Now that our Puppy Up events have winded down for the season, I’m up in CT helping out a friend with her food truck and it’s been quite an experience so far.
I’ve cooked for farmer’s markets, festivals, and for hundreds of families and friends I’ve stayed with throughout our journey but the food truck thing is a whole nother level. 
I’ll be sharing my culinary adventures, how and why YBD became CBD, and what’s next in 2016 at www.chefbigdog.com   
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!

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.
Can’t help but find a bit of irony in that I just left San Diego in December, a city that never snows, to record breaking snowfall in New England.  It’s been a long, harsh, unforgiving, and at times perilous winter but it’s impossible not to appreciate the absolute beauty of it.  
There are two photos nearby that embody this dichotomy – the first is of while taking the boys out for their evening constitutional, shadowcasting.  Nothing more than a rustic rotted out fence and a distant light but witness the symmetry and the simplicity.  

The other photo is of Hudson trying to take a piss in the several feet deep of spongy soppy messiness that makes it difficult for him postoperative.  I’m sure there’s a greater metaphor here but right now it’s buried beneath two tons of snow.  It’s been so unending here we’re about to make Winterfell look like the Sahara.  

He’s recuperating super well, we slept on the kitchen floor last night but brother, can you spare some green grass?  
YBD’s Notes 1:  Didn’t post it here but Hudson had a mast cell tumor removed yesterday.  Off social media sites for a spell to prepare for the upcoming filming for the interview.  To get updates here’s the link: Puppy Up Foundation
YBD’s Notes 2: Ginger called me up this morning to complain about the 3 inches of snow they got in TN but in all fairness, she has a Doxie and I’m sure his pecker is snowier than Hudson’s.  
This week has seen the third anniversary of Murphy’s passing and Indiana’s 3rd birthday and to me, the two are inextricably intertwined. And this photo captures it.  
On Instagram I entitled it ‘Between a Rock and a Jersey Wall’ but there’s greater context to it.  
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Indy the Scrabbler

Didn’t have a good feeling of 99E south of Oregon City so I chose to take Google Maps alternative route High street and after scrutinizing it on my iPhone it looked suitable.  So we took the Promenade Park and were greeted with sweeping views of the Willamette River (don’t even try pronouncing it).  

I should’ve known that just like Long Island was, well, long, High street was high and that miscalculation by me nearly cost us our lives.  
Don’t have time for the details of the harrowing experience but we made it to the top and in no small part to Indiana who, like Murphy would’ve, lead the way behind me with Hudson willfully following.  
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Murphy Smiles
Still.  In each of us.  
In one of my training blogs I wrote about how I suspected that I’d have to keep up with Lil’ Nana on this walk and he has not disappointed.  I see so much of Murphy in him.  
The good, the bad, and the fuzzybutt.  
That’s the birthday boy with Vince and Diane and their gal Lucy.

A Gathering of Pyrs Is?
We call a group of geese a gaggle.  Of turkeys a rafter.  Quite appropriately enough, vultures are a committee.  And beavers are a lodge.  These things I thought of during Walk 1.  
So when Hudson Indy and I were met on border crossing day by a gathering of Pyrenees from the local club, I wondered what to call them.* 
Thanks to the Columbia Cascade club for coming out last Saturday and cheering us across into our second state.  
The ‘Interstate’ or I-5 bridge into Portland looked intimidating at first since it’s a vertical lift draw bridge and the two that were impassable on our first walk were of similar construct.  The steel grating of those in Baltimore and Philadelphia scared the hell outta the boys but this footbridge was all concrete so we crossed over the Columbia River into Oregon and it was a good day.  
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The Garden of 10,000 Roses
The following day one of our supporters in the area took us to one of the most stunning and spectacular places I’ve ever been.  Portland’s International Rose Test Garden.  
It’s a testing ground for new varieties and part of the much larger more expansive Washington Park that spans over 400 acres.  What’s noteworthy here, aside from the sheer beauty of this place and that it should be a destination point for all, is that my father has had a lifelong passion for roses and on Father’s Day I would find myself here.  
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Washington in The Rearview
Our first full day of walking in Oregon, from the Delta East Park to south of the Ross Island Bridge, we had two complete strangers came up to us and asked what we were walking for and if the dogs needed any food or water.  And that was two more than the entire state of Washington.  
I must admit I’m bumfuzzled at that reality especially since, well, that’s never happened to the fuzzybutts in any state ever.  Granted, the Evergreen State has countless homeless and our best guess is that, unfortunately, we were just being bunched up in the fungible forsaken even though I carried a banner that said, ‘#PuppyUp’.  
In an area that’s home to such tech giants as Microsoft and Amazon, the sign would be clear that it’s a cause. So in Tacoma we decided to amend the sign nearby.  But the folks got the dimensions wrong and I had to use my sports tape to make it fit in my backpack.**
Surprisingly, still bupkis.
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We Walk On 
Washington is a state of inestimable beauty and memorable but in our short time in Oregon we’ve made so many new friends and thus far it’s been a great experience.  
At present, we’ve made it to Salem and about 37 miles from Corvallis at which point, we’ll pickup Highway 20 and head over the Coast Mountains to the PCH for the remaining 4.5 months of the walk.  
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*YBD’s Notes:  A Gathering of Pyrenees should be called a Preponderance I think.  

**YBD’s Notes:  This was no small feat but we’ve since had the sign cut down and re-grommetted (is that even a word?).  Going forward, this is OUR sign.  
You cannot move forward by looking behind*
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One of the funniest things we continually encounter thus far is walking to a hotel and after sharing our story they still ask for the make, model, and license plate of our car.  Irony is often scarce out here and you take it when you can get it.  
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I’m holed up in a hotel in Longview WA feeling pretty lousy so it’s an opportunity for me to reflect on our one month anniversary on the road.  
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Urban Sprawl 
It may come as a bit of surprise but city miles are much harder on us than the country and the stretch between Everett to way south of Tacoma was tough.  Elevated ambient temperatures, street detritus, miles and miles of monotonous strip malls, car lots, box stores, and blaring street sounds require a higher degree of focus. Plus, it’s boring for the boys and part of my job is keeping them engaged.  
I must admit a prior unfamiliarty with the precise use of  the word ‘sprawl’ until now and I have a greater appreciation for it.  So from Roy to Longview WA we’ve enjoyed the rural setting, though at the expense of cell service which is why posting has been sporadic. One bar.  No bar.  Two bars Go.  
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Tom Sawyer
Centralia WA was a weird kinda stretch that I still haven’t really processed yet.  It was like my past life converged in this previously unknown and unchartered part of the world in two ways.  (1) A high school band mates lives up here that I had lunch with and (2) A host home we stayed at reintroduced me to the band, Rush.   
It’s been years since I’ve listened to them and Tom Sawyer was exactly what I needed to hear.  The River. 
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The Columbia
Speaking of…  If you’re in the area, come out and join us in crossing the Columbia River into Oregon, our second state.  Saturday the 10th.  High noon.  At the intersection of West 6th and Columbia near Esther Short Park.  Hope the instructions are correct but go to the Puppy Up Foundation page to be sure.  
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*YBD’s Notes:  Kinda depends on your behind though.  
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.  
Every few weeks I’m gonna try to post random pics from the road for those that aren’t on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram.  I’ve already taken about 2,000 photos thus far and we’re not even out of Washington State yet.

The Chaos Before the Calm – our Super 8 Hotel Room prior to launch.

I’m guessin that’s Hudsy’s way of saying goodbye to Red or ordaining her to a higher office or something.

That’s Confucia and Super Cooper we met while walking thru Bellingham WA.

Polar opposites – even posing for photos in our tent.

An evening of R&R at the Hotel Bellwether in Bellingham.

Waterfalls find their way down the westside of Chuckanut mountain.

Don’t even know what to say about this other than the the photo was taken in Edison WA and it appears to be a flamingo headed dude with a cryptic and misspelled message nearby.

Hudson and the mini-donkey farm.

Fields of purple irises in Mt. Vernon WA.

Perhaps the most surprising and unbelievable fact about our travels thus far is that we’ve only had 2 rain days since we launched May 10th and had to break out the fuzzybutt ponchos.  No one up here believes it but it’s true.  Fair winds and following seas keep with us.

Spring seems eternal here as the dogwood trees and rhododendrons continue to bloom in unabashed beauty.