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!
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

Cancer doesn’t have a conscience. It takes precious things from you and leaves a dark aftermath. I figured that out when Malcolm exited this world. For months I stood in a deep pit of sadness with so many unanswered questions. It didn’t take long for me to look around and see others sitting in that dirt right beside me.

To honor the great undaunted spirits of our friends taken by cancer, I started a calendar back in 2009. It was a simple and beautiful way to make some sense of these dark experiences, and the goodness just keeps growing. People write to my foundation (Puppy Up) with their stories and pictures every year. Puppy Up publishes the calendar and uses the proceeds to help fund major comparative oncology studies. It’s an overlooked but critical area of cancer research that can give us endless information. 


My own Murphy appeared on one cover. If you want to tell us your story and join the fight against cancer in people and companion animals, I’ve posted the rules below.

Every single story helps, and we appreciate anything you can do.

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Welcome to the 2015 Cancer Can’t Keep a Good Dog Down Calendar Contest!This contest gives you a way to honor your canine cancer hero while helping the Puppy Up Foundation raise funds for cancer research to benefit pets and humans.
How Does It Work? 
Register your dog. Simply upload your dog’s story and photo. For best results, use the best high-resolution digital photo you have. Please also be prepared to submit a high resolution digital photo of the same image (minimum of 500kb) upon request for reproduction in the calendar. Then provide a brief summary of your dog’s story. The more you show your dog’s personality, the more votes you will receive!

Who Can Enter? Anyone with a dog who currently has or has had cancer (living or passed) can enter, including dogs who have entered in previous 2 Million Dogs/Puppy Up calendar contests.
Get started right now. Or for more info, keep reading.
Voting Begins As Soon As You Enter
Your $10 registration becomes the first 10 votes for your dog.
To add more votes, share your dog’s page on your favorite social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and encourage everyone to vote for your dog. (The first vote is $5. All subsequent votes are $1 each.)
The 13 pets with the highest number of votes will win a Dog of the Month slot on the calendar. ALL photo entries will be included in our 2015 Calendar Photo Gallery. 
Your participation helps fund vital cancer research for dogs and humans. 
Begin here and follow the directions. Be sure to write down and remember your user name and password! 
For questions about the contest, please contact Erich Trapp at erich@puppyup.org.
 FAQ
Where Do My Voting Dollars Go? 
Your voting dollars go to fund cutting-edge research in comparative oncology, that branch of research that benefits both companion animals and humans in our fight against cancer.
What Makes a Puppy Up Calendar so Special?
Puppy Up Foundation uses our annual calendar as an educational tool about a critical and often overlooked area of cancer research called comparative oncology. There are important clues in the connections between human and canine cancers, especially since the resulting treatments benefit both species. One of the best ways to call attention to the need for this research is by telling your stories and showing your photos. It also helps transform our losses into information that helps fight the world’s deadliest disease.
Why Do I Need This Calendar (when it’s published)?
First, every dog entered appears in the calendar. No one gets left behind. We have a whole section of gallery photos dedicated to all of the dogs entered into the contest in addition to our winners who are featured as each month’s “model.”  We also include regular ‘people’ holidays and special dog holidays like National Puppy Day, Pet Theft Awareness Day, Take Your Dog to Work Day, World Animal Remembrance Month, Pet Cancer Awareness Month, etc.
Each calendar is a one-of-a-kind keepsakes.
Start right here today: look for the Register Here button on the left of the page. Click it and follow the directions.

Have fun and good luck!

That’s 300 miles darlin.  
Tomorrow is the 10th of June and our one month anniversary on the road.  We’ve zigged and zagged through mountains, farmland, swampland, sea ports, and urban sprawl and Oregon is now in our sights.  
This Saturday, the 14th, join Hudson, Indiana, and Yer Big Dog at the Esther Short Park at 12 noon for our crossing into Portland, the second state on our historic cross country trek.   There will be a meet and greet at the park and then we’ll walk across the I-5 bridge into Oregon.  
For more information, contact ginger@2milliondogs.org  
Friday we made it to Edison WA wrapping up week 1 of 25 of our journey. By my estimates we logged about 55-60 and given the week we had, I’m pleased with our progress.  
The Launch

Our sendoff Saturday the 10th at the Peace Arch Park was great. Folks from five states were there including two of our PUPS (Chris & Hope & Lori & thanks to Valerie for helping plan and coordinate), Erick with TAGG, and Sarah Charney the veterinarian oncologist from Boundary Bay Specialty Hospital in Vancouver.  
Iliopsoas 
Unless you’re an extreme backpacker you’re prob unfamiliar with this anatomical reference. It puts the G in grind and the work in twerk.  It’s a subset of pelvic muscles that are quite possibly impossibly capable of being trained.  But after a few days with a fifty plus pound pack they hurt.  
But for me, the term is also a metaphor for what the onset of a massive undertaking is like. There are things that just can’t be planned for or anticipated. Like Hudson throwing up in our tent.

Yep, just two nights into it, I had drifted off into the good sleep only to be abruptly awakened to the sound of retching.  Hudson had vomited earlier that Mother’s Day morning and I didn’t give it much thought since he occasionally has a heave and a hurl and seemed fine from then on.  But after five more times in the tent Sunday night, I made the decision to pull him from the road for a few days rest.  

Google v Reality

Planning our route from Memphis is a whole lot different than getting up here and scouting out the terrain.  I had planned on a more direct path but road conditions sometimes dictate otherwise.  
To be sure, the options are kinda limited since I-5 is the only direct highway from border to border so I anticipated zigging and zagging until we got to Southern Oregon at which point we’ll pick up 1/101 the rest of the way.  But I’ve made the decision to stick the shoreline as much as possible because they be mountains up here.  Speaking of….
Chuckanut
Only in my world would our first great technical challenge be a mountain named Chuckanut.  
And though it did try to toss us a few times, its native name means long beach and even on the occasionally treacherous stretches, we bore witness to some of the most stunning bay side vistas.  As well, the mountainside is lined with cascading waterfalls pictured nearby.  

It’s also home to Larrabee State Park, a destination point for anyone travelling in this area.  We took a days rest there and the beach on Sammish Bay was so totally alluring.

The whole area, including our time in Bellingham WA, now known to me as the City of Backpacks, reminded me of the Sirens of Shenandoah in the shadow of the Blue Ridge mountain back on our first walk.  I didn’t want to leave.

The people I met here are all so beautiful eclipsed only by the presence of their surroundings.  From the Bellwether Hotel to Boulevard Park to the Interurban Trail we picked up for a bit, this is a special place in the universe and I’m surprised I’ve been tempted so early on in the walk.  Indeed, Erick my walking companion for a few days remarked many times that this is a place he’d like to relocate to.  But the journey must continue…

Testing the Mettle

The first week is always unkinking – adjusting weight load, routes, and all sorts of last minute adjustments physically and spiritually.  It’s a curious truism one which I can only suspect because god’s just making sure you’re serious.

We were picked up Friday and transported to Seattle for the Petapalooza and it was great to spend time with Buddy and Ja-Cee, our PUPS up here in the area and their kiddos – Fonto & Sabrina.

In a few hours, we’ll be back on the road…. Until next time here are a couple of other pics to tide you over…

Murphy’s Rain
Back when Murphy was undergoing his second round of radiation at CSU, I witnessed a rainbow from a sunshower and wrote about the Japanese expression ‘Mono no aware’ in a blog in 2010.  Down south we call that phenomenon the Devil’s Rain a phrase I renamed as to describe the hopefulness I felt beneath my tears.    
As Hudson, Indiana and I drove through the Cascades Tuesday morning and approached the Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 to Seattle, I was welcomed once again by Murphy’s Rain (top left photo).  That’s all I needed.  
The Drive 
After a tiresome 2,800 mile 40 hour drive, the Fuzzybutts and I made it from Memphis yesterday to make final preparations and get a lil R&R&Romping prior to our launch from the Canadian Border.  That’s a pic of lil’ Nana committing the cardinal sin of trespassing on Hudzer’s Altar.  Yeh, you can tell how well that went by his expression.  
Peace Arch Park
One of the first tasks on my list once we got there was scoping out the park where we’re having our launch this Saturday, high noon.  Never been this far north and west before and the only border crossing I’ve ever made on land was from Brownsville TX to Matamoros Mexico.  
There it’s all chaos with rows and rows of sputtering cars, a smoggy haze, and the incessant rapping on the window by Chiclet peddlers.  
Here it’s, well, peaceful and I found the inscriptions on both sides inspiring. Facing Canada, it reads, ‘Children of a Common Mother’, and facing the US, ‘Brethren Dwelling in Unity’.  
Recon
Task 2 began at 5:30 AM as I went to scout our route on the first stretch of our trek:  The Border to Everett WA.  Driving up Interstate 5 yesterday I became a bit concerned about the road conditions we’d be confronted with but after reconning this morning, most of my fears have been allayed.  There are some tough spots sure; shoulderless backroads lined with water-filled trenches as well as long spanning narrow bridges but all doable and we’ve seen this many times before on our first 2 Dogs adventure.
However, there’s a 10 mile track on Route 11 that presents considerable risk to our safety. Pic nearby.  High reaching cliffs on the left and a 50-80 foot drop off on the right with little to no room for negotiation.
This has me slightly worried but two things are in our favor.  First, sunrise is 4:30 AM on the west coast this time of year and when driving this stretch this morning, it was relatively desolate so we’ll have a few hours to get through it before morning school and commute traffic gets underway.  Second, it is not only perilous to pedestrians but cars as well so if there we do encounter traffic, it will be slow moving.  
But there’s a saying on the road, as in life I suppose.  Don’t walk 10 miles until you walk the first.  Or maybe that’s my saying.  I recall meeting a Marine on the trail and I always liked his perspective as we shared our many challenges on our travels.  ‘Impossible is just a degree of difficulty.’  
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Yer Big Dog’s Notes 1:  For the next six months, this blog is my journal of our journey from Canada to Mexico and this is where it’ll be posted first and from the road.  I’ll have limited time and energy to proof, re-read, edit, or even re-think its content. 

YBD’s Notes 2:  In 2010, Seattle was our last stopping point on the lecture circuit after the Austin to Boston walk and it was right before Murphy was due for his second CT scan back at CSU where we would ultimately learn that not only did his first radiation fail but a new sarcoma had developed on his nasopharynx.  

It’s bittersweet to be back here again and I couldn’t help but find a subtle irony in that to return here, we had to cross through the Bitterroot Mountains and the flowers that they’re named for.  Nearby is a photo, not mine, as they were not in bloom yet. 

What I love about the Bitterroot is it’s stubbornness to survive even in the harshest of all conditions.  It can live up to a year without water…
Malvern AR.  July 2008

Walking through so many southern states, it wasn’t always easy keeping hyperfocused on a singular mission of cancer especially since conditions in some places for animal welfare were deplorable and others, down and outright medieval.  

I tried as best I could but there were a few encounters intolerable and I had to stand up even though it put my mission at risk.  

The first was in Jacksonville TX a few months earlier than Malvern.  We were scheduled to stay at the home of a kind elderly couple as we walked through the area and after the first day, I noticed a beautiful brindle pitbull in the backyard of a neighbors house chained to a fence and that her water bowl was upturned.   

I made note of it and the following day, it remained still and unfilled.  There’s no mathematical basis for measuring the generosity of a host family against a clear and present injustice.  It wasn’t my neighbor, it wasn’t my town, and it wasn’t my cause.  

——–

And Yet…

I assuaged our host family that my intention was to just inform the neighbors that their dog needed water since they shot down my original idea of just filling the bowl with water myself.  Texans take trespassing seriously so I understood their objection.  

After knocking on the neighbor’s door a few times, a big burly man at least 1.5 times my size in height and girth answered with a mean ass, menacing look.  

“YEAH?”  

“Excuse me, sir.  I’m staying with some friends next door and I couldn’t help notice that your dog in the backyard hasn’t had water in the past 24 hours and it’s pretty hot outside…”.  

“IT’S MY SON’S DOG”, he continued in a gruff, ‘seen-too-many-steven seagal movies-voice’.  

“And yet, the dog still needs water.”

“LOOK HERE, THIS IS MY PROPERTY AND OUR DOG AND IT’S NO DAMN BUSINESS OF YOURS.”

At this point, his chest was bowed out and he was spoiling for a fight and I tried my best to keep circumspect, though my great growl was growing.  “Look man, I no more want to be on your porch than you want me here.  It doesn’t have to be this way.  Just give your dog water and I’ll be gone.  But I won’t until you do.”

Like a Warner Bros cartoon I could see steam venting from his ears (and hear the sound a train whistle). I thought I was gonna get cold cocked but instead he slammed the door in my face and I watched as he filled the water bowl.  

——–

The Evil that People Do

Maybe that set the stage for Malvern.  By the time we were just west of Little Rock, temperatures were running as high as solar flares it seemed and I walked most of the Delta to Memphis by myself.  

I remember the day perfectly.  As I was walking on east Hwy 67, I heard crying and yelping on my left.  There was a overgrown, condemned looking house, yellow in color I think, about 100 yards off the highway and I fought back the pokeweed, briar brush and Mimosa tree branches to get to it.  And what I found still breaks my heart.  

A momma pitbull chained outside and a litter of pittie puppies on the inside begging to be with each other.  You can see the momma’s paws on the window sill in the picture top left so I’ll spare you the visual descriptive.  No one should be haunted by an image such as that.  

I couldn’t do anything at the time for them.  It was just me and my backpack so I bade them goodbye with a promise that I would return and rescue them.  And I did the very next day.  As soon as I was picked up by Melissa, our transport to our next host family, I said to her, “We have a stop to make first.” 

——–

The Evil That Good Undo

I was such a naif back then, unworldly caught up unintentionally and unexpectedly in the deep and dark underworld of dogfighting.  I’d never heard of terms like ‘bait dogs’ until that day when Melissa and I pulled them out of that nightmare just as a group of men came out of a nearby trailer to stop us.  

We tore outta there with all of the pitpups in a cardboard box and momma in my lap and I think my middle finger found its way out the window though I may be glorifying it a bit.  

Miles later, Melissa explained to me that we weren’t rescuing dogs in distress – we were stealing them.  Dogs bought and sold like slave trade for the sole purpose of fighting for entertainment.  I had a lot of questions but they weren’t going to be answered that day. Maybe they still haven’t been.  

How can one steal a life trying to protect it?  How can one even claim ownership to a life?  

In the Merchant of Venice, Shakespeare wrote, ‘To do a great right, do a little wrong.’

I’m nothing of a Shakespearean quote but I could not let a great wrong go unrighted.  


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YBD’s Notes 1:  Part 2 of A Tale of Two Towns Coming up – Malvern PA.  Spending time at Hope Veterinary Specialists this weekend.  Or Sweaty Tom’s pits.  

YBD’s Notes 2:  All of the pitbull puppies we rescued that day found homes.  

YBD’s Notes 3:  Thanks Melissa
I’m not MOT but I may as well be an honorary member.  
It’s been eight years since I lost Malcolm and not a second not an hour not a day nor a year has past since I lost my first son that I have forgotten.  
The Yahrzeit candle burns for 24 hours and I lite it now to burn til the morrow when he was given rest.
——–
You were the rock that became the ripple.  
You are the circle not round that I followed and found two ends ever bound.  
My candle is an eternal flame, lit by you and I’ll carry it for as long and as far as I can.  
——–

Not known to many, that phrase was coined by Louis Sullivan, the father of modern American architecture and the mentor of Frank Lloyd Wright not Wright himself.  

I’ve spent the past few days mapping out, to the best of my present abilities, our path from Canada to Mexico.  

Things tend to change on the road but everything begins with a start and a finish and I have that now.  

The walk will start at the Peace Arch Park that straddles the Washington state border.    

From there it continues through the following cities: Everett, Seattle, Tacoma, Portland, San Francisco, Monterey, LA and down to San Diego.  

And it will end at the Border Field State Park.  Border to border.  Brother to brother. 

Based on Google calculations, the sum total mileage is roughly 1600 miles.  

Sullivan’s full quote was, “It is the pervading law of all things organic and inorganic, of all things physical and metaphysical, of all things human and all things superhuman, of all true manifestations of the head, of the heart, of the soul, that the life is recognizable in its expression, that form ever follows function. This is the law.”  

Here are pics from our recent travels…

This is Dr. Sue the cancer vet lovin her some fuzzybutts…






This is Hudzers hammin it up and a toeheaded kid playing paddy cake on his belly








What Price Fame?  This is Hudson on day 4 of the conference.








At the Mall of America, this is?????

These are the Puppy Up! ladies of Des Moines.  From L to R, Julie, Chris, and Brooke (whose dog Gunner has cancer).





This is Beth in Madison whose beautiful Pyrenees, Czar, has metastatic bone cancer and one of the calendar boys in the 2014 Cancer Can’t Keep a Good Dog Down calendar.







This is where the fat cats (again, sorry for feline references) sit above everyone else in Madison.  It’s a law – no structure can be higher than the capitol.







This is Yer Big Dog dancing with Lil Nana.  Yep it gets lonely on the road… and FYI – he can two step.









This is the beautiful Memorial board that the folks in Ann Arbor created from their recent Puppy Up! walk.






This is Indiana pooping on a Church bush thereby damning his soul to an eternity of reruns of Garfield and Squirrel infomercials.