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
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.  
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.  
Six years ago this Sunday, Hudson, Murphy and I walked the final mile from Back Bay Fens to the Boston Common alongside hundreds of friends and hundreds of canine companions who traveled from 21 states to be there that day. 

When I started out on the road from Austin, TX, I didn’t have much – just a couple hundred bucks in my pocket and a few friends helping me out.  The focus is so intense on each and every step and each and every mile it seemed unfathomable just how far and how long our journey would take us.  And we have gone far! And as we celebrate our sixth anniversary the Puppy Up Foundation has achieved so many incredible milestones. 

Recently I traveled to Madison for their record breaking year, over 1,100 people, and over a $130,000 raised. It’s such an exciting energy to be a part of Team Madison and during a speech by our Scientific Chair, Kai Shiu, said how great it was to be a part of Puppy Up USA.  And I thought, ‘Wow, that’s neat.’ 
 

But then I thought ‘Our reach is international and all of us really are brought together by a common thread that spans border.’  In many ways I feel like we’re becoming an institution and that’s when it hit me.  We are a Puppy Up Nation!

I feel like that at every walk I’ve had the privilege to personally participate in.  I am often asked, ‘What are you most proud of?’  And my response has always been, to go from town to town and see how excited the communities are and successful they’ve been putting on walks – that makes me the proudest.’ 

And that’s why I wanted to share this inspiration with a commemorative T-Shirt to celebrate our 6th anniversary.   And as a way to say thanks to everyone who has made this such a successful organization and as a reminder that we all are together in this and we stand in solidarity.  You can order a shirt here.  
Thank you.  All of you for being a part of Puppy Up Nation!

Hudson, Indiana & Luke

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!
November is #PetCancerAwareness Month.  Now I don’t know who made this month but for more than a few reasons, there’s a cosmic irony about it.  The first of which is Malcolm (the first dog I lost to cancer and whose death inspired our travels) – his birthday was the eve of.  

It’s been many years since his loss and I don’t reflect on it oft but his light of life emanates from me still. And recently, it was all brought back.  

I was grateful to be invited to participate at the Connecticut Shoreline Puppy Up Walk last Sunday October 30th and it was an absolutely gorgeous day – a bit balmy but cloudy at times.  Everything was going great though the proceedings seemed to be delayed until the news came down.  The Dog Cancer Hero, Medalla, whom we all had been awaiting her arrival, collapsed in the parking lot, was administered CPR by her vet, but tragically passed away en route to the clinic.  

And everyone’s crying and the microphone was given to me to keep the proceedings ongoing.  Those of you who know me I’m not usually at a loss for words but I wept, too, and publicly something I hadn’t done so since Murphy.  After a moment of silence we all soldiered on and walked the two miles at Guilford Fairgrounds.  All of us except Medalla.  

Perhaps that’s why I wept.  Some of us cross the finish line.  Some of us don’t.  And with Murphy it was close. 

And while, at least for now, we don’t know why, we should all give thanks that we’re shadowcasted by the great brilliance of those we have lost. 

This month, more so than others, give some goddamn great love to your companions, with whom your time together is transient but will walk aside you for thousands of miles until the end.  

I want to thank MariAnne for sharing Medalla with us all and nearby is a bit about her in MariAnne’s words.  



——–

Medalla was a mixed breed rescue from Puerto Rico. While I was there on business, we found each other on a secluded beach in the small town where I was staying.  She was just a puppy, between 3-4 months old.  From that day forward, she was the most loving and faithful friend I could ever hope for.  She never left my side. If you asked anyone at Guilford Vet Hospital, they would say she was a shy, quiet dog, but like most children, at home she was very talkative and the alpha of her pack.  

At six years old, Medalla was diagnosed with Lymphoma. After Chemo, she immediately went into remission.  This summer, she came out of remission for the second time. This was her third round of treatments. She immediately went back into remission again.  She was such a little trouper and took everything so well.  Unfortunately, I lost her to a heart attack, before she could finish her Chemo.  I want to thank Guilford Vet Hospital and all canine cancer research for giving me an extra 3 years with my wonderful baby girl. 

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.
We all know the famous line from Apocalypse Now, “Charlie don’t surf”, but there’s a lesser known one from my travels, “Pet parents don’t golf”.  
Never understood why really since alot of public courses let you take your companion with you. That’s actually how Malcolm, my first great Pyrenees, and I became eternal mates.  Golf.  

That’s him with Murphy’s mum at the Alsatian golf club. He rode shotgun in the cart, never barked in my backswing, and gave me, ahem, a mulligan here and there.  What more could you ask of a mate?  
Well, he did have a bit of difficulty with yardages.  And squirrels. 
I’ve always wanted to promote golf as another way to spend more time with your companion and coming up in August, we’re hosting the first annual ‘Puppy Up and Putt it In’ golf tournament in San Antonio, TX.  
It’s hosted at the beautiful JW Marriott TPC Canyons Course and the proceeds from the event go to funding comparative oncology research and education and awareness about cancer in dogs.  
Come out and play 18 with us for the cause and to learn more about how you can participate as an individual golfer or sponsor, download the PDF or please contact lorraine.rose@marriott.com 

And yes’m we keep the tradition alive.  That’s Indiana Jones at a golf course in Atlanta GA.  The question I get most about this pic – was he putting for par?  
That and is Hudsy giving him a read on the break?  
Puppy Up and Putt It In.

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.