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
The boys and I are back from a brief jaunt down to Texas to support the Puppy Up walk in the Woodlands and for a short visit with my family.  Quite happy to be back as I have missed my friend.  Crap, I still haven’t named him.  Um let’s go with…
I know some of you are saying, he’s talking about himself again – why does he do that?  And where’s the cancer blog? Like any capable contestant, I’ll take the second part first.  Trying to reduce, distill and refine all that I have learned over a decade of  travels in a few mere blogs is not only dreadfully difficult, it’s daunting, too, and on this I want to get it right.  Or mostly right which is more kin to my nature.  
In the past, there have been blogs I’ve powered through in just a few minutes with a fire and forget mentality.  Others haven taken days and even weeks for a paragraph or less.  And that’s not to mention that for every blog I publish, there are at least ten I don’t.  
But if it’s a sneak peak you want then I’ll give you a little taste of part 1:  Cancer is You.  You are Cancer.  From just the title alone perhaps you can estimate the enormity of the undertaking now.
Next, I used to get irritated by people – and there have been many – who want me to remove myself entirely from this story and stick to topic whatever that means.  Not only is that an odd request since it was me – ex animo – who created all of this – but I rather think I matter.  And I’m far from being done.  But as The Dude would say, that’s, like, only my opinion, man (Heads up for the F Bomb).  
Besides as I hinted at in the previous two blogs, all of these ‘distracting little posts’ about me are going somewhere and I suggest now would be the time to start paying attention if’n you want to begin this stretch of the journey alongside me.    
——–
Renwick 
That’s what I’ll call my friend!  Sounds a little pretentious and overly caricatured, too, but I’ll stick with it. Anyway back to the beginning – it’s good to see him again and we have continued our work together and this is what I wanted to share with you.  It’s important to note that I’m merely a student at this point but it’s pretty powerful stuff.  Especially altered states which I intend on speaking separately about.  
Whilst down at my folks house I came across an old photo album – actually I sought it out.  In part to retrace the tracks of my life and for another reason that will soon become evident.  And in it I discovered the above photo of a half naked me facing a bull cross fence at Big Momma’s house (that’s what we called my 80 lb grandmother cause man could she wield a skillet like a battle axe).  What struck me, other than how large my bollocks must’ve been but also how at peace I seem.  Maybe it was two beasts regarding each other and that’s why I was unafraid and perhaps even comforted by his presence.

I never have taken a liking to the term ‘beast’ or what I sense is its social nuance.  Its implication is negative and connotations derogatory.  To me it means true to ones nature; it is base, fundamental and instinctive.  From my research the etymology of the word remains unclear however, the root of ‘animal’ is Latin meaning breath or spirit. I suppose the distinction between the two words ‘beast’ and ‘animal’ is essence versus being but I’ll leave that one up to the scholarly sorts who have a ton of disposable time.  

To me and for now, they are synonymous.  I am reminded of a story I once read of a boy who, all alone and lost in the woods, becomes a beast to protect himself from the perils of the night and fight his way to safety.  But upon emerging from the forest unscathed the boy learns that he cannot unbecome.

So what’s the point of all of this?  What’s the purpose?  Somewhere along my journey I stopped asking the fundamental questions that preoccupied my youth.  Like tears in rain they became lost in life’s torrent of distractions, inanities and wasteful activities.

Renwick has helped me find who I am again and to truly know it for the first time.  I am a beast of a man.

What’s next – it’s damn time I learn how to train it.

——–

YBD’s Notes:  Interestingly in writing this blog I came across a Latin phrase of unknown origin –  cum vir se bestiam facitrelinquit dolorem humanitatis which means, ‘When a man makes himself a beast, he leaves behind the pain of humanity’.  Perhaps true.  Perhaps humanity is the problem. 
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.  
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!
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.  



——–

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. 

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.
The fraternity of extreme adventurers is actually and quite understandably small.  I’ve reduced the reason down to one simple equation – the glory versus the grind.  If glory>grind no. If grind>glory maybe.  There’s grit in there but that’s a conversation for another time.  
Most begin with the finish line in mind and forget about the millions of steps it takes to get there and don’t realize they’re doomed from the very start. 
I’ve crossed paths with hundreds of would be adventurers who wanted to conquer the AT or the PCT, the vast majority of whom succumbed to the algebra but one, I’m happy to say, did not.  My good friend, John Stalls.  
What I can say about this lad is, other than that he walked from coast to coast, is that as a strapping 6’5 tall and ruggedly gaunt man, he’s the poster boy for great adventures.  Even though I’ve walked many more miles than him, when and if I ever get a Wikipedia page, I hope they put John’s picture on it because he looks the part. 
And lives it, too.  Since he completed his cross country journey Johnathan Stalls has built an organization committed to promoting wellness through walking.  Mile by mile his walk to connect has inspired many people in Denver CO and now he wants to expand it to other communities.  John is a man I’d put my money behind and I hope you will support him in his campaign to realize his vision for Life at 3MPH.  
  
https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/the-value-of-walking-together#/story
I took time out of my crazy busy schedule to watch the debates last nite. I wish I didn’t but I’m glad I did.  It’s time to face facts folks.  No politician gives a shite that you lost a loved one to cancer or that you yourself have it.  DC has a ‘deaf ears’ policy towards cancer even though it is the greatest global killer ever.
Check out this graphic
Every scientific and medical organization agrees that cancer is the deadliest and most pervasive pandemic afflicting not only adults but innocent children as well.  It no longer discriminates.  
And yet as we bear witness to a cross species scourge that’s killing not only millions of people every year but millions of companion animals as well, what does our president do – a systematical and systemic reduction in funding for the National Cancer Institute.  I wrote previously about this and put forward the facts in my blog #NotMyPresidentDay 
Now I’m not just Obama bashing since the past two administrations are guilty of hamstringing the NCI budget but the most egregious sin Obama committed was funding $6.2 billion in Ebola virus research – almost twice the budget of NCI for a disease that claimed only a few lives in the US.  
Oh and nevermind that he gave out over $20 billion last year to ‘renewable energy’ concerns that failed so piss that money down the toilet. 
——–
From all of the death and tragedy I’ve witnessed on my travels, I’m truly at a loss why cancer is not front and center in any and all national debate and discussion.  
Yes I’ve heard all of the reasons and rationalizations but my conclusion comes down to this: cowardice and political expediency.    
We used to be a nation of hope and resolve.  Of dreams and ideas.  It took us only 10 years to put a man on the moon defying all odds and previous scientific limitations.  
But now we either relent because big pharma is making so much money from selling blockbuster cancer drugs and politicians are in their pocket or we’ve given up as a nation and accepted the inevitability of complacency.  
There is no one in this world that has put their life and the lives of their dogs at risk for as long and far as I have for this cause but given the current political environment, every day I ask why?  
We’re only a couple of fuzzybutts and yes, we’ve shown what two dogs can do for the world but it’s not enough.  It’s time to make cancer a national referendum or else..
#CancerWins2016