For some strange reason (his spotty Oscar picks?) Tanner asked me to pinch hit (write) for him today. He watched the Academy Awards with us and we all thought it was one of those years where, in the absence of a consensus juggernaut like Avatar,  a lot of good, deserving films split the pie. We were glad to see Dallas Buyers Club, Gravity and 12 Years A Slave get some props, and not surprised that Academy snubbed American Hustle (a gang of good actors clearly ‘acting’ in a choppy script) and Wolf Of Wall Street (an overly long paean to greed and selfishness masquerading as a cautionary tale).

With the movies behind us, we can get back to talking about our other favorites, dogs and books. In yesterday’s Parade Magazine, Peter Zheutlin delivered a moving portrait of Greg Mahle, a former restaurant owner who now runs a transport service, Rescue Road Trips, that makes bi-monthly trips from Ohio to the Deep South, to rescue ‘death row’ dogs from high-kill shelter and deliver them to their new the Northeast, where they’re taken in by loving families. If you’d like to contribute to the cause, go to

Thanks to our dear friend, accomplished artist and animal lover Sharon Brooks for turning us on to LOOKING FOR 527 by Susanne Belcher & Christine Baleshta. This slim volume pack a powerful wallop as a writer and artist join forces to illuminate the moving life, and tragic loss of one of the Yellowstone wolves. The authors avoid political diatribes, preferring to let their simple, loving observations of the park and its wolves make the case for reinstating U.S. Fish and Wildlife Endangered Species protection for these majestic creatures. To underscore the good wolves do, this fascinating video details the many ways in which the much maligned predators positively affect the entire ecosystem, and even the physical geography of that American gem, Yellowstone Park.

Tanner with his ‘younger’ woman, Kona

It seems that receiving the B.R.A.G. Medallion for Nonfiction has ushered in a host of honors for Tanner and GIMME SHELTER. First, we’ve been invited as ‘honored guests’ to this year’s Academic Bowl, a scholastic competition for incarcerated youth, some of whom I know from my work at the local probation camp schools. And later this month, we’ve been invited to attend the Avondale Country Club’s 12 Annual Charity Pet Show in Palm Desert. While it’s always great to hang with other animal lovers, this year’s proceeds will go to The Pet Rescue Center. Since March 13, 1998, founder Christine Madruga and her colleagues have placed over 6,033 dogs and 7,050 cats into loving homes. 


Mom and dad have been working very hard lately, keeping me in bones and dog toys. So to decompress, the three of us took off last weekend for the Central Coast. The ostensible reason was the 14th Annual Solvang Greyhound Fest. Billed “The Danish Capital of America,” One weekend every year, the town (renowned for its quaint, European-style architecture and decadent bakeries) puts out the Danish ‘Welcome’ mat for former racing dogs and their human adoptive parents. Over the course of two days, we saw hundreds of the sleek rocket hounds. I invited them all to play but only a few of the youngsters answered the call. At first I thought the leggy divas were just too full of themselves but then some rescue folks explained that Greyhounds spend their early lives in kennels, surrounded by only their handlers and other Greyhounds. Not surprisingly, they tend to view other dogs, even this lovable Pit Bull, as an alien species. At least no one complained about having a ‘gangsta’  pit bull crash the party. Whenever someone did ask about my lineage, Lou would say, “Tanner’s a Greyhound that’s been hitting the weights and taking ‘roods”. In addition to ogling dogs, we took the opportunity grab some fine eats at La Super Rica in Santa Barbara,The Hitching Post in Buelton and Root 246 in Solvang. 
Tanner & Eugenie crash the 14th Annual Solvang Greyhound Fest
Tanner & Lou soaking up the Danish sun

Every year, the three of us put our heads together to pick the Oscar winners. Lou thinks he’s the expert, but mom and I took him to school in 2012 when Uggie led The Artist to a Best Picture win. Thanks to SAG screeners, we managed to see most of this year’s nominees and here are our predication: Best Director: Alfonson Cuaron for Gravity. Best Picture: Dallas Buyers Club, with Best Actor and Best Supporting Actor nods Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto. Kate Blanchett cops Best Actress for Blue Jasmine, while Jennifer Lawrence of American Hustle grabs her second golden dwarf for Best Supporting Actress. Finally, Best Screenplays to 12 Years A Slave (Adapted), and Dallas Buyers Club (Original).

Speaking of awards….A few weeks back, the American Kennel Club held its 138th Westminster Dog Show at New York’s Madison Square Garden. We watched both nights and felt that the American Staffordshire Terrier was clearly the pick of the blue blood litter. In case you’re wondering, our choice had nothing to do with the fact that I’m an AmStaff. We also liked the Pug (for Dudley) the Irish Setter (for Rebel) and the Miniature Bull Terrier (for Maynard). The crowd went gaga for Nathan, a goofy Bloodhound but, in the only pick that mattered, the Judge selected ‘Sky’ a wire haired Fox Terrier, as this year’s top dog. Disappointed as we were, we were happy for Sky, who’s a hometown Malibu dog.
‘Sky’ takes the Blue Ribbon at MSG

OSCAR NIGHT – ‘BEST PERFORMANCE BY A DOG’ (and some humble pie)

It was a tough night for Tanner and Eugenie; they failed to predict the key awards, and had to listen to me crow about Argo‘s Best Picture win. We were all glad to see Life of Pi pick up some gold, especially Tanner who loves all movies featuring 4-legged creatures.

In keeping with the Awards, check out this video on ‘Skidboot’, a cattle dog who takes the ‘BEST PERFORMANCE BY A LEADING DOG’ hands down. Tanner was quick to point out that he’s much cuter and that he could learn all those commands and tricks, but being a terrier (American Staffordshire) he simply doesn’t want to. Hmm.


Last year Tanner proved to be a wiz at handicapping the Oscars; albeit his method was sketchy, he tabbed the Best Picture and Best Supporting Actor nods, along with a slew of other winners. Given his track record, Eugenie and I decided to let him offer his thoughts on this year’s races.

Tanner & Lou on State Street, Santa Barbara, 2/18/13

In the Best Picture category, we didn’t see three of the nominees – Beasts of The Southern Wild, Django Unchained and Life of Pi (Lou’s fault since Eugenie and I were bugging him to get the screeners).  Of the other six, Les Miz was overly long with uneven singing and a plot that jumps from a riveting ‘A’ story (Jean Valjean v Javert) to sappy, with the love at first sight between Marius (a rich frat boy slumming as a revolutionary) and Cosette. It’s a bit of a downer, but nothing compared to Amour, which made me want to run into traffic (Remember, I’m a dog and seppuku isn’t an option). We all found it sheer torture and it left us wondering how in the heck these two snooze fests get nominated when the bubbly, brilliant Intouchables came away with bubkes. But I digress. 

Lincoln was well done, with great acting boosting what is basically a lengthy documentary. Our friend, Joe Simone, rightly said it should have ended 15 minutes earlier, before the assassination, while David P, a director pal, said it l was shot with all those profiles so we would marvel at Daniel Day Lewis’s resemblance to Abe. Zero Dark Thirty (much like Hurt Locker, the 2009 winner) features a documentary story with a frosty protagonist that’s hard to warm up to. Her growth during the picture is nil. That leaves us with Silver Linings Playbook and Argo. Mom loved the former, second only to Intouchables in her year’s best. Dad said the first 30 minutes were a bit muddled but, after that, it was quite good. We all agree that Jennifer Lawrence is amazing, perhaps a new Meryl Streep in the making, and that she will take Best Actress. Eugenie liked Argo while dad liked it much better; then again, he’s a political type. It’s a tough call but I’m rolling with mom on this one. 

In the acting categories, it’s Daniel Day Lewis for Lincoln, Jennifer Lawrence in Silver Linings, Philip Seymour Hoffman for The Master (no, I didn’t see that one either and probably never will because, with the exception of Boogie Nights, Lou doesn’t care for the director’s work). Finally, the under-rated David O. Russell upsets Steven Spielberg for Best Director. Overall, last year’s movies were far superior, not coincidentally, because they featured canine stars.
Porter update: Although he’s still fighting an infection and some post-op soreness, the tough little puppy is doing much better.