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
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.  

“With every damn dog I love, I learn something I didn’t know.”

Since I’ve been off the road from the West Coast Walk and perhaps what I witnessed while on it, I’ve been wondering why Hudson has had 3 mast cell tumors in less than 2 years despite favorable path reports and negative genetic indicators.  

Even though we’ve had two allergy tests on him for some odd reason I never thought to consult an allergist.  Until Tuesday.  We met with Dr. Shanley at Hope Vet Specialists in Malvern PA on our way to the Puppy Up Walk in Madison WI and our conversation confirmed that I’m not alone in my suspicions that there may be a correlation between allergy prone dogs and mast cell tumors.  


That Hudson is my third son with cancer, I always feel I’m so far behind no matter how far I walk.  

  

Divers have to decompress before resurfacing and the greater the depth of the dive the longer the decompression. I’ve pretty much been unplugged and down and out right disconnected since the completion of the West Coast Walk because I needed to.  
But I haven’t just been making angels in the tons of snow that’s blanketed CT – tho Hudsy and Nanners (nice snow stache BTW) have – I’ve been deep in reflection on the enormity my accomplishments but more importantly how to tell it.  The right way.  
The story’s the thing.  
Beginning March 16th, the 7th anniversary of the start of the first walk, I’ll be posting a seven part interview with Yer Big Dog wherein which I will talk not only about the great and the glory of this grand adventure but the trials and tribulations, too.  From the fantastic people we’ve met on our path to the fantastical things we’ve experienced.  
And we’re making it interactive.  I’ve gotten thousands of questions over the expanse of our journey and haven’t always been able to answer all of them so also we’re opening this up to you.  If you have something you’d like to personally ask YBD, send me an email by Feb 15th.  Not via FB or TW or in a comment here.  Hopefully we can get it and we’ll try our best because I have a lot to say.  Over 4,000 miles and 1,044 days, I’ve walked the walk now it’s time to talk the talk.  #4000miles

Walking a higher road

I’ve spent a few days walking, talking and scouting walk routes with Luke. Wow.

Day 1- “Danger Luke Robinson”.

These roads are just downright scary. The route 101 highway from Oreck to Patricks Point was a part of the route I walked with Luke. The hills, the narrow “shoulders”- more like fingers in my opinion, are just dangerous. Combine the hairpin curves with speeding traffic, distracted and well, rude drivers that won’t move over create a hazardous scenario for our fuzzybutt friend and his Papi.  “zigging and zagging” along the road, yep, I get that now.  Luke is cautious and protective of his kids and from what I’ve witnessed, I think he would risk his own life to save theirs.

Day 2-The choir

As we walked from Patricks Point state park to Trinidad, we were serenaded by the beautiful sound of sea lions in the fog. We were off of route 101 and walked along the coast.  I felt fortunate to hear the sea lions singing, but sad that I couldn’t see them through the thick, dense fog. Oh and yes, more hills, up and down and back up and then down.

The Digs

I actually enjoy camping out as it reminds me of my youth, when my family would go on camping adventures in our 1972 Chevy station wagon, loaded up with gear!  Those were the days.

I have mastered setting up and breaking down my tent in record time. (Actually, I think I’m quicker at it than Luke). What I bring to the campsite- lights, fun and purposeful battery operated mini flower multi colored string lights. They seem to be the funnest thing our fellow campers have seen.

My sleeping bag, pillow (yes, I brought my pillow from home), sleeping pad- not nearly thick enough as I can feel every stone, root and etc through it. The downside-the dirt factor.

Trust your instinct.
Believe what you see is real. Example, if you think you have just seen a bear on the other side of the campsite across from you, then trust that you have.
If your gut tells you to go right vs left, listen to no one. Trust your gut. And yes, I did spot a young black bear and when we walked down to check him out, we noticed his sibling/friend with him. Climbing trees for apples and not caring about us as we marveled at the peaceful coexistence.  2 black bears, 2 young bucks, 2 fawns and a few doe. The bucks, standing stoic as they protected the fawn and doe, and yes they were more cautious of us, than the black bears.

Believe in yourself.
You CAN do what you put your mind to. Walk at your own pace.  Focus on you and your goals and let the naysayers kiss your keester when you finish.


Note: the days I cranked out some miles walking with Luke were for my bestie, Kate, who has terminal cancer. Diagnosed with breast cancer a year ago, which spread to her bones in her spine and skull. She’s in pain. As I walked with Luke and Indy, I thought of Kate. I dismissed the aches and pains felt while walking and post walk because, well Kate has aches and pains on a daily basis. I know Kate will continue her fight and stay strong. I am hoping next year, we can do our cross country adventure and kick up some dust along the way. Just like old days.  

Papa K.  This walk and trip has also inspired me to plan a cross country trip with Papa K.  He is living vicariously through me on this trek and wants to see the sights before his days are up. I will be part of that wish for Papa K.  Perhaps he joins Kate and I!  It would be a blast  for us driving across country in an RV, at our own pace, visiting anywhere we want. Papa K- wants Vegas to be part of our trip. And I can’t wait to see him taking in the sights of Sin City, the Grand Canyon and Hoover Dam. 2015 will be a defining year. 

Of course there’s a zombie foot on our travels.  This was on the sidewalk in Florence OR

Curious moss covered listing ship in rogue river bay

Ummm did someone contact the marketing dept before putting a spout on the company van grill?  

The head shed?  Ok

It’s never the moving forward that’s the hardest thing on a long journey.  It’s the leaving behind. 

Tuesday August 5th at 12:30 The fearless fuzzybutts and their kilted mate crossed the stateline into California alongside a dozen or so lovely companions.  The folks of Brookings OR really rallied together and gave us the perfect send off (or they were anxious to kick our fuzzybutts into the next state).

We were greeted by this sign at the Blue Coast Hotel and Zoe, the concierge was most gracious to us during our stay.  The warm welcome and generosity of the folks from Brookings couldn’t have exemplified our Oregon experience better.  



From L to R: jan (dog less), Tracey & Greg (with canyon, willy & red) Marlene, & carol with Oso.  Not present in the photo are Donna, the mastermind behind team Brookings, Arliss the chamber of commerce head who helped out a ton, and Suzy Q. Can’t thank team Brookings enough for making our last stretch in Oregon so special.  


We found this garden of Eden, smallish white flowered meadow just large enough to accommodate our tent above the cape Sebastian beach.  One of the most magical places we’ve tented out here and it’s significant in that it’s the closest we’ve camped to the water for a few reasons.  High water mark isn’t easy to discern and even if I could the tides are semi-diurnal meaning 2 high and low tides per day.  Plus with the mountains most of the coast has been either too far down or outland.
There’s a saying that’s taken me awhile to learn, ‘Don’t turn your back on the pacific.’  
Mountain mists and fog banks are a daily occurrence here. High temps from the valley east of the coastal mountains pull cooling air off the Pacific Ocean.  Though they consume the coastline and make visibility limited on the coastal highway, they keep the mornings and late afternoons cool. 




Previous three photos were taken at cape Sebastian beach.  We’ve seen so much native beauty in Oregon but this place will always hold a special place in our hearts.


Indiana provides quite the comic relief.  His quirky sometimes quixotic character cracks me up.  


Port Orford – the battle rock.  What a stunning vista in one of the smallest coastal towns we’ve been in.  

So many more photos and videos from the Oregon coast but one common problem had plagued us throughout – cell phone service.  It’s so bad I had to get a verizon go phone in case of emergencies.  I hear it’s better in northern CA but around the bend is miles and miles or redwood forest and we take it one mile at a time.

But before we move on I want to thank the people who made Oregon so memorable and historic (in no specific order other than on the top of YBD’s head):  Cathy the Pyrenees queen, Cathy from Portland who took us to the rose garden; Maria & Chris who helped me rescue the damn dove; Rob & Cindy – never got to use your card rob even tho I hoped to pull it out & say something cool like, ‘call this man’; sandy & Anna – thnx for the spacious fenced in lot for us to plop at night and your kind and generous spirits, Vince & Diane – the little green man hopes to see you again on our trek; Candy & the grandkids from the ‘Boo’; Kim, Red & Carlie from Florence; heather from the Florence animal shelter, Laura from FOCCAS in coos bay, the animal shelter in gold beach; Maryanne & Greg who looked after Hudson in gold beach;  Jenny who took us to breakfast at a Toyota dealership – that was strange but good; & grandma carol who cried when she had to return Hudson to the road.  

Though the list not complete and for that I apologize our lives are richer and fuller having crossed paths with you in Oregon.  And though we must move on, you’ll always be in our thoughts. 

——–

YBDs notes: orygun (sic)
A week from today our good friend Valerie from CT is flying to CA to join us on the road for a week.  In her words she wants to experience what our life is like out here and not just walking a mile or a day.  Yep pack, tent, she’ll be carrying her on weight.  I’ve invited her to guest blog here so we can discuss last minute preparations and she can share her side of the adventure.
V – 
I shed my base layers, tops and bottoms in Brookings & I’ve regretted it since.  Temps in Northern California, or at least this stretch of it ave low 60s in the day and 50s at night.  Sweltering heat from the rogue valley pulls high afternoon winds and fog banks and unless I’m in my tent snuggled up with the boys I’m chilled by the damp air.  
But as I’ve found along the coastline from Newport OR to here there are different microclimates distinct to each of the areas.
The redwood forests are right around the bend and I can’t speak to the climate there yet.  My suggestion is pack lightweight base layers – silk, which I prefer, or wicking synthetic.  Fleece just adds more pack weight & don’t think you’ll need the heavier fabric.
Shoes – hope you have that worked out by now. Don’t know why the vasques cause toe cramping – I love mine – but each foot has different demands.  But that has to be resolved ASAP.  Like fletcher wrote – footwear is the foundation – get that wrong and you won’t make it a week.
Don’t worry about packing first aid sundries – I keep sufficient supply.  Also I pack a multi tool, extra carabiners, zip ties etc.  
I’m worldly enough to know NOT to tell a woman what grooming/cosmetics to pack but since you’ll be carrying your own food and water the pounds add up.  I have nail clippers (since I have to keep toes ultra short) razor & cream (travel size) and axe spray for when I’m in public and haven’t had a chance to shower or do laundry.
You’ll probably want to bring soap since most campgrounds have showers but I wouldn’t expect that luxury more than once during the week.  
Other essentials in your pack – a cpl of ziplock bags to keep your electronics dry, poncho (even though I’ve only used mine twice in the 3 months on the road), a chamois or microfiber towel, sunblock (I don’t carry any), a pkg of wipes or rinse free hand soap, bug spray (though I haven’t had much of a problem thus far and I recommend skin so soft rather than a deet based product).  
Pillow – if your body contour requires it but I don’t afford the space for one and instead use my clothes sack plus my pack for a head rest but it’s not terribly comfortable but comfort is a notion you’ll have to divorce yourself of quickly.  
Once you arrive next Saturday and pick us up from the road we’ll have the balance of the day to do a gear check and purchase any last minute provisions.  But these are mostly small coastal communities out here – no walmarts, best buys or REIs.
Hope your training is going well but don’t push yourself after Thursday. Stick to stretching exercises.  As cell service is questionable up in the forests, post your questions or last minute concerns here….

I leave my loves at home and go West for a bit. 


Famous Last Words.
“See you in a couple months”  When I last saw Luke and the boys about 5.5 months ago, I had intended to fly to Vancouver in May to see them off as they started their journey. Yes, renewed my passport and was planning my flight.  Stuff happens! (My beloved Papa K. was hospitalized and sent to a rehab facility).  The best plans can change due to unforeseen circumstances.  FYI, Papa K. is home and wreaking havoc in town.  Good for him, but poor Mom. 

Preparation
Luke and I discussed the walk in depth and agreed, that if I trained, both physically and mentally, I could do this.  Heck yes, I CAN do this.
I have a full one page list titled “California Trip Prep”.  The categories on my list include:  “Luke’s suggestions”, my camping/hiking gear, camping items (yes, they are different from the gear portion of list!), “MY list”, Personal Care and Food/Bev. 
The highlights of this list seem to be in the “Personal Care” section of list and some make me chuckle…..Toilet Paper, Cleansing Wipes(yes, both ends!) and “Sponge or wash cloth”.  Benadrylnever leave home without it, and my Albuterol Asthma spray is another must have at all times.   
Shoes:  Critical as Luke’s stated.  My new Merrell hikers fit and feel as if I’ve had them for years.  I’ve probably put about 25 miles on them since last weekends purchase.  It may not seem like a lot, but considering I worked about 55 hours last week, it’s a good amount!  Yes, I looked like a dork at the gym with tall hikers on the treadmill and elliptical.  Toe cramps suck, and I’m not sure why the cute Vasques caused them.  Luckily, no cramps in the Merrell.  
I do have my list covered, except the rain poncho.  Need to pick that up this week.  Packweight is a concern and yes, I’m an over packer.  We’ll figure out what I need to leave in basecamp SUV when I get there.  As of course I need my flat iron, hairdryer, hair products and some other critical girly things for when I meet my friend Janet in Napa at the end of my trip for a couple days of r&r.   
Food/water:  It’s going to be about zone bars and nuts for me.  And yes, I really am taking the jar of Nutella Luke!  It’s already in the pack and accounted for in pack weight. :
Next post will be about the emotional highs and lows of prep and training.  One low happened yesterday at work, when it hit me hard that I will be away from my furkids (aka my loves) for 12 days…..12 days!
Tears flowed and flowed. 

Last minute questions/concerns-how do I cope w/missing the furkids for 12 days????  The lack of showering, girly things and etc seem so trivial compared to lack of snuggle, snuggle with my kids….

Till we meet again.

 V


Saturday, August 9, 2014

One Week Til V Day

Valerie
A week from today our good friend Valerie from CT is flying to CA to join us on the road for a week.  In her words she wants to experience what our life is like out here and not just walking a mile or a day.  Yep pack, tent, she’ll be carrying her on weight.  I’ve invited her to guest blog here so we can discuss last minute preparations and she can share her side of the adventure.
V – 
I shed my base layers, tops and bottoms in Brookings & I’ve regretted it since.  Temps in Northern California, or at least this stretch of it ave low 60s in the day and 50s at night.  Sweltering heat from the rogue valley pulls high afternoon winds and fog banks and unless I’m in my tent snuggled up with the boys I’m chilled by the damp air.  
But as I’ve found along the coastline from Newport OR to here there are different microclimates distinct to each of the areas.
The redwood forests are right around the bend and I can’t speak to the climate there yet.  My suggestion is pack lightweight base layers – silk, which I prefer, or wicking synthetic.  Fleece just adds more pack weight & don’t think you’ll need the heavier fabric.
Shoes – hope you have that worked out by now. Don’t know why the vasques cause toe cramping – I love mine – but each foot has different demands.  But that has to be resolved ASAP.  Like fletcher wrote – footwear is the foundation – get that wrong and you won’t make it a week.
Don’t worry about packing first aid sundries – I keep sufficient supply.  Also I pack a multi tool, extra carabiners, zip ties etc.  
I’m worldly enough to know NOT to tell a woman what grooming/cosmetics to pack but since you’ll be carrying your own food and water the pounds add up.  I have nail clippers (since I have to keep toes ultra short) razor & cream (travel size) and axe spray for when I’m in public and haven’t had a chance to shower or do laundry.
You’ll probably want to bring soap since most campgrounds have showers but I wouldn’t expect that luxury more than once during the week.  
Other essentials in your pack – a cpl of ziplock bags to keep your electronics dry, poncho (even though I’ve only used mine twice in the 3 months on the road), a chamois or microfiber towel, sunblock (I don’t carry any), a pkg of wipes or rinse free hand soap, bug spray (though I haven’t had much of a problem thus far and I recommend skin so soft rather than a deet based product).  
Pillow – if your body contour requires it but I don’t afford the space for one and instead use my clothes sack plus my pack for a head rest but it’s not terribly comfortable but comfort is a notion you’ll have to divorce yourself of quickly.  
Once you arrive next Saturday and pick us up from the road we’ll have the balance of the day to do a gear check and purchase any last minute provisions.  But these are mostly small coastal communities out here – no walmarts, best buys or REIs.
Hope your training is going well but don’t push yourself after Thursday. Stick to stretching exercises.  As cell service is questionable up in the forests, post your questions or last minute concerns here…