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.  



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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. 
“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.  

  

After pitching a tent in a grove of Eucalyptus Trees along the Elkhorn Slough of the Pacific Coast Highway just outside of Moss Landing – there’s a video somewhere about it- , a song got caught in my head and like some things on our journey, I didn’t understand its significance at that moment.  
Invariably life is reduced down to one step, one song, one mile, one moment, and even just a snuggle, all of which inspire us.  To keep going.  
Nothing Else Matters  
The more ironical thing is – I’m not sure if I ever heard this song before the slough so why did it resound relentlessly in my tent that night?   
Maybe the love of a child never needs a rationalization no matter the kind and that’s the message.

Does Anything Else Matter?

It’s president’s day but I’m in no mood for celebration.  
Oh it’s not because I’m not a patriot as I believe in values like freedom and equality – all of the things that we’ve fought for as a country. That I’ve walked for.
But we have a fight of a different kind now and we’ve been abandoned by our leaders.     
This blog is about the funding for the National Cancer Institute (NCI), this government’s, our government’s, decade long disregardment of, what the World Health Organization called the deadliest disease in 2010 and nothing else.   
Let’s take a look at the numbers.  They represent the total budget of NCI in billions of dollars.
2000 $3.3
2001 $3.8
2002 $4.2
2003 $4.6
2004 $4.7
2005 $4.8
2006 $4.8
2007 $4.8
2008 $4.8
2009 $5.0
2010 $5.1
2011 $5.1
2012 $5.1
2013 $4.8  
Let me give you some context.  This past fiscal year, the current administration earmarked $6.3 billion for Ebola virus research, a disease that affected, what, 1 or 2 people in the US and yet 1/2 of all men and 1/3 of women will be diagnosed with cancer. Nevermind the 2-4 million dogs that develop the same types of cancer every year. Why?
But I get it – it’s politically expedient. Ebola grabs headlines.  
On my first walk, I met with a few legislators and lobbyists and what they said was, ‘Great cause, just get a spokesperson and a celebrity around it and then we’ll listen.’ And so I walked the entire expanse of the West Coast in search of someone who would stand up. No one did.  
Even though celebrities talk about how devoted they are to animal causes.  
In my little world of walking 4k miles for this cause, you get tired of those that just talk and talk
which is why I’ve walked the walk. No one has the right to present themselves as a dog lover unless they stand up to the number one killer of dogs. Cancer.  
I return to DC in June without a celebrity or a spokesperson.   I am no longer a naif.  Having witnessed all of the death I have from cancer I will stand up and be heard.
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
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.

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….