A VERY GOOD YEAR…

As the clock winds down on 2014, it might be fun to take a last look back on a terrific year. In January, GIMME SHELTER snagged a coveted Indie B.R.A.G. Medallion for Nonfiction. That same month, Lou met philanthropist, dog advocate and Gimme Shelter fan Erika Brunson who floored us by purchasing books for the boys at nearby Camp Gonzales Juvenile Probation school. In March, Adrienne Berke bought copies for her English classes at Camp Miller. Thanks to our suddenly enhanced profile, Lou and Eugenie were invited to attend the Academic Bowl for incarcerated youth. Month’s end found us sunning in the Desert as the guests of honor at the 12th Annual Avondale Country Club Pet Show in Palm Springs, courtesy of Joan and Kathleen Hopp. In April, Lou and I led the Simi Valley Bark for Life Cancer Walk and we did our first TV interview on the City of Calabasas ‘Author’s Night’. 

@ Simi Valley Bark For Life

Thanks to mom’s efforts, this humble pit bull was tabbed ‘Pet Of The Week, in the Surfside News. In May, Lou became a member of the Dog Writers Association of America. In July, Gimme Shelter received a great review from U.K. book maven Emma Powell, and Lou did a guest ‘Read Aloud’ at Camp Gonzales Summer Freedom School. August saw a sweet profile of Lou and the book in the Dog Writers newsletter, a spot on the World Wide Blog Tour, and the honor of emceeing Malibu Methodist Church’s ‘Dog Day of Summer blessing of the animals, where a certain thirsty pit bull emptied the holy water bowl. We were mystified by a surge in online sales until we learned that L.A. County Probation purchased copies of Gimme Shelter for all of the juvenile camp dormitory libraries. On a sad note, after a game battle against rising rents, our beloved Diesel Books closed its doors. In September, Eugenie and Lou abandoned me celebrate their anniversary in Bella Italia, where they met foreign pit bull lovers who follow me on Facebook! December brought down the curtain with a nice mention in the Fordham University Alumni Magazine, and word that Lou was nominated for a Dog Writers award for Best Online Magazine Story. But it wasn’t all accolades and fun. When tests revealed that a lump on my chest was malignant and had to be removed, Eugenie and Lou freaked. The surgery left me sore and more than a little groggy but thanks to Dr. Dean, Dr. Lisa and the gang at Malibu Coast Animal Hospital I’m fully recovered and raring to see what 2015 has in store. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

recovering at home with ‘Dad’

In a postscript to our last blog, we wanted to thank all of our friends and followers who forwarded our plea to help find homes for 3 sweet pit bull. Your efforts paid off when a doggy daddy stepped up to share his home with Dottie. Her rescuer and trainer, Mike, was thrilled. Now we just need to work our magic for Rex, Ranger and Lemon.

Dottie – a succes story

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I CANI DELL’ITALIA (THE DOGS OF ITALY)

The Duomo, Milan
Poor Tanner! His parents went to Italy for 3 weeks and all he got was some lousy pictures of Italian dogs. Before you feel too sorry for our canine blogger, he spent his vacation at Sandpiper Kennels, hanging out in the office with Patti, Paul and Ignacio, and romping with the pack in the play yard. We came home to find him looking lean and fit, and very, very happy to see us. Since we’re with him every day, it’s tough to notice just how much Tanner has changed sine he first joined our family. That’s why we were thrilled to hear Patti say…When I first met Tanner, he was meek, nervous and shy…with your persistence and devotion, Tanner has blossomed into a real dog! A fun loving, bouncing around, tail wagging, food gobbling, happy puppy!!!!! He is an absolute joy to behold!”  Thanks to Patti and her crew for taking such good care of him so we could rest easy and enjoy our vacation.

Mantova

During our trip we visited Bergamo, Brescia, Lake Garda (Sirmione), Mantova, Modena, Pietrasanta, Marina Di Pietrasanta, Camogli, Pavia, and Milan. Along the way we saw lots of dogs. Most were mixed breeds but we did see several Labs, Pugs, Cavalier King Charles, Shepherds, English and Irish Setters and a dozen or more pit bulls, bull terriers, cane corsos, and dogo argentinos. In Bergamo, we struck up a conversation with a young man from the Netherlands who was strolling with his family and his Staffordshire Terrier, ‘Bus’. We told him about Tanner and gave him a card for the book. He took one look and said, “I know GIMME SHELTER; I follow you on Facebook.” Seems the world, or at least the dog world, is a very small place indeed. It wasn’t possible to photograph every dog we came across all but here are a few we did get:
‘Maria’, Piacenza
‘ZEUS’ (Cane Corso), Mantova
Jack Russells, Pietrasanta




B.R.A.G.ing RIGHTS – COOL NUNS – FAREWELL TO A MENTOR

I promised Lou we could share this post but first I wanted to crow a little about how GIMME SHELTER was just named a 2014 B.R.A.G. MEDALLION Honoree in Nonfiction. The Book Readers Appreciation Group is a private organization whose mission is to discover new and talented self-published authors and help them give their work the attention and recognition it deserves. Their primary focus is fiction but they selectively consider non-fiction books as well. In light of the rigorous selection process, we’re very flattered to be selected.
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Since Gimme Shelter is the story of a homeless pit bull that ‘saves’ his wayward human guardian, we thought we’d share the tale of some elderly nuns who courageously adopted a senior rescue pit bull named Remy. Given the recent scandals involving the Catholic Church, it’s great to see these ladies walking their talk in the style of Saint Francis. Read the story.


I begged Tanner to surrender the keyboard so I could say ‘farewell’ to my good friend and mentor, PETER CHETTA, who passed away earlier this week. Peter taught English at my alma mater, Iona College, for 53 years! We met when I was just a green and not especially literate sophomore, grappling with the giants of American Literature. A lawyer and Fullbright Scholar who spoke Chinese, Peter was a gentleman, and raconteur, a man who could and would relate to anyone, regardless of their station. A man for all seasons. A diehard theatre and opera lover, he saw thousands of shows, amassing a huge collection of Playbills, signed by such luminaries as The Godfather himself,  Marlon Brandon. No venue was too small or remote, which explains why he got to see your truly back in my acting days. Regardless of the show or my part, he was always upbeat and supportive. And he was especially thrilled with GIMME SHELTER, as if by writing it I’d fulfilled the potential he saw in me. To paraphrase Horatio’s speech to Hamlet: “He was an admirable King (of teachers).  We shall not look upon his like again.” 
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Lastly, some long overdue book reviews:
Point Dume by Katie Arnoldi – Not For Locals Only.  Marry The Endless Summer, Savages and Slackers, shake it up and add a local perspective and a wicked sense of humor and you have Katie Arnoldi’s novel Point Dume. The action centers on the Malibu culture clash between the old-time surf culture, the rich yuppie invaders and cartel pot growers using the nearby mountains as an ‘el norte’ nursery but Arnoldi’s real forte lies in skewering the players on all sides. If you’re wondering what Malibu was like before it was ‘Fabulous’, Point Dume will set you straight and entertain you, too.


The Sacred Art of Listening by Kay Lindahl – I became aware of the book at an open mic night where Ms. Lindahl spoke. Her gentle wisdom moved me to buy the book and I’m glad I did. Veteran New Age seekers will recognize much of the wisdom in this slender but impactful volume. In forty short but moving essays, the writers explains how listening differs from mere hearing, and how learning to truly do so can be a life-altering event. 

2014…THE YEAR OF THE PIT BULL

Lou says that, according to the Chinese calendar, 2014 is the Year of the Horse. I say, hogwash; as far as I’m concerned this is the Year of the Pit Bull. Among the goals I’ve plotted out for my humans is to sell several thousand copies of GIMME SHELTER, and to get the book adopted as part of the curriculum at the L.A. County Juvenile Probation Camp Schools where Lou teaches part-time. On top of that, we’re aiming to work with Project Unleashed so we can help a whole gang of homeless dogs and kids at risk. 
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Lou sometimes gets discouraged so I had to point out all that we accomplished in 2013. For example, in January we published Gimme Shelter as an e-book on Amazon. The following month saw the arrival of the paperback version, both courtesy of our ‘angel’ Kathryn Galan. April saw a great Pet Life Radio interview with our friend and animal advocate Megan Blake, a flurry of newspaper articles in the Malibu Surfside, Malibu Times and Around About Peterstown (NJ), plus an SRO author’s night at Diesel Books in Malibu. May brought a similar gig at Bank of Books, a Top 10 ranking in The Times book list (Malibu Times, that is), a magazine photo shoot with the amazing Roxanne McCann, and featured placement on Amazon’s dog section. In June, Lou penned a story on ‘Adopting A Pit Bull‘ for India’s WOOF! Magazine. July saw us featured in the Malibu Times Magazine. In August, we kicked off the American Cancer Society’s first Malibu  ‘Bark For Life’ event, were featured in stories in the Agoura Patch and Acorn, signed books at the Westlake Barnes & Noble, and reprised our Diesel reading at their Brentwood store. September found us gracing the pages of American Dog Magazine, where we received a glowing review, and chatting with Tom & Sandy on on Live 805, KVTA (listen here). During this stretch, our paeano, Al Santillo, was busy selling copies of Gimme Shelter faster than we could print them. Grazie, Al. In October, we spent a great Saturday holding court in the author’s corner at Agoura Hills’ Reyes Adobe Days. December brought a nice surprise – a #16 slot on Diesel’s Top 50 Books of 2103, and another story on Dogs In Winter for WOOF! If that weren’t enough, along the way we made a ton of new dog friends like Chip & Alicia from Project Unleashed, the folks at Malibu Pet Companions, Linda Blair’s Worldheart Foundation, Animal Advocates Alliance and the Canine Adoption Rescue League. Couple that with a slew of parties, dinners, Eugenie’s gallery show and a slew of crazy days with the Trancas Dogpark gang and it added up to one delicious, stupendous circuit around the sun.

2014, The Year of the Pit Bull!


A few months back, we posted about neuro-research confirming that dogs are people, too. Well, now comes shocking word that cats, yes, cats, have human feelings, too. According to ‘According Animals Dignity’ by Frank Bruni in the NY Times:This [trend] is only going to build, because at the same time that scientific advances force us to gaze upon the animal kingdom with more respect, the proliferation of big and little cameras — of eyes everywhere — permits us to eavesdrop not just on animal play but also on animal persecution. It’s all documented, it all goes viral, and we can’t turn away, or claim ignorance, as easily as we once did.


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


‘CHANGE OF HEART’ & META WORLD PEACE

Like lots of writers and bloggers, I keep a file of stories I find interesting that I might want to share. In an old issue of Cesar Millan’s newsletter, I came across an article by Sarah Kosinski Cope about how she went from Pit Bull phobic to become a staunch advocate for the breed. Her ‘change of heart’ was so dramatic that she even started a non-profit that fosters and places Bullys. If you have a moment, check out COHPBR on Facebook. 
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For a change of heart of the two-legged variety, how about Laker forward Meta World Peace, formerly Ron Artest. In an LA Times piece, irascible columnist T.J. Simers details how the former ‘thug’ and NBA pariah, who was suspended for a charging into the stands and brawling with rowdy, drunken fans, has become a self-controlled model citizen. As we angry guys know, it’s a hard feat to accomplish. Hats off to Meta/Ron, and here’s hoping the  Lakers make the playoffs. 

Eugenie and I with ‘the Dog Whisperer’ @ the SHARE benefit, Santa Monica, 2008

More ‘thank you’s – In the last post I forgot to mention Tony Greco from Screenwriter.com, and Ron & Justine Fontes at Sonic Publishing for plugging GIMME SHELTER. Also Sveetie, Zari, Sophie, Davidson Garrett, Bonnie Saito, Lisa Malta O’Leary, Paul Cheesman, Linda Nocon and Andrea Knipe for taking time to review the book.