While at dinner with my family in San Antonio last week Jon said grace and in his prayer he thanked God that ‘Our lost brother has come home’.  
Today I leave Memphis to return to New England to tell this story.  As you know I’ve tried in the past and either the timing or platform or partners didn’t pan out.  Events that have transpired in recent months have convinced me the time is now.  
Admittedly the problem has primarily been me or more specifically the standards I set for it.  Just as with the two walks I wanted to do something no one else has before and relegating the story to the Christian book market or a PBS special was unacceptable.  Even a film festival documentary didn’t seem sufficient.  
The epidemic of cancer in our companions demands and deserves the widest audience possible and I’ve always pushed and pushed to that end.  But one lesson I’ve learned repeatedly is you cannot depend on anyone else to realize your vision and like life on the road it’s you and you alone.  
I now know how to tell this story and the manner in which to tell it so once again I set off into uncharted waters. 
Brother, I am lost no longer.  
YBD 2.27.17
Wait a tic I’m on central time now.  On the Eastern seaboard I’m actually 46. 
And it’s been more than a month since my birthday but  as I alluded to in my previous post, it’s been kind of a breakthrough month for me.
Turning mid 40s your body starts to say, “HEY!!! REMEMBER ME???” and it was time for me to stop and take inventory.  Maybe it started talking to me earlier but sometimes I don’t listen so good.  
Louis CK says it best in this video – it’s absolutely hilarious but as per louis, it’s a little ripe with the language.  
2018 will be the most important year of my life and that’s the reason I’m focusing intensely on getting to peak performance.  No spoilers now and probably not for months but you’ll understand soon enough.
Here’s what I’m working on.  
Body
For most of my adult life I’ve suffered from a bad lower back caused by a work related injury that was exacerbated by being rear ended by a Dodge Ram when I was en route to a deep sea fishing excursion in Corpus Christie. I was at a dead stop and he was doing about 40 mph and that herniated a lower disc to say the least.  Backpacking 4,000 miles with an FSO of 100+ lbs didn’t help and it’s been a battle since, two steroid injections not withstanding.  
Then there’s the knee but there’s no sense in going into detail – we all have to learn how to walk with wounds.  
I’ve never been a gym junkie before but I can’t go more than a day away from it now.  Plus, Planet Fitness has a hydromassage table and I could live for days on that machine.  I’m also back to walking a few miles daily typically after my workout.    
Mind
I have a hyper functioning brain which is cool at times especially when I need to summon my creativity but it also makes me highly susceptible to noise and distractions.  Just ask anyone who watches TV with me.  Advertisements – I really wouldn’t even call them that since they’re often the lowest common denominator – drive me nuts.  AND… hah – caught myself. 
Also I’m a political junkie since half my family comes from Louisiana where politics is a blood sport so I’ve had to filter that out, too.  Except for Mark Simone since he covers culinary trends in NYC and film.  Still it’s hard at times since I’ve always prided myself with being current and well read but given the volume levels nowadays, it short circuits my CPU.  And ya gotta protect that. 
Instead, my earbuds have become myelinated sheaths which both insulate my thoughts and along with workouts and walking, propagate them at greater frequencies.  More on this and music choices later…. 
Diet
You’d think after as many miles I’ve logged, I would have this figured out.  But, traveling with the fuzzybutts required me to make tough decisions about pack weight almost always to my detriment.  Their food, comfort, and safety always came first and when backpacking every gram counts.  Which meant many days and night I feasted on whatever I could find at C-Stores or not at all.  Just ask Mommy G how many boxes of nuts and dried fruits went unsent because I just couldn’t afford the pack weight and sometimes it was 30-40 miles between towns.  
No ma’am, my diet on the road consisted mostly of Pork Rinds and pickles for salt and Sour Patch Kids for sugar and that messes with you the older you get.  
Spiritual
See previous blog, Midnight with Murphy, but it won’t be my only one about it. 
Garbage In, Garbage Out
This is a common phrase you encounter in the technology world.  Basically it means crappy coding begets shitty software and that’s so, so true of your body, mind, and spirit with diet affecting them all.  I don’t pretend or presume to be an expert in any of them but I’m learning.  Nor will I turn into some freaky fitness creep that you encounter on infomercials.  
In turning 46, I have to focus on all if I hope to reach optimal performance by this time next year.   Me and my shitty back.  And my shitty knee.  
——–
YBD’s Notes:  FSO = From Skin Out calculated by everything you carry and wear minus your nekkid self.  Couldn’t find a quick and easy link about it.    
The boys and I are back from a brief jaunt down to Texas to support the Puppy Up walk in the Woodlands and for a short visit with my family.  Quite happy to be back as I have missed my friend.  Crap, I still haven’t named him.  Um let’s go with…
I know some of you are saying, he’s talking about himself again – why does he do that?  And where’s the cancer blog? Like any capable contestant, I’ll take the second part first.  Trying to reduce, distill and refine all that I have learned over a decade of  travels in a few mere blogs is not only dreadfully difficult, it’s daunting, too, and on this I want to get it right.  Or mostly right which is more kin to my nature.  
In the past, there have been blogs I’ve powered through in just a few minutes with a fire and forget mentality.  Others haven taken days and even weeks for a paragraph or less.  And that’s not to mention that for every blog I publish, there are at least ten I don’t.  
But if it’s a sneak peak you want then I’ll give you a little taste of part 1:  Cancer is You.  You are Cancer.  From just the title alone perhaps you can estimate the enormity of the undertaking now.
Next, I used to get irritated by people – and there have been many – who want me to remove myself entirely from this story and stick to topic whatever that means.  Not only is that an odd request since it was me – ex animo – who created all of this – but I rather think I matter.  And I’m far from being done.  But as The Dude would say, that’s, like, only my opinion, man (Heads up for the F Bomb).  
Besides as I hinted at in the previous two blogs, all of these ‘distracting little posts’ about me are going somewhere and I suggest now would be the time to start paying attention if’n you want to begin this stretch of the journey alongside me.    
——–
Renwick 
That’s what I’ll call my friend!  Sounds a little pretentious and overly caricatured, too, but I’ll stick with it. Anyway back to the beginning – it’s good to see him again and we have continued our work together and this is what I wanted to share with you.  It’s important to note that I’m merely a student at this point but it’s pretty powerful stuff.  Especially altered states which I intend on speaking separately about.  
Whilst down at my folks house I came across an old photo album – actually I sought it out.  In part to retrace the tracks of my life and for another reason that will soon become evident.  And in it I discovered the above photo of a half naked me facing a bull cross fence at Big Momma’s house (that’s what we called my 80 lb grandmother cause man could she wield a skillet like a battle axe).  What struck me, other than how large my bollocks must’ve been but also how at peace I seem.  Maybe it was two beasts regarding each other and that’s why I was unafraid and perhaps even comforted by his presence.

I never have taken a liking to the term ‘beast’ or what I sense is its social nuance.  Its implication is negative and connotations derogatory.  To me it means true to ones nature; it is base, fundamental and instinctive.  From my research the etymology of the word remains unclear however, the root of ‘animal’ is Latin meaning breath or spirit. I suppose the distinction between the two words ‘beast’ and ‘animal’ is essence versus being but I’ll leave that one up to the scholarly sorts who have a ton of disposable time.  

To me and for now, they are synonymous.  I am reminded of a story I once read of a boy who, all alone and lost in the woods, becomes a beast to protect himself from the perils of the night and fight his way to safety.  But upon emerging from the forest unscathed the boy learns that he cannot unbecome.

So what’s the point of all of this?  What’s the purpose?  Somewhere along my journey I stopped asking the fundamental questions that preoccupied my youth.  Like tears in rain they became lost in life’s torrent of distractions, inanities and wasteful activities.

Renwick has helped me find who I am again and to truly know it for the first time.  I am a beast of a man.

What’s next – it’s damn time I learn how to train it.

——–

YBD’s Notes:  Interestingly in writing this blog I came across a Latin phrase of unknown origin –  cum vir se bestiam facitrelinquit dolorem humanitatis which means, ‘When a man makes himself a beast, he leaves behind the pain of humanity’.  Perhaps true.  Perhaps humanity is the problem. 
I should’ve been fasting these past 10 days out in the hinterlands of Tennessee.  All alone in my trusty tent starving myself of sustenance in order to achieve some greater clarity, understanding and context that occasionally is lost to me.  Heck I was packed up and ready to head out and then something stopped me.  Can’t say what for sure – but the cascade of events set in motion since have been nothing short of metamorphic.   
Recently, I met a man who showed me another way and for the past two weeks I’ve been doing some serious transcendental shit; acupuncture, chanting, Reiki and sensory deprivation (not like Altered States – I’m already a beast of a man but more internal, intrinsic).    If I didn’t know better I’d think I’d been smoking some serious Humboldt county style Boo-Ya.  Yes, yes I got a PhD in weed on the west coast.  
Sure, I’ve acknowledged the possibility and potential of and even dabbled in these Eastern type practices but never personally, truly, and profoundly have I explored them.  And now I’m down in it.  
So where is it going to take me?  What’s the endpoint of it all?  To this, I am as yet uncertain.  But here’s what I have learned thus far on this new path.
The Fallacy of ‘What Should Happen Should Happen’
I was never any good at Logic – not the concept or application of it – but in the scholastic sense and  as a subset of philosophy.  So in attempting to make sense of the sequence of events that led me here to this time and place – I made up this fallacy which is basically the basis of flawed logic. 
People often ask me why did you walk those thousands of miles.  Oh sure, I’ve got a pocket full of reasons.  The fun, flippant one – everything is bigger in Texas and when we lose a dog to cancer down there we don’t walk around a park, we walk cross country.  Then I’ve got the media sound bite version – sharing Malcolm and Murphy’s story from town to town to raise awareness of the epidemic of canine cancer. I’ve got many more but you get the point.  
Perhaps they are all truths or variations of the same one but for me it’s because I believed walking from Austin to Boston would help heal my loss of Malcolm, to soothe my savage heart. And then within weeks of the final mile, Murphy was diagnosed and, well, most of you know the rest of that story.   
And so I walked another 1,700 miles doubling down on the belief that THAT would heal me.   
You see the fallacy in this logic?  That because I believed it should, it should’ve.  But it didn’t.  
Luke 4:23
You know, it’s commonly thought that the origin of my name is ‘light giving’ and the best known example of it is the apostle Paul’s traveling companion and doctor.  This proverb – I had to look that up since, um, well I usually skipped Bible study in search of less pious pursuits shall we say – in Latin reads cura te ipsum  – ‘Physician heal thyself’ something that’s been a bit of an impossibility for me it seems.  
I suppose my post-facto rationalization has always been – I never spare myself any emotion for Malcolm and Murphy no matter how painful.  I can endure it.  Just like so many nights on the road and asea, I can weather this storm.  But I have suffered so.  
Self-imposed or not.  
Disconnection
Back to this newfound friend of mine, whom I barely even know. He showed me that pain can be a way to separate yourself from others.  To disconnect from them.  Furthermore, he said that people like me unknowingly use tragedy to spare themselves from the need and necessity of love and letting others in.  
I’m not sure if I believe all of his bullshit yet – but hey, I’m listening.    You see, it’s one thing to turn tragedy into action – oh, I’ve done that and then some.  It’s quite another thing to allow that experience to truly transform you.  And it’s here I find myself at this intersection.   
Life Off Road
Not to put too fine a point on it but I’ve become a bit of an expert on backpacking the byways, highways, back roads and farm roads of this incredible land of ours.  But take me off and away from it and I tend to fall apart.  Perhaps it’s because I’m always in pursuit of an idea, a belief, a cause – our cause – that remains elusive to me.  Or maybe it’s as simple as finding sedentary existence unsettling and like Carthamus I’m damned to a life of wandering and wondering.   
And while I have been pretty good at chronicling and sharing my journeys on the road with you, I’ve been decidedly deficit in talking about it off, especially post west coast.  From now on, that will change.  I won’t let fear, doubt, uncertainty, darkness or utter despair disconnect me from you again.  
In part because some of you have said to me you find the latter much more inspiring and relatable if not essential than the former.  And in part because my new friend tells me to.  
That and I need a simpler formula for existence.  I live.  I learn.  I write.  Something like that… just less cheesy and Julia Roberts sounding.  
Postscripts
Two blogs in draft right now (1) On Turning 36 – My travels and adventurin’ have taken their toll on Yer Big Dog so I lick my wounds and tell tales about it; (2) The Theory of Cancer – lately my thinking has gotten so abstract and theoretical about the evolution of cancer. Where is it going and how can that affect our thinking about the future of therapeutics? On societal and civil re-engineering?  Reflections on my conversations with thought leaders and a whole host of other ideas – this will definitely be a multi-part project. 
There are more… lots more but I’m attempting to do a better job of prioritizing my crazy.
——–

YBD’s Notes 1: The name of this blog has a special meaning to me.  Back when I was a businessman in Texas I would often take Malcolm up to my office in the evenings and that inspired a series of writings I entitled Midnight with Malcolm.  Dunno what the change denotes quite yet…

YBD’s Notes 2: I stuff hyperlinks in my blogs if’n anyone wants to learn more about things that fascinate me but be forewarned – logic will make yer eyes water.  

YBD’s Notes 3: Upon further reflection ‘What Should Happen Should Happen’ SHOULD be a fallacy. Oh boy.

YBD’s Notes 4: Coincidentally, whilst recently consolidating all of my scant worldly possessions from around the country, I found this photo of me taken at the blessing of my childhood home.  I’ve seen too much of this world in this life to believe in coincidences.  Thanks to my sister-in-law Linda for preserving it.  Nice bowl cut, Mom
YBD’s Notes 5:  I should choose a name for my new friend – he’s not imaginary.  I Promise.  At least in my mind.  In this room.  That’s white.  And padded.  

YBD’s Notes 6: Perhaps it’s still too early for me to write – no, I’m always doing that – to publish about these transcendental, metaphysical experiences and experiments.  But hey, at least I’m rounding again.  
That’ll be carved into my tombstone. 
I always found it to be a cosmic irony that I was the guy picked for this job if that’s even the right word for describing my life’s mission.  But trust me this was not the path that I chose for myself.  
Today is the anniversary of when I lost Malcolm – he was a gift from an ex from some distant land some distant time ago.  I didn’t know a damn thing about dogs back then other than I didn’t want one.  I worked 12 hours a day times 7. I was the chairman of this, the director of that… the creator and entrepreneur and my life didn’t lend itself to distractions.
And that’s what a dog was to me. A distraction.  
You see Malcolm & me was no easy thing.  He balked when I wanted him to obey and for six long months he and I were at war.  I didn’t know back then but I believe now he was fighting for my soul. 
And isn’t that the lesson?  No spirit should be secondary.  Not to anyone or because of anything.  
It’s been a decade since lung mets sent him into congestive heart failure and Malcolm died in my arms.  It was an inglorious death to a giant and only those who understand, understand.  
damn dog. i miss you. damnit. 
YBD’s Notes: What better way to celebrate Malcolm’s life than by damning him. I’m quite certain he would’ve done the same about me.  He was a beautiful boy.  

For whatever cosmic reasons beyond my complete comprehension the Week of the 19th of June is what the Japanese call, “Mono no aware” – both beauty and pain, celebration and sadness…
It’s always the week of Father’s Day, the anniversary of the Final Mile in Boston, the passing of my boy Murphy, and the birth of Indiana Jones. It’s also the week of the summer solstice whose Latin translation roughly means the day the sun stands still.  When there is the least darkness. 
Every year it’s a week I’d just like to fast forward through and move on because it can be too much for even me to shoulder.  And I’ve carried a ton of weight for some time.  But no one gets that option when you allow yourself to love absolutely.  
Five years ago today I gave Murphy rest and five years later I still weep inconsolably when I write about him.  His final days we spent together listening to Garth Brook’s song The Dance and he loved it before I even realized the significance of the lyrics.  Paraphrasing them, ‘I’m glad I didn’t know the way it all would end.  But even if I did, I wouldn’t have missed the dance.’  
Just like every light begins with darkness the Week of the 19th is about the lessons from life’s inflections.  For me it’s been both a beginning and an ending and the promise and the pain of love as well.    
And what a beautiful dance it’s been.  Happy 19th!

Happy Independence Day all!  
I wish, really really wish I could be announcing our independence from cancer today but the sad sorry leadership in this country at every level doesn’t deem it necessary to make the number one killer of pets and people a national priority.  
With cancer research funding levels at a record low at the NIH, that makes what we do at The Puppy Up Foundation increasingly important.  
I’ll be brief because I have to go out and be Chef Big Dog today but what I love about this story is three things.  First the folks in Madison WI that continue to raise the bar for our Puppy Up Walks. Second is that Dr. Christensen heard my presentation at the 2010 VCS conference in San Diego.  
Half the audience left since I was the last speaker at a long event so I want to give a shout out to him for that.  And to Dr. Sue cause she stayed, too.  Trail magic, my friends.  Always. 
Third and most importantly is that this $100k study can potentially benefit all kids diagnosed with bone cancer – canine and human.  Even though I was unable to attend the presentation of this rather large and seemingly uncashable check, there are a ton of people throughout the country who made our first grant of 2015 possible. 
So to all of those people, light up a sparkler or hell, man the roman candles – today is your day.  I can’t celebrate the leaders of this country but I truly, completely celebrate you.  

From left: Beth Viney, PuppyUp Madison co-chair; Dr. Neil Christensen; Dr. Kai Shiu, PuppyUp Madison co-chair; and Ginger Morgan, Executive Director of the PuppyUp Foundation.

We’re pleased to announce we have awarded our first grant of 2015 to the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM).
Our ability to continue funding such outstanding research is because of the passion and commitment of volunteers, donors, and sponsors all over the country, who organize and join in our PuppyUp Walks, participate in our yearly calendar contests, play in our golf tournaments (one is coming up in August), and contribute their time, energy, and resources to our common goal of eradicating cancer from the lives of those we love, whether two, three, or four-footed.
Thank you for your continued participation and support.
(from the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine web site)
July 2, 2015
Article and photo by Nik Hawkins
Osteosarcoma is a highly aggressive and painful bone cancer that affects both dogs and humans. With thousands of new cases diagnosed in dogs each year, it is the most common form of canine bone tumor, and most dogs succumb to the disease within a year of diagnosis.
Oncologists at the University of Wisconsin School of Veterinary Medicine (SVM) have been investigating osteosarcoma for some time, looking to uncover its underlying causes and develop more effective therapies. And now, thanks to a $96,000 grant from the PuppyUp Foundation, the school will launch a new study aimed at improving mobility and quality of life for dogs afflicted by the disease.
Under the direction of Dr. Neil Christensen,  clinical instructor in the Department of Surgical Sciences and a member of the UW Veterinary Care (UWVC)  radiation oncology team, researchers will explore the potential benefits of stereotactic radiation therapy for osteosarcoma patients.
“Stereotactic radiation is a newer form of treatment made possible by recent technological advances,” says Christensen. “It allows for larger, more accurate doses of radiation while still sparing healthy tissue, in comparison to traditional palliative radiation, which involves smaller, prolonged doses.”
Specifically, the study will look at how stereotactic radiation performs in terms of pain relief for patients and in stimulating an immune response that helps patients’ bodies fight bone tumors on their own.
UWVC is equipped to deliver this advanced treatment with its TomoTherapy unit, which was originally developed at the University of Wisconsin-Madison using data from SVM clinical trials. TomoTherapy is now used widely in human medicine, but only one other veterinary medical hospital in the nation offers this technology.
“Our hope is to help a lot of dogs affected by this disease in the future,” says Christensen. “And the data we generate should be applicable to treating osteosarcoma in humans as well.”
The Puppy Up grant stems from proceeds from the PuppyUp Madison Walk,  which helped raise more than $213,000 in 2014 and 2015. The PuppyUp Foundation aims to discover the links between canine and human cancers, as well as the causes of these diseases, by supporting comparative oncology research and promoting awareness of the field.
Christensen’s collaborators on the study include Dr. Timothy Stein, assistant professor of medical oncology; Dr. Michelle Turek, assistant professor of radiation oncology; Dr. Lisa Forrest, professor of radiology and radiation oncology; Margaret Henzler, medical physicist; Dr. Jason Bleedorn,  clinical assistant professor of orthopedic surgery; Dr. Peter Muir, professor of orthopedic surgery; and John Kloke, assistant scientist in the UW-Madison Department of Biostatistics and Medical Informatics.
The fraternity of extreme adventurers is actually and quite understandably small.  I’ve reduced the reason down to one simple equation – the glory versus the grind.  If glory>grind no. If grind>glory maybe.  There’s grit in there but that’s a conversation for another time.  
Most begin with the finish line in mind and forget about the millions of steps it takes to get there and don’t realize they’re doomed from the very start. 
I’ve crossed paths with hundreds of would be adventurers who wanted to conquer the AT or the PCT, the vast majority of whom succumbed to the algebra but one, I’m happy to say, did not.  My good friend, John Stalls.  
What I can say about this lad is, other than that he walked from coast to coast, is that as a strapping 6’5 tall and ruggedly gaunt man, he’s the poster boy for great adventures.  Even though I’ve walked many more miles than him, when and if I ever get a Wikipedia page, I hope they put John’s picture on it because he looks the part. 
And lives it, too.  Since he completed his cross country journey Johnathan Stalls has built an organization committed to promoting wellness through walking.  Mile by mile his walk to connect has inspired many people in Denver CO and now he wants to expand it to other communities.  John is a man I’d put my money behind and I hope you will support him in his campaign to realize his vision for Life at 3MPH.  
  
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-value-of-walking-together#/story
I can’t recall
a love without fear

Nor a journey
without tears

So don’t embark
unless you’re clear

On all the costs
across the years

Because love etern
bears a price that burns

A flame forever
astem. astern

Hard to believe it’s 8 years in the making since we started the ‘Cancer Can’t Keep a Good Dog Down’ calendar in honor and memory of our canine heroes touched by cancer.  
Damn I remember our first one when I had to carry my 10 pound clunky Dell laptop for miles in my backpack on the C&O trail to upload the photos for the contest cause Erich was still on a 128k modem. Good times…
Unlike cheerleading tryouts in Texas, it’s not really a contest – all are beauties and featured in the calender.  Nearby is the link to the blog about how you can participate http://www.2milliondogs.org/our-8th-annual-cancer-cant-keep-a-good-dog-down-canine-cancer-calendar-contest-has-begun/
Thanks Erich for being the Keeper of the Calendar.