Poor dad. He hasn’t been available to help me post in several weeks and here’s why. As he explains in GIMME SHELTER, it was 30+years ago that he left day-to-day teaching to follow a different drummer and pursue his artistic calling. Although he’s been sub-teaching at the local juvenile probation camps, working with incarcerated teens, nothing prepared him for a recent gig, filling in for an ailing  AP English teacher at a local high school. After two weeks, my black belt dad looked like he’d gone 5 rounds with UFC champ Anderson Silva: his eyes were glazed, his heart was racing, and his stomach was in knots. With another month looming, dad showed the better part of valor and tapped out, agreeing to take a greatly reduced workload. He’s sorry that he couldn’t push through, but mom and I are happy to have him back home with us and smiling again. Want to see just how thrilled I am to have my ‘big dog’ back? Here’s a video of us hanging at home, playing my favorite game, ‘ Jump’.
Congratulations to our dear friend and pup-lover Jennienne LeClercq of NYC. When her beloved Stella passed away, she wasn’t sure she’d ever share her life and love with another pooch. Enter, Darla, who’s already captured Jenniene’s heart…and most of the bed. The only tough spot so far – getting this discrete, 15-month-old country honey to squat on the New York sidewalks!
Jenniene and ‘Darla’ Darling @ the Central Park Boathouse
The fabulous Stella
Since it;s Holiday Season (and seemingly has been since July), we thought we’d share a Buzzfeed heart-warmer about Leo, a down-and-out Cambodian pooch and the guardian angel that turned his life around. If this evokes a ‘Bah, humbug!’, you’d best go see your cardiologist.

Leo with his angel, Meagan


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 rescueroadtrips.com

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. 


Several months back, Lou discovered that our story and GIMME SHELTER had been featured on a website called ‘Dog Bless You’. We thought it odd but, ever since the book debuted, things like that have been happening on a regular basis. Recently, we learned the story of the man behind the site and how one amazing dog transformed his life.  Sound familiar? Here’s their tale (tail?) courtesy of the LA Times.

When Charlie Annenberg adopted an abandoned golden retriever named Lucky, a new breed of philanthropy was born. Lucky was 4 in 2001 when he teamed up with Annenberg, scion to a wealthy family known for giving money away. Annenberg incorporated Lucky into all his projects. They were on the road more than they were home as they traveled around making documentaries about people who were making a difference.
   Lucky became Annenberg’s sidekick and soul mate, and would eventually inspire donations to dog-focused causes from the $8 million or so that the philanthropist controls annually. Whether it was a chef at the White House or coal miners 100 feet underground in West Virginia, Lucky made documentary interviews easy because he made everyone comfortable. The workload for both man and dog grew with the website explore.org. Using state-of-the-art cameras, Annenberg brought wildlife to stunning life for millions of Web watchers. He and Lucky traveled to every installation in North America, and everywhere they went, Annenberg filmed Lucky interacting with people and places.
   In 2010, Annenberg decided to use his Lucky photos and films for a travel journal on Facebook, telling the story of their trips. Annenberg called the journal Dog Bless You, he said, because several years earlier Lucky had befriended a homeless man in San Francisco. They shared time and a sandwich with the man. As they were leaving, the man said, “Dog bless you.” The Facebook page was all about Lucky, but it captured the fervor for pets that was growing around the country. “Today we have an audience of 505,000 fans,” said Courtney Johnson, explore.org’s community relations manager.

Annenberg & ‘Lucky’

   When an earthquake and tsunami struck Japan in 2011, killing more than 18,000 people, Annenberg used Dog Bless You to send six search dogs. Then war veterans started returning home in large numbers, with wounds including brain injuries and post-traumatic stress disorder. Many of them needed service dogs. Passion for the cause on Dog Bless You soared. Service dogs cost between $2,000 and $50,000 each, depending on how much training they need, Johnson said.

Annenberg, grandson of the late publisher, ambassador and philanthropist Walter H. Annenberg, is a vice president and director of the grant-making Annenberg Foundation. In just three years, he has donated 170 guide dogs, search-and-rescue dogs or service dogs for veterans. Most of the dogs funded by Annenberg have been for veterans. Because there are waiting lists at almost every training school and experts say thousands of veterans would benefit from a dog, Annenberg plans to accelerate the dog grant program.
   Warrior Canine Connection in Brookeville, Md., is just one of the dog training schools Annenberg uses, but it’s also unique because dogs are raised for, by and with veterans. The latest group of nine puppies is even named after veterans, Warrior Canine Executive Director Rick Yount said.
   “It’s a good way to say, ‘We are not forgetting about your sacrifices.’ And [the namesakes] get to spend time with the puppies and get therapy themselves,” Yount said. Trained veterans teach the puppies for the first eight to12 weeks. Then the dogs go live with volunteers from military or veterans’ organizations.
“By the time a dog is fully trained, over 500 vets and servicemembers have been involved in getting it ready,” Yount said.
   As Lucky aged and slowed down, the format of Dog Bless You changed, becoming a tribute to every dog. And Lucky had to retire from traveling. Annenberg misses Lucky at work. “He was my partner on all these trips,” he said. “It’s not the same. He would open the door and make me look good. People always stopped and petted him. Everyone wanted to keep Lucky, especially the coal miners. Isn’t it interesting that every day was a new day for Lucky? And he just wanted to be petted? It’s been a great ride.”


Between book events, working at Probation and workouts, things get hectic around our place. Maybe that’s why we’ve neglected to mention that the Gimme Shelter Campaign recently made our 2nd and 3rd official donations to the Linda Blair Worldheart Foundation and the St. Martin’s Animal Foundation. For new visitors, we’ve promised to donate 10% of the profits from GIMME SHELTER to various animal rescue groups. We’re at 3 and counting, so keep buying books and we’ll keep sharing the proceeds.

Pit-Lab pups being fostered by Sky Valencia of St. Martin’s Animals Foundation.
Interested? Contact: skyvalencia99@gmail.com

With all of those cute kitty YouTube videos, it’s tough to keep current on dog news so here are two stories that might be of interest.
– An L.A. Times‘ piece from June 22 detailed the protests by China animals lovers upset with mistreatment of stranded dolphins and the traditional Yulin dog meat festival. In a country not noted for its human rights concerns, it’s heartening to hear that people are willing to speak up about perceived animal cruelty.
– The April issue of Scientific American ran a piece by Kate Wong outlining scientists’ theories that adaptation to humans starchy diet may have lead to the domestication of dogs and cats. I love Tanner but he is NOT getting my pizza!


Thanks to Karma Rescue, Los Angeles owners of Pit Bulls and Pit Bulls mixes can spay or neuter their dogs free of charge. ‘Fixing’ your dog can curb aggression and will help reduce the population of unwanted animals. Tanner hopes that lots of people will take advantage of this great deal. He’s ‘fixed’ and still a, handsome, buff boy.  To learn more or make an appointment (there are clinics on both the East and West sides of town) contact Karma Rescue (310) 512-7833 or email Karma at info@karmarescue.org. The offer is good until the end of 2013.

Tanner and his peeps near the Malibu Library


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.

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 like romance, that first book signing carries a special charge. That was true for Tanner, Eugenie and me at Diesel, A Bookstore the other night, where we had our fist author ‘event’. The SRO crowd of 50+ people included so many dear friends and family that I would need a separate post to thank them all. Instead, I’ll give a communal shout out – Grazie Mille! We sold every copy of GIMME SHELTER (If you weren’t there and want a copy don’t worry, they’ll be restocking or you can buy from Amazon or from us at www.buygimmeshelter.com). According to reports, I gave a terrific reading/Q & A, and we were thrilled to present our first donation of the Gimme Shelter Campaign to Malibu Pet Companions, a local non-profit that provides heroic, free vet care for the animals at the Agoura Hills (L.A. County) Animal Shelter, where Tanner once stayed. A special thanks to MPC Board chief and volunteer extraordinaire, Robin Kahrs, and Dr. Lisa Newall from Malibu Coast Animal Hospital, Tanner’s doc, and one of the amazing veterinarians who donate their time and love to help the dogs and cats. If you’re feeling generous, maybe stop by the Malibu Pet Companions site and contribute. 
Tanner before his Coming Out party
Lou signs ‘Gimme Shelter’ for a fan

Eugenie and Lou with Tanner’s trainer, Tony Rollins

Dog park pals Wendy & Karen
Robin Kahrs president Malibu Pet Companions
&  Dr. Lisa Newall of Malibu Coast Animal Hospital
Eugenie and Tanner with Lynn Aime, of Disel Books, Malibu
Tanner greets friend and shelter volunteer Rob Lerner


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.
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.
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
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


Tanner and I wanted to take a moment to mention some animal organizations and their upcoming events that you might want to consider supporting:

The Humane Society of the United States, Genesis Awards – the equivalent of the animals Oscars they celebrate the role that the news and entertainment media and high-profile individuals play in rasing awareness of animals issue. They are being held on Saturday, March 23, at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in Beverly Hills, CA. If you have a few bucks to spare (pay, more than a few), tickets are still available at 310.440.0600. At Tanner’s urging (and with some help from our neighbor and fellow dog rescuer Gary K.) we’ve donated digital copies of GIMME SHELTER to the VIP gift bags for this year’s gala.

Operation Blankets of Love – 
an award-winning non-profit 501(c)3 public charity. They collect, transport and distribute recycled and new pet-related items to comfort stray, sick, neglected and abused homeless animals in shelters, rescue groups, sanctuaries and foster groups. In addition, as an Emergency Response Team, they partner with those organizations to provide relief and comfort to animals that are displaced or endangered by catastrophe.

St. Martin’s Animal Foundation – Founded in in 1999, SMAF is committed to aleviating the suffering of animals through the power of media. They will be hosting a ‘Mad Hatter Benefit’ on Sunday, May 19, from 2:00-6:00 p.m. at La Maison Lounge 11608 Ventura Blvd, Studio City, CA. 661-269.2164.
On a different front, as friends and readers of Gimme Shelter know I’ve been studying and teaching martial arts for over 30 years. Since 1992, I’ve had the honor to train and teach under Sensei Mel Pralgo at Conejo Family Karate where we practice traditional Okinawan GoJu Ryu karate – the “wax on, wax off” style made popular by the original Karate Kid movies starring Pat Morita and Ralph Macchio. If you know anyone who could benefit from this amazing mind-body training, check us out. And be sure to tell them Tanner sent you.

4th from left, Sensei Mel Pralgo, far right, Lou Spirito