REMEMBRANCE & GRATITUDE

Dogs serve as a daily reminder to live gratefully, and gracefully in the moment. Offer a bowl of kibble, table scraps, a romp at the beach, a visit to dog park, a new squeaky toy or just a few kind words and it’s a safe bet that you’ll be whacked with a whipping tail, or slurped across the mug with a sandpaper tongue. How often do we, their two-legged partners, match their joy or appreciation? I mention this in honor of Anthony Battista Greco, a friend who passed away last week after a long struggle with lung problems. 


If Tony were a  dog, he’s have been one of those happy oversized breeds (my neighbor’s Bernese Mountain Dog, Bruin comes to mind) that bowl you over with the force of their good nature. Tony was a talented musician, director, writer and entrepreneur and an amazing husband, father of four and devoted brother. If we get to choose our heaven, I see him playing piano with George Harrison (Tony loved the Beatles) hosting a raucous, never-ending party for all of the fabulous artists that have gone before him, and any fun-loving strangers, too.
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This post is about saying ‘Thanks, Grazie, Danke, Merci, Domo Arigato’ and so we’d be remiss not to mention Bank of Books, our intrepid West Malibu booksellers who hosted a signing for me and Tanner last Saturday. It was a gorgeous day and we had a ball chatting with friends and strangers who stopped to buy Gimme Shelter and have us ink their copies. Volunteers Ellen Naumann, and Andy from the Agoura Hills Animal Care facility were there with information about the shelter’s work helping dogs, cats and even rabbits in need. ‘Skittles’ the miracle dog was there, too. After a host of surgeries to fix a severe leg deformity (performed ‘pro bono’c courtesy of Malibu Pet Companions) the brave little guy is 100%. Now all he need is someone to step up and give him a full-time home.

Ellen, a respected dog trainer, had just started at Agoura in early 2009 when Tanner was brought in by a kindly woman who found him roaming on Las Posas Road in Camarillo. Eugenie and I always wanted to thank her for saving him and on Saturday we got the chance when Nancy stopped by to introduce herself. She remembered Tanner as a cowering stray, all head with an emaciated body.  She and Ellen were both thrilled so see him looking so healthy and happy.

Lou & Tanner w Agoura volunteer Andy & ‘Dusty’ (also a rescue dog)
Trainer & volunteer Ellen Naumann w ‘Skittles’ and Tanner
Lou, Eugenie and Tanner @ Bank of Books, 5-18-13


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DON’T RUSH TO JUDGEMENT

By now many people know that a pack of roaming Pit Bulls is being blamed for the mauling death of an Antelope Valley woman who was attacked while jogging. Like many such stories, this one focussed on the breed of dog involved, neglecting to describe the owners, and the conditions in which the dogs were being kept. As details emerge, there’s talk that the dogs may have belonged to a drug dealer and were allowed to roam free, with no training or socialization. Like Rottweilers, Dobermans, and German Shepherds before them, Pits have been the ‘dangerous dog’ of the day, in large part because they appeal to creeps looking for a four-legged weapon to aid their mischief or boost their ‘cred’. It’s sad and tragic that an innocent woman paid the price. While the dogs in question will be found and pay the price, hopefully the local prosecutor will send a message and throw the book at the guilty owners.

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On a lighter note, if you’re looking for a fun time that will benefit animals in need, check out the MAD HATTER TEA PARTY to benefit Sky Valencia’s St. Martin’s Animal Foundation.

JUST HOW ‘DANGEROUS’ ARE PIT BULLS?

In my haste to spread the word about Maryland’s misguided law (nothing gets a ‘recovering’ angry guy worked up like picking on Pitties), I forgot to include some statistics from GIMME SHELTER about the odds of being killed by a Pit Bull. While the numbers are a few years old, they illustrate how the media’s obsession with these ‘killer’ dogs is perversely overblown. I’m including them now to give you a sense of perspective.

Eugenie and Tanner

– According to CDC studies, about 10 persons die each year as a result of dog attacks. Of that number, Pit Bulls are responsible for approximately 28% or 2.8 deaths

–  In 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Commission reported 7 deaths from fireworks. Based on that number, you are two times more likely to die from a fireworks mishap than from a Pit Bull attack.

– Approximately 10 people a year die from snakebites, three times the number killed by Pit Bulls.

– From 1990-2003, 756 Americans (an average of 58/year) died from lightning strikes. That means you are more than 20 times more likely to be killed by lightening than by a Pit Bull.

– CDC statistics show that every day 10 people die from drowning, the second leading cause of non-intentional death for people ages 1-14. A person is 1,300 times more likely to drown than to be killed by a Pit Bull.

– Every year in the U.S., more than 1,700 children (roughly 5 each day) are killed by their parents or guardians, either through abuse or neglect. A child is more than 600 times more likely to be killed by their caretaker than by a Pit Bull.

–  For every Pit Bull that kills, there are MILLIONS that DON’T!

Resources-  Centers for Disease Control Consumer Products Safety Commission National Lightening Safety Institute U.S. Department of Health & Human Services


A TOTALLY FREAKY PIT BULL and A TOTALLY STUPID LAW

Wasn’t sure what to write about this week when a online petition came in that I just I had to share it with our friends. It’s asking the Maryland Appleate Court to overturn a ridiculous piece of legislation passed by the morons in the Maryland Legislature in 2012:

Tracey v. Solesky, No. 53, September Term 2012, Opinion by Cathell, J.
STRICT LIABILITY ADOPTED IN RESPECT TO ATTACKS ON HUMANS BY PIT BULL DOGS AND CROSS-BRED PIT BULL DOGS.
Upon a plaintiff’s sufficient proof that a dog involved in an attack is a pit bull or a pit bull cross, and that the owner, or other person(s) who has the right to control the pit bull’s presence on the subject premises (including a landlord who has a right to prohibit such dogs on leased premises) knows, or has reason to know, that the dog is a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull, that person is liable for the damages caused to a plaintiff who is attacked by the dog on or from the owner’s or lessor’s premises. In that case a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of negligence. When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.
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In practical terms, the law means that in any incident involving a Pit Bull, the dog’s owner or a or a landlord who rents to the owner of a Pit Bull would automatically be guilty of owning or harboring a ‘dangerous’ dog, thereby exposing those people to legal liability. Labeling Pits as inherently dangerous makes their adoption much more difficult, leading to more euthanized dogs.   If this strikes you as wrong-headed and unjust (Imagine a law that said, owing to the nature of the Mafia, all Italians are inherently criminal) sign the petition asking the Maryland Supreme Court to overturn the misguided, bigoted law.

‘Inherently Dangerous’ Tanner about to claim another victim
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On a lighter note, if you enjoy watching canine athletes strut their, check out this video of  Tre-T, a Russian parkour super Pit Bull who treats the city like one huge urban dog park. Like Tanner, Tre-T’s an American Staffordshire Terrier, but just a tad more energetic.

Tre-T literally bouncing off the walls


GIMME SHELTER – Available on Amazon.com

Tanner and I had planned on adding a ‘New Year’s’ post but thanks to my friend and neighbor, Kathryn Galan (Luna’s ‘mom’), we spent the first two weeks of 2013 formatting and publishing GIMME SHELTER for the Kindle store on Amazon.com, where it is now available for all Kindle devices, iPad, iPhone and Mac and PC computers. We are very, very, very jazzed and eternally grateful to Kathryn for making this happen. To order GIMME SHELTER now, just click the “10%” link below the cover photo.

10% of the profits from this book will be donated to animal rescue causes

We’ll detail the publishing process as soon as we recover but, for now, here’s all you need to know to get the book.  First, if you don’t have one (hard to imagine since it seems like we shop there daily) create an Amazon account. Then go to Amazon’s Kindle store or just type in GIMME SHELTER or my name, Louis Spirito, and you’ll be directed to the book.

If you don’t have a Kindle or iPad/iPhone, you can download a free Kindle program and read it on your laptop or desktop computer, like I did.  To get the program, click either Mac or PC and you will be taken Amazon, where they will tell you how to download the program.  Installation is very easy.


Tanner, Eugenie and I would like to thank all of our family and friends for the ongoing support, and we look forward to having GIMME SHELTER spread the word that rescue dogs, and Pit Bulls in particular, can make wonderful, loving companions.

ANOTHER SMALL STEP

Those of you familiar with Tanner’s story will remember that, when he first left the shelter, he was one very skittish pup.  A scuffed shoe or a dropped plate would send him flying.  Thanks to Eugenie’s constant affection (she never took her hands off him) and my concerted efforts to reform my foul temper, he finally began to relax.  First, we were able to coax him up onto the sofa for TV cuddles.  Then, he learned to stretch out on our bed when invited.  Of course, he stayed in the middle, close enough to let us touch him but far enough away to avoid us when he chose.  Just recently, though, that’s begun to change.  When we’re watching movies in bed (been enjoying Ric Burns epic documentary New York) he been allowing Eugenie to drape her legs across his body.  And the other night, he curled up in my lap!  I’d been busy working at probation and doing a hurry-up rewrite on my play so we think it was his way of saying that he missed me.  Regardless, it was awesome to see him acting like the beloved family dog that he is. 

We’ll see how he handles the fireworks and firecrackers this week.  Even if he freaks, we’ll be there to buck him up. 

note:  Since I penned the ‘June Gloom’ headline, we’ve had most blue, sunny skies.  Maybe my public kvetching moved the weather gods.  Either that or we’ve been lucky for a change.  

A ‘SIDEWAYS’ VALENTINE (aka Tanner’s Birthday Blues)

We were desperate for a Valentines getaway but February 14 is  also Tanner’s birthday, and we didn’t want to leave him behind.  Nobody actually knows when he was born, a fact that drives my astrology-minded wife crazy, so we decided to celebrate our Pit Bull baby on Valentines Day, the same as his pop.  We discussed Palm Springs and San Diego but finally opted for Santa Barbara.   Finding a place that accepts dogs isn’t easy.  Most hotels and motels don’t and many of the ones that do charge a hefty fee.  Why?  For the same reason Tanner chews his tail, because they can.

If you’re new to our saga, Tanner’s not fond of the car.  Seriously.  He used to barf every time he rode in it, even if we were only going down the block. We’ve made real progress since but long trips are still iffy.  We stopped along the way so I could join him in the back seat for ‘encouragement’ but we made it to Santa Barbara without incident.  After a taco run to La Super Rica, we dumped our bags at the State Street Motel 6, and took off for Solvang,  and the wine country made famous (infamous if you ask the locals) by Alexander Payne’s movie, “Sideways”.   
It’s not the Amalfi Drive (forget Tanner, even Eugenie can’t ride there) but the San Marcos Pass (Rte 154) is a scenic, winding road that passes by picturesque Lake Cachuma.  Tanner wasn’t happy but he closed his eyes and hung tough. 

Solvang’s a quaint (cheesy?) Danish village that’s also super dog friendly.  Once a year, in late February, they host a Greyhound Fest in which town opens its doors to a swarm of sweet, speedy rescue dogs.  We spent the afternoon shopping (the pet store and the Sock Guy got the bulk of our coin), then we took the birthday boy out to diner at Root 246, one of our favorites.  The three of us ate outdoors, on the patio by the fire pit.  Then we made the harrowing drive back. 

By the time we reached our room, Tanner was toast.  He ignored his food and water and hunkered down in his bed while we watched the Westminster Dog Show

a tradition from our New York City period when we owned a wonderful Irish Setter and the Dalmation from Hell.  Ironically, both breeds were represented in this year’s Best In Show round.  Tanner’s an American Staffordshire Terrier so we were  hoping the AmStaff might win the Terrier Group but no dice.  Maybe next year.  Tanner was torn.  The finalists included a German Shepherd, like Tanner’s girlfriend Lola, and a sexy Doberman named Fifi.  Eugenie and weren’t; we were rooting for the Irish Setter ‘momma’ that had recently given birth to 15 puppies.  

The following day, we hung around SB until after lunch.  Then we chauffeured Tanner home to Malibu.    The poor dog was fried and didn’t budge until his nighttime walk.  He’s grown very attached to us and wants to be with us everywhere we go.  If only we never left home, life would be perfect for him.