I hope the speech finds you well on this special day and forgive the Ray Charles like swaying.  I was freezing my bollocks off.    

Happy Thanksgiving.  Now Puppy Up and Chow Down!

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Blue Orchids


It's Thanksgiving week and family is foremost in my thoughts.  

I was supposed to spend this week in Texas, pitching a tent on the beaches of South Padre Island as I had for so many years of my youth.  Fishing on Triangle Island in Laguna Madre.  

When I close my eyes, the taste of brine is still on my tongue and my skin sand beaten by so many memories.    

That's how we spent Thanksgiving for as long as I can remember.  And while there's a lasting and longingness in my lustful though now grey and grizzled, bearded self to return there, I know I cannot.  

There's no return trip.  

I remember on our walk Savage Mountain, the highest peak on the Great Allegheny Trail and I was having a shitty day.  I mean the kinda day when you ask yourself, 'Why am I doing this?'  

And then you push through the mountain and you can see for hundreds of miles and it all becomes clear.  

There is no glory without the grind.  There are no blue orchids.  And there is no going home whatever and wherever that place is when you close your eyes.  

But there is Thanks.   

And whether that's a start or a finish to a sentence, to a friendship, to a journey, and to a love, this is what we celebrate this week.  

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Day 16: If You Don't Think Good...

...Don't think much.'  Ted Williams

'True.  But that's precisely when you should be doing your research!'  YBD


I feel quite confident now that I have a firm understanding of Mast Cell Tumors (MCT) and I wanted to share some of that with you.  

First off, I searched extensively for the most thorough though lucid account of this type of cancer from a microbiological and immunological perspective.  And that follows:


A normal mast cell is part of our immunologic defense systems against invading organisms. Mast cells are meant to participate in the war against parasites (as opposed to the war against bacterial or viral invaders). They are bound within tissues that interface with the external world such as the skin, respiratory or intestinal tract. They do not circulate through the body.

The mast cell possesses within itself granules of especially inflammatory biochemicals meant for use against invading parasites. (Think of these as small bombs that can be released). The mast cell has binding sites on its surface for a special type of antibody called IgE. IgE is produced in response to exposure to antigens typical of parasites (i.e., worm skin proteins, or similarly shaped proteins). IgE antibodies, which are shaped like tiny "Y"'s, find their way to a tissue mast cell and perch there. With enough exposure to the antigen in question, the mast cell may be covered with Y- shaped IgE antibodies like the fluff of a dandelion. The mast cell is said, at this point, to be sensitized.

As said, the IgE antibodies are Y-shaped. Their foot is planted in the mast cell while their arms lift up hoping to capture the antigen for which they were individually designed. When the antigen comes by and is grasped by the IgE antibodies, this should indicate that a parasite is near and the mast cell, like a land mine, degranulates releasing its toxic biochemical weapons. These chemicals are harmful to the parasite plus serve as signals to other immune cells that a battle is in progress and for them to come and join in.

At least this is what is supposed to happen.

A mast cell, coated with IgE antibodies, is exposed to pollen and degranulates, releasing its biochemical weapons of destruction.

The problem is that we live in a clean world without a lot of parasites. What unfortunately tends to happen is that the IgE/mast cell system is stimulated with other antigens that are of similar shape or size as parasitic antigens. These "next best" antigens are usually pollen proteins and the result is an allergy. Instead of killing an invading parasite, the mast cell biochemicals produce local redness, itch, swelling, and other symptoms we associate with allergic reactions.

As if the mast cell isn't enough of a troublemaker in this regard, the mast cell can form a tumor made of many mast cells. When this happens, the cells of the tumor are unstable. This means they release their toxic granules with simple contact or even at random creating allergic symptoms that do not correlate with exposure to any particular antigen.

There's additional info on diagnosis, grading, treatment etc. here.


To Chemo or Not to Chemo

Now that we have received the initial pathology report as a Grade II with a low mitotic index, some of the oncologists with which I consulted have recommended a 'Wait and See' approach with quarterly re-checks since we had wide surgical margins.  

However, since some Grade II  tumors don't always behave predictably, others suggested two additional tests. The first is the mast cell tumor panel that consists of two proliferation markers - PCNA and Ki67.  It has been demonstrated that dogs that have more rapid rate of cell proliferation are more likely to have an aggressive form of MCT and chemotherapy might be warranted.  

The second is know as the c-kit mutation.  It's been shown that about half of grade II MCTs have mutations in the proto-oncogene, c-kit, and were more likely to recur after surgery and metastasize.  


Mac and Me

Hudson's tumor, affectionately known now as Mac, has been sent out and we're awaiting the results of both tests. By Monday, hopefully, as that effects the decision I make about his treatment plan.  For now, more waiting.  And waiting. But having completed my research, I guess I can go back to not thinking much. 

I've compiled in excess of over fifty pages of research, links, etc. that I'd be happy to share upon request.  Email me at  Some of the information is repetitious but for me, that's just a way I make certain I retain it.  

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Slack Tide

There's a nautical term I'm thinking about tonight from my days of sailing.  It's the time between high and low tides, the ebb and the flow.  When the seas don't pull or push yet sit quiet for a second or two.   

It's the flux between the coming and going of gravitational forces that's almost entirely theoretic and a scientific impossibility since nature knows no true homeostasis and if it did, only fleetingly so.  

But It's the question we wake up to every morning but don't know how to go to sleep with every night. 

We all search for the Slack Tides of our existence.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Day 9: Name That Tumor

Though initial path results were favorable, we're going to do some additional analysis just to be sure, thanks to the advice of our good friends.  

Since the tumor is traveling about now trying to find out who and what it is, it seems a decent thing to give it a name other than, 'Haired skin and subcutis'.  

BTW - Toomey and Poly are taken.  

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Day 8: The Last of the Couch Potato Kidz

Buddy, Murphy both lost to cancer.  Hudson is the last remaining of that sacred cabal we formed back in 2011.  

I suppose that's why I'm taking this so hard.  Or one of the reasons.  As Fiorello LaGuardia, the famous chubby bad hair mayor of New York City (way before the dictatorship of Uncle Mike) once said that if a sparrow dies in Central Park he felt responsible. 

I do, too.  

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Day 6: Pathology Report

We got the pathology report back today: Mast Cell Grade II. Dr. B's a bad ass diagnostician so it was as we expected.  Now I have to determine how to proceed.  

As I previously wrote, with wide surgical margins Hudsito's prognosis is favorable. Here's a pretty good article about grading MC tumors, treatment options, etc. from Washington State.

Had Hudson's tumor been grade I, my decision would've wait and see for recurrence.  I'm not so sure now so I'll be conferring with a handful of experts before I determine what, if any, the treatment plan is.  

Friday, November 8, 2013

Day 5: The Mighty Mississippi

I forced myself to return here today.  

This blog will break your heart. Not because of Hudson - we didn't get the lab report in today and although that does cause some consternation, we suspected as much.  

It'll break your heart because of what the Mississippi River represents to this cause of ours for two reasons.  

1. Back in August 2008, we stopped at the juncture of I-40 and I-55 because, well, there's nowhere else to go.  Or to get across the river.  There are no pedestrian bridges and since Hudson and Murphy are hydrophobic, no chance of swimming across either.  

About and around this time, we met Ginger who was the Executive Director of the Humane Society and when I shared our plight with her, she suggested we cross via her boyfriend's boat moored in Harbortown:  pina coladas, pink umbrellas, and perhaps a seersucker suit for myself.  

Problem was, that's not my style. I didn't walk 600 miles to Memphis to play fancy.  50% of all watershed in the US flows down the river to the gulf and there was no way I wouldn't meet her mighty maw.  

I asked Ginger to find another way and she contacted the mayor, police chief, and a congressman and all said 'No.'  There was no way to cross the river they said. Maybe upstream somewhere.  

Well for those of you who know me, the phrase 'It can't be done' doesn't really translate or process in my brain.  

Clearly I-40 was impassable unless the whole city, county, and state shut down the bridge and they weren't doing that for dogs.   But after scouting out I-55 I felt there was something, possibly a utility bridge.  Turns out, my instincts were spot on & against all odds, Hudson, Murphy & me walked across the mighty Mississippi.  

2. The second time I was on the banks of the Mississippi when I was saying goodbye to Murphy in 2011.  He and I were there late at night all alone, listening to the passing barges signalling for safe passage.   

That night, I, too, sought the same.  

But because I couldn't save him, I wanted to walk him down to the rocky shore to the swift and certain currents that would drown the two of us together and ultimately spit us out in the the Gulf Coast.     

'Oh No, H2O' was why I didn't.  Murphy never liked water and that's why I couldn't.  Or at least I told myself that at the time.

I don't know how to give up.  And the four forces of the universe don't permit me to either.  Malcolm, Murphy, Hudson, Indiana.

Day 4: What Song Dog?

We hope to get the biopsy report today and while I've been gnashing at the bit, I'm wondering what song personifies Hudson.   I've bandied a few ideas with a dear friend of mine but I remain uncertain and as my ear buds abound with possibilities, I ask you:

What song is your dog?

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Day 3: Wish You Were Here

I've made it through the worst of my existential crisis in large part due to the outpouring of support.  For that I am thankful.   

Hudson is convalescing well though he's still hopped up on Tramadol and feeling no pain.  Hopefully we'll get the results back from the lab Friday so we can know what we're up against. Everything is on hold til then.  As most of you know, the waiting is excruciating especially for my personality type.  

Dr. Blackburn feels like he got clean margins which is good news and from my preliminary research even if it's a grade 2, the prognosis is pretty promising. There's a lot of hope to hold on here.  

I reintroduced Indiana to Hudson for the first time today and he played the dutiful little brother role perfectly.  Except when he tried to pull Hudson's cone off which was cute.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Where's Your God Now?

Ricky Gervais must be laughing his ass off.  

As a humorist, friend to animals, and self proclaimed atheist, I've poked and prodded and kidney punched him here a few times about the apparent dichotomy: how can one love animals and not see God?  

Well, the second of the 2 dogs that walked cross country just got diagnosed with cancer like the first.  As a man of faith it must be fitting in some cruel Biblical irony.  

But I don't and won't believe it is.  My mission was God given.  After all, a stripper from San Antonio started it all.  

*Disclaimer - not all animal loving atheists post Sharpie outlined moob Selfies on Twitter.  Not Safe for Work.  Not Safe Ever.  Sorry.  

Day 2: Big Bad Bill

Big Bad Fuzzybutt

He was always sweet William.

Day 1: Do Over

So many nights on the road I woke up not knowing where we were or when we were.  That same dazed disorientation has descended upon me since Hudson's diagnosis yesterday. 

But I'm starting to work my way through this mad, miasmic maze to the stone cold stark reality that Hudson has cancer.  

Shit, didn't I just give a speech about this the other day?  

'Oh woe is me' is the pity party we throw ourselves sometimes but it's absolutely essential. It means that you care enough to take it on 100%.  200%.  1,000%.  I'm not good with math so I'll stop here.  

I made many mistakes with Murphy's cancer and they haunt me still but I own them. There are no 'do overs' in life.  

There's only today and tomorrow.   Tomorrow is Day 2.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

Highway 40

Just as I was driving to Dr. Blackburn's vet clinic this morning, I was thinking of a funny way to punk everyone about Hudson's lump on his rump.  I intended to write, 'Well, it's bad news for Hudson.  The vet informed us that he's really a French existentialist with a penchant for Clove cigarettes, berets, beatnik poetry, and menage-a-trois. 

After aspirating the tumor and examining it under the microscope, Dr. 'B', as he's affectionately known, returned to the room and said, 'I'm 100% sure...' and I was about to do a 'Whew' until he continued...'It's a mast cell tumor'. 

Hudson has cancer and is under the knife as I write, to remove it.  Please keep him in your thoughts and prayers as there is a chance, ever so slight, that when the tumor is excised, the massive release of histamines from the agitated B cells can be fatal it seems though I'm still trying to process the unprocessable.   

But what we do know is that we won't know until it's biopsied what exactly we're up against nor what the plan is for four or five days.  

I will not be on FB or reachable here at the earliest until the results or back.  Ginger will keep you updated probably here and the 2milliondogs fan page.  However, my blog will chronicle every aspect of Hudson's cancer.  

I have to go now and learn everything there is to know about mastocytoma.   

I wondered why I've had nightmares recently about Highway 40. 

I am inconsolable

Sunday, November 3, 2013

The Couch Potato Kidz

Bittersweet to be back in Memphis even if for a little while.  It was 2 years ago that I was here to live out the lives of both Murphy and Buddy as both had terminal cancer.  

The two of them plus me & Hudson had a helluva time in Ginger's living room back then in the final stages of their lives. 

I posted the nearby note on her living room door,as though we were members of an exclusive club, and around these parts we notoriously became known as the 'Couch Potato Kidz'.  

2 years later, Ginger still has the note I posted on the door to the living room, pictured nearby.   Only Hudson remains.

It's hard to return here.  To see this.

John Donne wrote, 'Thy firmness makes my circle just and makes me end where I begun'.