PILOTS HELPING PUPS…’DANGEROUS’ DOGS…PEPPERDINE PRODIGIES

The April 24, 2015 issue of The Week  highlights two animal rescue organizations – Pilots N Paws  and Wings Of Rescue – where volunteer fliers are helping shelter dogs and cats avoid the threat of euthanasia by ferrying them from badly crowded urban shelters, where they stand little chance of being rescued, to less burdened areas where they are often quickly adopted. If you have some loose coin burning a hole in your pocket, maybe think about giving them a few shekels to keep up the great work. “More than 4 million pets are euthanized in the U.S. every year, mostly because of overcrowding in shelters. But a growing number of kindhearted pilots have been donating their time, fuel, and aircraft to transporting unwanted rescue dogs to less overburdened shelters, where many of them are quickly adopted. Groups like Wings of Rescue and Pilots N Paws have helped tens of thousands of strays find new homes over the past several years, and the number of volunteer aviators continues to rise. “We get a lot of the glory,” said pilot Angela Garcia. “But in reality, it’s just pure fun.”

Guardian angel with his rescue pups

Since mid-Janaury, Eugenie, Tanner and I have been working with Advertising students at Pepperdine University to design a new campaign for our favorite dog memoir, GIMME SHELTER. The three awesome teams delivered their final pitches last week and we were blown away by the depth and breadth of their creative genius. They covered everything from redesigning the book cover and business cards, to implementing exciting digital, mobil and social media strategies, leaving us with the unenviable task of choosing a ‘winner’. We’ll keep you posted on when, where and how we’ll be rolling out their ideas. A huge thanks to all 19 students, and their amazing professor, Dr. Ginger Rosenkrans, for an unforgettable experience.

Tanner kicking it at a Pepperdine photo shoot

In this week’s issue of his Cesar’s Way Newsletter, dog guru Cesar Millan focuses on ‘dangerous’ dogs and BSL – Breed Specific Legislation. Although it’s discriminatory, and proven not to work, some elected official and communities still advocate banning breeds like Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Mastiffs and other ‘bad’ dogs to keep their citizens from being slaughtered. As Cesar points out, you are 650 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident than to be killed by a dog attack. If safety concerns are the issue, then maybe BSL supporters should also consider turning in their driver’s license, draining their swimming pools and lobbying  stringent gun control laws. From Gimme Shelter, here are some odds on the chance of being killed by a Pit Bull:  

–       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, 3 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!

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MAN SAVES DOGS…DOGS FOR THE DEAF…SADDLE UP, LINDA & JOE

Facing a liver transplant and feeling suicidal, 28-year-old former alcoholic Zach Skow credits his dogs with helping him find sobriety and turn his life around. As payback, Skow founded a charity – Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue – to help save unwanted dogs. (Parade Magazine, February 8, 2015). 

Zack Skow and his dogs

We all know about Seeing Eye Dogs, but Dogs For The Deaf? Founded in 1977 by longtime Hollywood animal trainer Roy G. Kabat, DFD takes dogs from Western shelters and trains them to act as ‘ears’ for humans with deafness, hearing loss or autism. Since it’s inception, DFD has placed 3,000 rescue dogs in homes across the nation. 

Tanner and ‘Mom’ in San Luis Obispo

I was getting ready to teach my weekly Okinawan karate class last week when a dojo brother congratulated me on a Malibu Times Magazine piece about GIMME SHELTER. It was news to me but, sure enough, MTM had included the book as part of their local writers roundup (page. 23). After almost two years, I’m still amazed, and grateful, for all the kind attention the book has garnered. 

I met Joe Simone and Linda Bianco during my freshman year at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. Through our love of literature, movies, Italian food and each other, we became fast friends and spent the next four years hanging out in The City, cramming Shakespeare and doing what college kids did in the Woodstock era. (I won’t speak for them but I DID NOT inhale…at least not much) After graduation, Joe married the fair Linda and they spent the next 35+years living and working in NYC or nearby Westchester County. But all that’s about to change. My diehard New Yawker pals are pulling up stakes and heading to, gasp, San Antonio to be near son Justin and his wife, Nicole. Although I don’t get back East often these days, it will be strange when I do and they’re not there to share a plate of sushi or a glass of pinot grigio. Guess I’ll have to don my boots and a Stetson, trade the Prius for a pickup and mosey on down to Texas pay my pardners a visit in their new digs.

A SLO RECOVERY FOR AN EYE WIDE SHUT and "HOW THEY MET"

You’ve heard the expression that some stroke of moderate good luck is “Better than a poke in the eye with a sharp stick”? Well I can vouch that it’s true. Almost two weeks ago, I was romping with my friends Porter and Lola in their yard when I ran into the branch of a bush. It hurt a little – we pit bulls don’t cry uncle easily – but I figured mom and dad would fix it right up. They couldn’t and so we turned to Dr. Lisa and our pals at Malibu Coast Animal Hospital who said that I’d injured my cornea in four places, one of which looked nasty. They sent us home with eye drops, ugh, and orders to stay calm, which meant no dog park, or play dates, and wearing the dreaded “Cone of Shame”. I’m on the mend now but still looking like I forgot to slip a Mike Tyson hook. Hopefully Dr. Lisa will give us the ‘all clear’ on Thursday and then I can get back to my normal jovial mayhem. 

with my pal Charlie D before the ‘incident’

Even though they’re worried about my eye, mom and dad still took me on a delayed Valentine weekend getaway to San Luis Obispo. As usual, they went shopping and tried the local restaurants, like Firestone’s (BBQ) and the Big Sky Cafe.  For me, the highlight was a new toy duck, and getting to share dad’s bed, something that happens at home only when the Santa Ana winds come roaring. While I love cuddling with my grumpy doggie daddy, I was thrilled to get home to my own bed and my toys. Speaking of delayed Valentine’s business, I thought I’d pull a fast one and post the entry mom sent to the local paper’s  “How We Met” contest. She didn’t win, but yours truly thinks she should have. Give it a look, and see if you don’t agree. Regardless, I’m sure glad they got together or who knows where I’d be living right now. – From the time I was 17, I knew the man I was supposed to marry was somewhere in New York. But first I had to get there.  After college, I left L.A. and headed to the Big Apple. ” Do what you love and you’ll meet the man of your dreams.”  For two years I followed my mother’s mantra and kept my eyes peeled at museums, and during lunchtime workouts at Jack LaLanne’s gym on Madison Avenue. Then one afternoon, HE walked into the club. Red sweatpants, black hair, devilish Italian smile – my whole being screamed that ‘Lou’ was the one. We were introduced by my best friend, Debbie. For the next 3 months, I played it cool, interviewing him while we ran on the treadmills. Then one day, he was gone. When two weeks passed and he didn’t show, I became concerned and called. He said his father had passed away and he was helping his family in New Jersey but would return soon. No more playing it cool. I’d tipped my hand; he knew that I was interested in him. When he returned to the City, he took me to a Halloween costume party. Five years later, we eloped and were married at Juliet’s Tomb, in Verona, Italy. We left New York and moved to Malibu, our home now for 24 years. After three decades, our time together keeps getting better.  Maybe it’s because he was born on Valentine’s Day? Or maybe my mother was right. 

Mom & Dad on their 2nd date (don’t ask)

Finally, here’s a shout out to this year’s Westminster Dog Show winner, a spry little Beagle named Miss P. As Beagles go, she’s pretty hot but I’m still longing for the day when an American Staffordshire Terrier or our English cousin, the Staffie, takes the big blue ribbon.

Miss P, 2015 Best In Show

BIG $ FOR VALENTINE’S DAY…AWARDS SEASON…BACK TO SCHOOL

According to a blurb in The Week magazine (Feb. 6, 2015) the National Retail Federation predicts that Americans will spend $700 million on Valentine’s Day gifts…for their pets. Speaking of gifts, if you’re having a tough time shopping for that special dog lover in your life, consider a book.

@ Amazon.com

While the Dog Writer’s Association of American writing awards are still two weeks off, the Malibu Times ran a nice piece on yours truly, and our dear friend Megan Blake, who are  nominated in the online article and radio show categories. Megan, who hosts the awesome A Super Smiley Adventure on PetLife Radio, interviewed us when Gimme Shelter first debuted. Eugenie, Tanner and I plan to celebrate the DWAA event with her, husband Kim, and her pups, Super Smiley and Angel. 

This past Tuesday, Eugenie and I met with Pepperdine University Professor Ginger Rosenkrans’ senior marketing class to field questions from the student teams that will be designing a comprehensive marketing campaign for GIMME SHELTER as their class project. The class was so enthusiastic and insightful! We can’t wait to see what they devise for us. The only tough moment came when one student asked what kind of cell phone I have. Red-faced, I mumbled that I still use a pay-as-you-go flip phone. The students looked away in pity for this out of step tech dinosaur. 

Lou with the Pepperdine University marketing students

A few weeks back, an L.A. Times article by Abby Sewell reported that L.A. County Supervisors are considering upgrading the county’s 6 outdated animal shelters. Here’s hoping they follow through and make life more bearable for the tens of thousands of dogs and cats they house each year. According to the story, 50 % are eventually euthanized, 43 % are adopted, and  only 8% are reunited with their owners. 

former shelter dog Tanner with his best pal, Charlie, and Lou

SAMURAI PIT BULL NOW A ‘GAEL’…THE MAGNIFICENT 7

2015 started in fine Pit Bull fashion when Lou & Eugenie went to LACMA to see the fascinating ‘Samurai’ exhibit which features some amazing sets of Samurai armor, horse gear, bows, swords and other items from the 13th to the 19th century. After spending the day running errands, they arrived about an hour before closing. They wavered about paying $50 for 2 tickets but dad said ‘What the heck” and handed over our Capital One card, the one with a photo of the three of us. “Is that a pit bull?”, the museum clerk asked. They said “yes” and she promptly gave them a free admission, which was doubled when they added that I was a rescue. They loved the exhibit, but it was impossible to top the loving gesture. 

As many of you know, mom and I are California born and bred but dad hails from the East Coast, specifically the New York-New Jersey metro area where he spent the first 40 years. During that time, he had the good fortune to attend Iona College (New Rochelle, NY) where he received a first rate education in liberal arts. This past week, we learned that the Iona College Magazine featured GIMME SHELTER in the ‘Shelf Life’ section of the Winter Edition. Thanks to Lizzie Faia and the staff for showing a grateful Gael alum some love. 

In the ‘How Great Is This’ department, the holidays saw a canine miracle in Susanville, CA, where 7 newborn pups were left to die in a dumpster. According to a story in the L.A. Times , when a good samaritan notified the authorities, the Lassen County animal control office and some bog-hearted rescue volunteers from Pet Network Humane Society in Incline Village, Nevada, stepped up to nurse the throwaway babies. Thanks to their know-how and round-the-clock efforts, they all survived and were promptly adopted.

The Magnificent Seven

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

‘TIS THE SEASON…TO HELP PIT BULLS

It’s the time to year to think about what really matters, like family, good friends, and helping dogs in need like Rex, Ranger, and Lemon (see below), three terrific pit bulls that are all looking for someone to share their love. If you’ve been waiting for just the right dog, or know someone who is, reach out and make some Holiday magic. Finding the perfect dog isn’t an exact science. Sometimes the ‘perfect’ dog turns out to be a less than perfect fit with their human counterparts. That happened to Lou & Eugenie with my predecessor, Reggie, and to L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez with Hannah and Dominic. It took two tries and a lot of handwringing but eventually both dogs found their forever homes. Another way to help pups in peril is to buy a copy of GIMME SHELTER. You’ll get our Holiday discount and you’ll be spreading the word that pit bulls make great pets and we’ll donate a portion of the sale to one of our awesome rescue partners.

Tanner & Lou with Santa

REX has been at the Santa Maria shelter since late 2013. He originally had a home but his family lost their house and he was adopted, got out, and never reclaimed. Connie Kruse, a longtime volunteer at the Santa Maria (Santa Barbara County) Shelter has been working with him for the past year and says the he is totally ready to find a forever home.  Rex is about 3 1/2 years, weighs between 55-60 lbs. He is potty trained and leash trained, gets along extremely well with other dogs but we’re not sure about cats. He loves his toys so he’d be okay as an only dog as long as he gets some love and play time. He was a loved domestic pet who slept in the bed was used to help assess & train other shelter dogs’ temperaments. If you are interested, or know someone who might be,  please contact CONNIE KRUSE, 805-878-801clkjmw@icloud.com

RANGER is a 2 years old male pit bull, 65 lbs., with a pretty rare fur color of brown, with blue brindle.  He escaped a bad environment when he was about 3 months old and was picked up wandering the streets by a vet tech. His foster family couldn’t keep him but they taught him commands like sit, stay, and lay down. He loves walking on a leash and he’ll never pull. He’s even good off leash in a safe environment. He grew up with 18 other pits and 1 miniature pinscher, so he loves to be around other friendly dogs big or small. He’s house trained and crate trained, has been neutered already, has all shots up to date, and a microchip. Contact MIKE @  951-807-8786  or email SVT4ME95@yahoo.com

LEMON –  is almost 3 yrs old,  spayed purebread pit bull, approx. 50 lbs., with medium to high energy. She is very cute, with a heart shaped spot on her side. She’s very loving toward anyone she meets, and she is excellent with both adults and children. She socializes, plays and sleeps with a large group of other dogs, including pit bulls, that Mike is training for adoption.  She is excellent on and off leash and she knows her basic commands, sit, stay, down. Very eager to please,very playful, and would make a good running partner for someone. She is house trained and crate trained, micro-chipped and her shots are up to date. Contact MIKE @  951-807-8786  or email SVT4ME95@yahoo.com

                                                                            ~ ~ ~ ~
Before signing off, I want to compliment my mom, Eugenie, on the awesome story about her and her sculpture in last week’s Malibu Surfside News. Scribe Ashleigh Fryer did a wonderful job of capturing just what moves this fabulous artist, who also happens to be a first-rate dog momma, too.


A PIT BULL ‘PROCEDURE’…HOLIDAY GIVING…’ON THE MOVE’

Because Tanner has so many fans, canine and human, we wanted you to know that he was recently diagnosed with a mast cell tumor that had to be removed. He had surgery today with Dr. Dean Graulich, from Malibu Coast Animal Hospital, who said he’s doing great. He’ll be home later this evening and then the big challenge will be to keep him calm enough to let the wound heal. That’s where Eugenie comes in. She’s a sweet dog mom but I can count on her to make our ferocious beast tow the line. She does that all the time with me. 

Tanner, aka ‘Tanino’ with his parents at Milan’s Duomo
(℅ photoshop)

With Chanukah and Christmas bearing down on us, I thought I’d mention some amazing animal charities that deserve a helping hand, if you’re in the giving mood. Among the hundreds of caring organizations committed to helping dogs, cats and other creatures, these are some of Tanner’s favorites:  Karma RescueDowntown Dog RescueLinda Blair’s Worldheart Foundation, Canine Adoption Rescue League (C.A.R.L.), No Kill L.A./Best Friends, and  Healthcare for Homeless Animals , formerly Malibu Pet Companions, the folks who give pro bono vet care to the animals at the L.A. County Agoura Hills Shelter, Tanner’s home before he came to live with us. Write a check, donate food, buy a gift from their stores, volunteer, whatever you do, they’ll thank you and you’ll be glad you did.

You may have noticed that books (and not just GIMME SHELTER), turn up quite frequently on this blog. That’s because pit bulls, and Tanner in particular, take great pleasure in the well-written word. Tanner asked me to tell you that our dear friend, Kathryn Galan (profiled in Malibu’s Surfside News), will be at Malibu’s Bank of Books tomorrow, Saturday, December 6, at noon, signing copies of her new Young Adult novel ON THE MOVE .  He strongly recommends that you drop in and some copies for the teens in your life, especially the skaters. Here’s what Tanner had to say about this epic skate odyssey: Right from the get-go I was caught up in this fast-paced story of plucky SoCal skate boarders forced to use their skater skills and street smarts when war breaks out and China attacks the USA. The kids in question are a resilient bunch, a diverse, dirty half-dozen determined to be reunited with their scattered families yet taking time to enjoy the awesome skate parks and the adult-sized challenges they face along the way. While boarders will savor Flynn’s impressive knowledge of their sport and culture, the main plot of kids coping with disaster will appeal to all teens and adults. The gang encounters some gnarly post-conflict hurdles but nothing too scary or depressing for even younger readers. Much YA fare targets the feelings and drama of those emotional teen years. While ON THE MOVE takes us inside the lives of the young heroes and heroines – yes, there are girls in the crew! – it also serves up weightier themes and subjects in an accessible, entertaining style. When I finished the book I had two regrets: that I don’t skate, and that the sequel isn’t out yet.

SURF’S UP…A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW

On July 10, Lou read from GIMME SHELTER and followed up with a Q & A for the juvenile probation students at Camp Miller. While they know him as a motivational substitute teacher, this gave the boys a chance to ask about the book, the writing process and his battle with anger. Afterwards, he visited the classrooms and talked about the opportunities available via KDP and CreateSpace to self-publish for no, or very little money. He tossed out a few intriguing story lines and offered to ‘give’ them to any student willing to run with the ideas. His presentation went so well that he was invited to do an encore this week at Camp Gonzales. In the fall, both camps will be using Gimme Shelter as part of a scholastic unit on the theme of ‘Discovery’.

Tanner & Lola (“‘She Was A Show Dog..”) Mazza

Switching hats on the fly, Lou went from speaker/writer to concerned citizen when he addressed the Malibu City Council, urging them to put an initiative intended to control local retail development on theNovember’s ballot. While he’s rarely at a loss for words, Lou admitted to being taken aback when he was asked to follow actor/writer/director and producer and Malibu resident Rob Reiner (All In The Family, Princess Bride, This Is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally), who sponsored the initiative with his wife. In classic ‘dad’ style, Lou joked about having to “one-up the famous guy”. Then he made an earnest, humorous appeal to the council to honor the democratic process.
Rob Reiner
While most of our news involves dogs, books and related matters, we’re happy to give a hearty ‘Bravo!’ to our dear friend, John Mazza. A lifelong surfer who has amassed an impressive collection of boards, John generously loaned 15 of his vintage ‘sticks’ to the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park in San Diego for an exhibit on Surf Craft. Richard Kenvin designed and organized the show which continues through December.

John Mazza, surfboard collector and historian

Here’s a YouTube tour of John’s Collection at the Pepperdine University Library. Below are some of the reviews and media coverage of the Balboa show: 

DOGS vs. CATS – WHICH IS SMARTER? HINT…WOOF, WOOF!

I don’t often post on hot-button issues but this one was too good to pass up. While the canine-feline debate has raged for ages, as reported in the Huffington Post,  the latest scientific (as in trained experts with proven methods) findings suggests that we dogs have the edge when it comes to smarts. How can that be, when those clever kitty killing machines manage to manipulate their human companions seemingly at will? Turns out that social animals, like elephants, dolphins, monkeys and, yes, dogs, develop larger brains to better foster cooperation with each other and, in the case of dogs, their human pals. If you’re a cat lover don’t despair, there’s some good news, too. According to Joanna Liebmann-Smith, PhD, “Dogs usually do outperform cats on most animal IQ tests and have larger vocabularies and bigger brains, but…Cats have almost twice as many neurons in their cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is considered the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory, among other things. Cats have 300 million neurons, while dogs have only 160 million, which means that cats have a greater capacity for information processing than dogs.”

Tanner (right)   and his Mensa friend, Porter Massa

And before Lou and Eugenie start gloating, recent studies suggest that ‘Cat People’ (loved the flick with Natasha Kinski, and the Bowie tune) are smarter than dog lovers. An article from LiveScience by Rachel Rettner offered this comparison: “People who said they were dog lovers in the study tended to be more lively — meaning they were more energetic and outgoing — and also tended to follow rules closely. Cat lovers, on the other hand, were more introverted, more open-minded and more sensitive than dog lovers. Cat people also tended to be non-conformists, preferring to be expedient rather than follow the rules.” Now that I have both sides riled (a trick I learned from Lou), let me suggest a compromise by paraphrasing Crosby, Still & Nash: If you can’t be with the pet species you love, love the one you’re with!”

Porter with his very smart and outgoing mom, Robby