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.

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

WE’RE BACK, AND THANKFUL!


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

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




DOG WRITERS – A NEW TAKE ON ‘ANIMALS

Lou and I just received the Summer 2014 issue of Rough Drafts, the Dog Writers Association of America newsletter, and what did we find inside? A profile of my favorite dog writer and pit bull dad, and a very nice feature on GIMME SHELTER. Thanks to Ida Estep and Elaine Gewirtz for sponsoring us, and to Vicky Clarke for the great job editing Ruff Drafts.

A couple weeks ago, we had the honor or emceeing Malibu Methodist Church’s ‘Blessing of the Animals’. Every animal guardian received a medallion of St. Francis and a card with this very cool message from naturalist/writer Henry Beston: “We need another and a wiser and perhaps a more mystical concept of animals. We patronize them for their incompleteness, for their tragic fate of having taken form so far below ourselves. And therein we err. For the animals shall not be measured by man. In a world older and more complete than ours they move finished and complete, gifted with extensions of the senses we have lost or never attained, living by voices we shall never hear. They are not brethren, they are not underlings; they are other nations, caught with ourselves in the net of life and time, fellow prisoners of the splendor and travail of earth.”
Tanner & Porter listening to ‘other voices’

‘THE ROCKETS RED GLARE’…PIT BULL MELTDOWN & LOVE FROM THE U.K.

Even though we’re on the wrong side of the tracks (in this case, Pacific Coast Highway), every July 4th we get to watch the Paradise Cove pyrotechnics from our balcony. It’s  huge treat for us humans but not much fun the neighborhood dogs. As he’s done for the past 5 years, poor Tanner spent several hours shivering like a North Pole skinny dipper while searching in vain for a place to escape the skyrockets and firecrackers. Four days later, he’s still not back to his normal, easy-going self.

                                                                            ~ ~ ~
While Independence Day celebrates America’s breakup with England, this year the holiday brought us some love from the U.K. in the form of a glowing review of GIMME SHELTER courtesy of Emma Powell and The Review Group. Here’s hoping that her kind words lead U.K. dog lovers to rush out and buy a copy. From the review: “You don’t have to be a dog lover to appreciate this book. I was happy to review it as I have always had German Shepherds, my latest one a rescue with problems, so can empathise with judgemental attitudes that surround certain breeds. But this book is so much more than dogs; it’s a person’s story of how he developed coping mechanisms, life-changing attitudes and how hard it is to work at changing lifestyles.  By having to work with a dog that had issues, such as fearing everything, surrounded by people with preconceived ideas of the dog, the author cleverly shows how this path forced him to take his own issues to hand. The author is very honest and open that he has anger problems stemming from childhood and through his 20s and I think this is a very difficult and brave thing to do. “
Tanner…American Staffordshire Terrier & Yankee Doodle Dandy
If they’re anything like their Yankee counterparts, they’ll likely enjoy the book’s sidebars that offer tips on training and dog care, as well as pertinent statistics about dog-human interactions, such as dog bites and how to prevent them. Cesar Millan’s latest newsletter puts the annual number of U.S. dog bites at 4.5 million, with 31 fatalities. On the surface, these numbers suggest that  man’s best friend is nothing of the sort. As Tanner will attest, it’s crucial for pet guardians to train and socialize their dogs and to safely restrain them if they show aggression towards people or other animals. But before you muzzle Bowser or show him the door, consider that every day in the U.S. 4.5 children die from abuse and neglect and that the Center for Disease Control is predicting 33,000 gun fatalities for 2015.

DOGS IN THE PEN…MORE ON MOURNING

For the past two weeks Lou has been too busy with his Probation kids to post my observations. I heard him telling ‘mom’ (Eugenie) that he had them working on topics as diverse as personal investing, dharma in prison and Kohlberg’s 6 Levels of Moral Development. Phew! Now that he’s finally taking a breather, I wanted to pass along some very heartening news about canines helping humans the way I helped him. Ruth Levine, President and Founder of Karma Rescue, recently shared the following: 

“The Department of Corrections & Rehabilitation (CDCR) approached Karma Rescue with a unique opportunity: could we help them develop a training program inside one of our state prisons that would pair inmates with rescued shelter dogs? While similar programs have been instituted across the nation, Paws For Life is California’s first and only program in a high-security prison involving inmates serving life-term sentences. 


Paws For Life brings rescued shelter dogs to live full-time with inmates at the Los Angeles County CDCR. Over a twelve-week cycle, inmates will learn from Karma trainers how to train our rescue dogs for ‘Canine Good Citizen’ certification. Once a dog earns this designation, the chance for successful adoption increases — as does our ability to rescue another shelter animal in its place. The inmates also benefit: beyond the rehabilitative therapy of a dog’s presence, they are learning “real world” skills and connecting to a larger a humanitarian process outside of the prison walls. This program gives them a way to contribute back to society by helping a dog get a second chance at life. On June 1, we brought five shelter dogs to the prison. Men who had not seen an animal in decades were openly emotional at the sight of the beautiful creatures before them. Just petting our dogs brought many to happy tears. It was a day I will never, ever forget.”

If you’d like to support the project, you can donate on the Karma website.


To follow up on our last post about whether dogs grieve like their human companions, Cesar Millan tackles the subject in his latest newsletter. According to the dog guru, they miss their deceased pack buddies like people miss their dearly departed pals and family. Thankfully, the majority of grieving pups eventually return to their former, joyful selves.

Tanner mourning his eviscerated ‘babies’

  

GONE TOO SOON

Unless you’re a middle-aged human with a very young parrot, the odds say that you will outlive your non-human ‘baby’. Their too-short life span can be heart-breaking, but it’s also what makes sharing our lives with pets so poignant. In recent months, several friends have had to face this bittersweet reality: Jenniene, who lost her beloved Poodle, Stella, and her bird, Hymmie; Rob and Diane, who lost their canine boys Griffin and Sonny; and Craig,who just lost his best pal, Bud, an amazing Visla-mix. Almost anyone who’s lost a treasured pet will tell you that the grief we feel at their passing is genuine, and sometimes greater, than when our human friends depart. But do our pets mourn for us, or for each other? We’ve all heard stories of incredible canine feelings, but perhaps none tops that of  the Japanese Akita, Hachiko (made famous in the movie Hachiko, A Dog’s Story). Following his owner’s sudden death in 1925, Hachiko returned to the train station, where he used to welcome him home, every day for next ten years. 

Hachiko, circa 1925

In the opening chapter of GIMME SHELTER, we recount how, when we lost our Irish Setter, Rebel, we were so devastated that it took a year before we’d recovered enough to retrieve his ashes from the vet’s office. At the time, we doubted that his doggie sister, Roxanne, aka ‘The Dalmatian From Hell’, would even notice his absence. After all, her waking hours had seemed devoted to stealing his toys, usurping his place on the sofa, and making his life miserable. We were wrong. The day Reb passed, her usually perky tail hung straight down, like an antenna that had snapped in the wind. Her normally ravenous appetite was gone, and her non-stop barking muted. She carried on this way for several weeks before eventually returning to her terrible self. In an earlier post, we mentioned the work of neuroscientist Gregory Burns which makes the case that “Dogs Are People, Too‘. Now dog guru Cesar Millan offers some insights in Dogs Mourning Humans

Roxanne and Rebel with Eugenie & Lou in Madison Square Park, NYC 1990