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A man and his dogs

It might have been Luke Robinson’s idea to walk 2,400 miles across the United States with his two Great Pyrenees dogs to call attention to canine cancer, but in fact it is Murphy and Hudson who are walking Robinson, not the other way around.
Robinson is making his way across Williamson County this week and will visit Happy ReTales in Brentwood’s Creekside Crossing off Old Hickory Boulevard Saturday, Nov. 22, from 2-5 p.m.

He’s en route to Boston with his two “boys,” whose combined weight is close to 180 pounds. They left Austin, Texas, in March with a mission — to raise awareness of canine cancer and raise funds for the first-ever nationwide epidemiological canine cancer study.

For Robinson, it is personal. He lost “his boy” Malcolm, another Great Pyrenees, to osteosarcoma in 2006. Robinson was working a 90-plus-hour work week when Malcolm was diagnosed as the founder and head of a high tech and life science business consulting firm, but when the dog became sick, his perspective and focus changed.

“I rarely left his side after that,” Robinson said in a break from the road. “It was truly a life defining experience and one that’s made me re-evaluate my place in the world and what my contribution can be.”

Murphy, who is about 7 years old, and Hudson, just a pup at 2 years old and 55 pounds or so, are the real celebrities of the walk, Robinson said.

“I am just the guy carrying the luggage,” he said. Each of them is armed with a backpack, although the ones carried by the animals contain mainly their snacks and supplies while Robinson is carrying a tent and things to sustain the trio along the road.

They set out from Austin in March headed for Boston, which is Robinson’s home. They expected to be further along the route than they are, but as fate would have it, Murphy had his own brush with canine cancer and there was some recovery time spent just after the walk began.

Robinson remembers mosquitoes “as big as sparrows” while walking through the Arkansas Delta in July. They hit Memphis in late August and have stopped along the way to volunteer at different shelters or humane associations to volunteer. Each time they do, Wagatha’s Extraordinary Biscuits for Dogs donates a 10-pound bag of treats to those shelters.

Those days volunteering has also given Robinson the chance to interact with animal lovers, experts, caregivers and those doing research into canine cancer and perhaps only deepened his resolve to get a national dialogue started.

“Definitely it has made the experience richer and fuller after hearing all of the stories,” he said. “It has helped to tighten the focus of the mission. People want to know what is causing canine cancer and we have found that canine cancer is a crisis. Not only is cancer significant in dogs, but it is also hitting them at a younger age. It is so prevalent that some dogs are having their life spans downgraded.”

Malcolm was only 6 when he was diagnosed, Robinson said, and 8 when he was given what Robinson describes as rest. He is making the trip with the trio though, as Robinson wears one of his claws and some of his ashes in memorial around his neck, and carries a St. Francis medal in his pocket given to him by his mother, herself a breast cancer survivor.

While walking, people often stop and talk to Robinson about what he is doing or offer to let him stay in their homes. But be forewarned, the three come as a package. If they dogs aren’t welcome, then Robinson will choose to camp out with them.
“When we are walking, we are working,” Robinson said. “When I get on the road with them and they get a rhythm, we work well together…the first 15 minutes, they are just pulling me.”

They average eight to 10 miles per day and at that pace won’t make it to Boston on their original timetable. Instead they will brave the winter months and hope to arrive to a celebratory event sometime in the spring.

Robinson’s Web site, www.2dogs2000miles.org, has a lot of information regarding the walk and “puppy up” products you can buy to support their walk and the mission of canine cancer research, but there are things you can do if you see the trio on the road.

“If they lost a companion pet, we have a memorial shirt,” Robinson said, showing a shirt with the names of animal’s lost to canine cancer. “Whenever we have to dig deep, all I have to do is look at my shirt to know there are angels walking with us.
“Another thing people can do is stop and give them hugs,” Robinson said of the dogs. Hudson greets all visitors by standing on his hind legs before throwing his paws around your neck.

“We are fine with pitching a tent on the side of the road, but we are also looking for safer places to stay,” Robinson said of church yards or halls, private homes and other facilities that allow the dogs to stay with him.

“Last and most important is to help get the message out there of canine cancer,” Robinson said of the things that people can do.

Posted on: 11/20/2008

 
 

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