Man and His Dog Walk Down West Coast to Bring Attention to Canine Cancer
BY: Anne Kallas
VENTURA, Calif. – When Luke Robinson lived in Texas in the early 2000s, he was a financial analyst with no room in his heart for a dog. But when an ex-girlfriend insisted he adopt a Great Pyrenees dog named Malcolm, Robinson discovered a deep spiritual connection with an animal that transformed his life and led him on his mission of bringing attention to canine cancer.
Robinson on Tuesday visited the Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group in Ventura during his second awareness walk, this one down the West Coast. He left the Vancouver area in Canada on May 10 with two dogs, Hudson and Indiana, “Indy,” and is heading to San Diego by Dec. 14. Hudson had to abandon the effort in August because of paw issues.
Robinson’s first dog, Malcolm, was diagnosed in 2006 with metastatic bone cancer at age 6, and the dog’s death two years later left him bereft but with a sense of purpose. Robinson decided he wanted to bring attention to cancer’s devastating effect on dogs. “When Malcolm was first diagnosed, I didn’t really know that dogs have cancer. I never knew that. Why? I knew my path in life had changed direction,” Robinson said. “Before Malcolm, I wasn’t really a dog guy.”
After Malcolm died, Robinson put his belongings in storage and embarked on a hike from Austin, Texas, to Boston with two dogs, Hudson and Murphy. And in an effort to raise money and awareness, he started the 2 Million Dogs Foundation, now called the PuppyUp Foundation, which sponsors walks in the United States.
John MacFadyen, director of the Veterinary Medical and Surgical Group, said having Robinson stop by the facility, which is a 24-hour emergency clinic that also treats dogs with cancer, was a perfect fit. “Bringing attention to canine cancer is near and dear to what we do,” MacFadyen said. Veterinary oncologist Dr. Lori Cesario said treating animals doesn’t differ too much from dealing with humans.
“We use the same types of chemotherapy, but we reduce the dosage significantly. We don’t want to make the animals sick. Our most important consideration is quality of life,” Cesario said. “It’s a trade-off. We are curing fewer patients than we would if we could be more aggressive.”
Diane Seno, of Ventura, said she came to the animal hospital to greet Robinson because she’s been following his progress online as he’s made his way down the coast. Seno said that when her 8-year-old rescued greyhound Stella was diagnosed with cancer, she wanted to make sure she did everything she could for her dog. “I wanted to give her the best chance for long-term survival I could. She’s my baby. I have no children. She was a racing greyhound and she got off to a rough start,” said Seno, who said Stella received six expensive chemotherapy treatments and has been cancer-free for a year.
Robinson said this trip has been rough. The walk on Highway 101 along the Washington and Oregon coasts was perilous. Then Hudson started having paw issues and was shipped to Memphis, Tennessee, to a friend. Robinson found out in September that Hudson has cancer — his third Great Pyrenees to be diagnosed with the disease. Murphy also had cancer.
But each setback leaves him more committed to raising money for the animals, he said. Robinson noted that veterinary cancer treatment can result in advancements in cancer treatment for humans, especially when experimental drugs are used.