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
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

Just like the Super Bowl half time is all about the sponsors so I wanted to take a few to thank all of ours who have help make this journey possible.

TAGG the GPS Pet Tracker

TAGG has saved our fuzzybutts on more than one occasion.  The best example of this was when I walked highway 20 from Corvallis to Newport OR solo.  I took one of the trackers in case of an emergency and on the very first day I ran into a bit of a crisis. We had made water drops along the 50 mile stretch and my supply was down to less than half a liter.  As I neared the first drop I saw a man in a John Deere mower cutting the grass on the highway shoulder.

I sprinted up to him and asked if he found 2 jugs of water in the area he recently cut and he said he had and that one of them may have escaped the blade of the mower.  It didn’t.  The temp in wilamette valley was already soaring up to the 90s and the next drop was down the road another 10 miles so i was in a bit of a pickle.

Ginger was able to tag me and then find a nearby store using Yelp.  TAGG – not only great for your dog but Yer Big Dog too!  I’ve gotten to know the trackers intimately and the folks behind them and I can’t say enough about them. The fuzzybutts will be wearing them even after this walk.  

 When you purchase the trackers at their website and sign up for the service, enter the promo code 2Dogs they’re generously offering a 10% discount and donate $25 to the Puppy Up Foundation. Also you can track Indy and me as we walk the west coast at www.2dogsagainstcancer.com It’s been a little confusing because we’re staying with more host families and sometimes we’re tagged after we’ve been picked up and off the road.

We’d also like to thank our other walk sponsors: Hollywood Feed for providing the dog food for the walk.   P2 Collars and Toki Poki for the awesome corded collars and leashes.  Everlasting Memories for the beautiful infinity ring that holds Murphy’s ashes. Orijen for providing the 6 Fish food for Hudson.

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!

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

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…
“Cast before a silver sheet,
Tracing lines that never meet.”

Those are the first two lines to a poem I wrote a long, long while ago, even way, way before Malcolm was diagnosed, and they made little sense to me at the time. 

They do now.

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YBD’s Notes 1:  Though I have plenty more ridiculous things to say and do, I’m done with this chapter and it’s time to move on and bring the first book, The Rock, to its conclusion.  

YBD’s Notes 2:  Sailing is an inexact metaphor for life.  Ashore, the time to jibe or tack doesn’t always translate but I’ve come about now.

YBD’s Notes 3:  Next chapter I’ll talk about the good, the bad, and the ugly of sponsorship and that’ll set the stage for the final chapter.