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
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!
I just realized after talking to one of my girlfriends that it’s father’s day.  
I’ve had my nose to the grindstone so to speak that I almost forgot.  This week is also the anniversary of the final mile in Boston, Indiana’s birthday, and 3 years since the death of my son, Murphy.  
Crossing over the Columbia into Oregon yesterday was more than just a milestone. What Stover, the well intentioned and seemingly genuinely interested reporter left out of his article was this:
This walk is all about the crossing and not just borders.  
It’s the cross I wear around my neck between the ashes of Malcolm and Murphy that doesn’t represent a religious symbol but a commitment.  
The symbolic representation of a cross can be found in every culture as a partnership and a promise. And, at times, a lean-to when you need it. 
It’s bridging the gap in understanding that cancer is a cross species epidemic. It affects all of us. Cancer. Touches. Everyone. isn’t just a tagline or some cutesy saying I came up with.
I was stopped recently and asked, ‘What type of cancer are you walking for?’.  Isn’t it interesting that question?  That this disease so subdivides us?  
Dog cancer.  Pet cancer.  Canine cancer.  Human cancer.  Melanoma, lymphoma, breast cancer, liver cancer, prostate cancer….
The most important takeaway point from Stover’s interview was this – the microscope does NOT discriminate.  
I didn’t really know what this second walk was really about until now.  I had an inkling and an instinct.  But now I know.  And on this father’s day, I give thanks to my father for imparting to me a thirst for knowledge and understanding.  And my mother who helped me cross that with faith and belief.  
No matter how many bridges I cross I miss my sons.  Malcolm and Murphy.  
Ten days from now we’ll set off from Vancouver on our second mission; a six month, 1,700 mile trek to San Diego.  Since my first such – Austin to Boston, I’ve come to learn that there are three points to every journey: to, from, and for. 

And those points you can’t find on a map as they are neither finite nor geographical in nature.   

——–

Recently I was going through the archives from our first walk that are housed in a storage facility in Memphis to recycle gear and supplies that were donated back then and I came across a box of 2012 calendars.  The one of me carrying Murphy’s lifeless body the final few steps.  The one most didn’t want.  


They were water stained and moldy and my first thought was toss em. But I couldn’t stand the thought of them being in some landfill, dumped and disregarded so I took them out with us camping out last week at Shelby Forest to recycle them as kindling.  

It was a metaphorical moment for me as I watched the calendar burn and I couldn’t help but wonder if that’s one of the points of this walk.  

——–

I miss my Murphy and maybe that’s my to, from and for.  

Back in the backlot of an architecturally unassuming Westchester industrial park is the brainchild of two neurologists, Drs. Joseph and Berg, both brewed from the great crockpot of talent that is Manhattan’s AMC.  


The Animal Specialty Center is in many ways not unlike the dozens and dozens of veterinarian clinics I’ve toured around the country.  Dedicated  staff. Check.  Exceptional and compassionate care.  Check.  


One things stands out, however as the focal point.  And it stands tall.  

Say ‘Hello’ to my lil new friend, the Cyberknife.  

——–

Blake and Dr. Sue

To frame the entirety of this part of our story accurately, a bit of history is in order first.  I met Dr. Sue, one of ASC’s medical oncologists back in San Diego 2010 while giving a presentation about our Walk 1 – Austin to Boston – to the attendees of the Veterinary Cancer Society (VCS) Meeting.  

Come full circle, last October at VCS Twin Cities, we met again and she extended an invitation for me to visit their clinic in Yonkers.  A reunion perhaps of greater prescience than either of us could’ve known at the time as Blake, one of two beautiful rescue labs and part of the 2 Million Dogs family was diagnosed only weeks afterwards with meningioma becoming an ideal candidate for the Cyberknife.  

Blake’s mum, Chris, is one of our PUPS out of Baltimore and last week I spent time at ASC filming their story and learning about the relative benefits of Cyberknife vs. fractionated radiotherapy vs. stereotactic radiosurgery.  


Since I’m no scientist, I always try to reduce things down to their most basic elements and from my understanding, the differences between the three are merely a matter of time and precision.    

——–

Murphy

When he was DX’d with nasal adenocarcinoma just weeks after the conclusion of Walk 1, I chose  IMRT  once Withrow at CSU ruled him ineligible as a surgical candidate. I chose a slow course of radiation for an inoperable tumor and not only did it fail, Murphy developed a secondary Sarcoma in his nasopharynx.  

I got the best clinical advice at CSU but ultimately, I made a decision as a father rather than a patient and that faultline proved fatal and Murphy didn’t even make it a year.  

——–

That’s the trade off between the three types of radiology at least from a textbook perspective.  Time and precision and clinical outcome.   Blake underwent three days of Cyberknife treatment and godwilling, that’s all she’ll ever need.  

I firmly recommend exhaustive research and due diligence for the best most effective long-term treatment plan if you have a companion animal with cancer, along with the wise counsel of a vet oncologist.  

——–

I was grateful to be an honored guest at ASC last week; to herald in their 6 year anniversary, and most importantly, be there for friends of ours, Chris and Blake.  

And although I didn’t get a slice of their birthday cake, I have bigger sights in mind.  To a few trusty friends I texted the image of the Cyberknife and it scared the hell outta them in a RoboCop sorta way.  

Not me.  I’m from Texas and all I could think of was mounting it and riding it like Slim Pickens did a nuke in Dr. Strangelove into a blaze of glory.    

Thanks to the staff of ASC for being generous and accommodating during our time there and to Drs. Joseph and Berg for being pioneers in the field of veterinary medicine.  

To explain the significance and importance of Trans Siberian Orchestra in my life, in this our story is pretty near impossible.  But I gotta try.  
It was the winter.  That winter.  A couple of fine folks in Colorado got me tickets to see them since I was there while Murphy was receiving care at CSU.  And it was my birthday.  
Being the music lover I am, I was sure I heard of them.  But even if I did, nothing could’ve prepared me for it…
An Angel Came Down was the first piece they performed and I was blown away. To put it into context, I’ve seen Pavarotti live, the three tenors, and Yo Yo Ma and even Kitaro… There was a hot, hot girl in a red sequined dress playing the electric violin that I still think about from time to time… 
Anyway, I was in rapture.  Pop culture has ruined the word ‘awesome’ but it was.  I was a kid witnessing the spirit of Christmas for the first time.  
And yet I hated it.  Because somewhere in a distant parking lot, alone and cold was Murphy.  He never left my side and the TSO concert was as far as I went from him.  We didn’t stay for the second set because I couldn’t. Even though thoroughly bundled up in the SUV.
And then after Murphy died, I was up in Bowling Green KY (heh, that’s my TX roots showing – everything is ‘up’), for two reasons.  To meet Indy for the first time and attend a fundraiser for their animal shelter.  It was the coolest of its kind – it was in a cave that Jesse James and his gang hung out in if my memory serves me well. 
Even amidst all the beauty, glamour, and glitz that I was graciously invited to be a part of, I didn’t stay long, 30 minutes maybe, because I couldn’t.  I left there and drove to a church parking lot and put my TSO CD in, listening to it for hours.  It must’ve been hours because someone called the police.  
The officer politely asked me why I was there.  I didn’t know if he meant why I was in The City of White Squirrels, the parking lot of a church in the middle of the night, or asking a more theological question.  But I only had one answer.  
“I miss my son.”  
He nodded and said goodnight.  I never asked his name.  
This is my Christmas story