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. 
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.  

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!
We all know the famous line from Apocalypse Now, “Charlie don’t surf”, but there’s a lesser known one from my travels, “Pet parents don’t golf”.  
Never understood why really since alot of public courses let you take your companion with you. That’s actually how Malcolm, my first great Pyrenees, and I became eternal mates.  Golf.  

That’s him with Murphy’s mum at the Alsatian golf club. He rode shotgun in the cart, never barked in my backswing, and gave me, ahem, a mulligan here and there.  What more could you ask of a mate?  
Well, he did have a bit of difficulty with yardages.  And squirrels. 
I’ve always wanted to promote golf as another way to spend more time with your companion and coming up in August, we’re hosting the first annual ‘Puppy Up and Putt it In’ golf tournament in San Antonio, TX.  
It’s hosted at the beautiful JW Marriott TPC Canyons Course and the proceeds from the event go to funding comparative oncology research and education and awareness about cancer in dogs.  
Come out and play 18 with us for the cause and to learn more about how you can participate as an individual golfer or sponsor, download the PDF or please contact lorraine.rose@marriott.com 

And yes’m we keep the tradition alive.  That’s Indiana Jones at a golf course in Atlanta GA.  The question I get most about this pic – was he putting for par?  
That and is Hudsy giving him a read on the break?  
Puppy Up and Putt It In.

“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.  

  

Hard to believe it’s 8 years in the making since we started the ‘Cancer Can’t Keep a Good Dog Down’ calendar in honor and memory of our canine heroes touched by cancer.  
Damn I remember our first one when I had to carry my 10 pound clunky Dell laptop for miles in my backpack on the C&O trail to upload the photos for the contest cause Erich was still on a 128k modem. Good times…
Unlike cheerleading tryouts in Texas, it’s not really a contest – all are beauties and featured in the calender.  Nearby is the link to the blog about how you can participate http://www.2milliondogs.org/our-8th-annual-cancer-cant-keep-a-good-dog-down-canine-cancer-calendar-contest-has-begun/
Thanks Erich for being the Keeper of the Calendar.  

It was no choice
That set this course

Astep, astride
The road abides

And through its length
I cried,

‘Oh beauty burns
Your trail etern.

The silence of your roar
That swept me neath

No more. No more.’

——–

YBD’s Notes1:  The west coast walk was long and hard, harder than any stretch of the road we’ve been on before.  But the much bigger lesson here is we’re in this together if we have a ghost of a chance to eradicate cancer in us and our companions in our lifetime, puppy up damnit

YBD’s Notes2:  Happy XMAS

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.

//////

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!