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!


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’



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


Happy Easter and a belated Happy Passover to all our 2 legged friends. While bunnies are very nice (sometimes even a bit scary, for me, anyway),  Lou and I think that perhaps it’s time update the Spring poster creature to something more cuddly and handsome, like maybe a Pit Bull. Based on his special, LOVE MY PIT BULL, that just aired on Nat Geo Wild, the world’s most famous dog man, Cesar Millan, might agree. During the 1-hour show, he discussed the history of the breed (the ‘gameness’ or heart of the Terriers married with the strength and athleticism – don’t laugh – of the Bulldog or Boxer), their former reputation as a companion dog and guardian of children (they we’re known as the ‘Nanny Dog’) and the misconceptions surrounding their alleged propensity for unprovoked violence. According to Cesar, it’s our human counterparts who deserve the condemnation for mistreating us and then channeling our natural desire to please into violence against other animals and people. If you missed it, you can see some great photos on the Nat Geo site, and you can read Cesar’s article, ‘6 Reasons To Love Pit Bulls’ at Parade.com. 

Cesar and ‘Junior’

Thanks to the hoopla created by GIMME SHELTER, whenever people ask, “Is Tanner all Pit Bull or a mix?”, Lou and Eugenie now answer, “He’s part Pit, and part Publicity Hound!” I please guilty, especially since we just taped our first TV interview for the City of Calabasas, CA “Author’s Night” with host and former mayor Karyn Foley. As usual, my chiacchierone (chatterbox) human did the yakking while I gave the show an air or gravitas, looking regal and serene as the camera crew did their thing. Once they tell us, we’ll let you know where and when you can check it out. 
                                                                ~ ~ ~
Here are some pix that should bolster our campaign to replace the Easter Bunny with the Easter Pittie.

Tanner & Dutch

Pit Bulls…inherently dangerous…to bones and squeaky toys.
Buzz LaBracio and his 6-month-old ‘grandson’

Another ‘Dangerous’ Pit Bull


Unlike our human friends, we dogs don’t spend much time pondering our roots. Wolves, dinosaurs, aliens…given our short lifespan, it doesn’t really matter how we got here. What matters is doing our job: being loving loyal friends to you origin-obsessed two-leggeds. That said, an article in this week’s LA Times claims to shed some light on just how long the human-canine dynamic has been going on. According to the piece by Monte Morin,  researchers “have concluded that dog domestication most likely occurred in Ice Age Europe, between 18,800 and 32,100 years ago — much earlier, and much farther north, than previously believed. Dogs, the authors argued, evolved from a now extinct species of European wolf that followed bands of nomadic or semi-nomadic humans who were hunting woolly mammoths and other large prey. Initially, the wolves sought out the carcasses and scraps of meat left behind by man, the authors suggest. Over time, these hang-around wolves began to fill a special role in human hunter-gatherer society.” read more: When – and where – did dogs become our pets?
                                                                ~ ~ ~
Speaking of being loyal friends, homo sapiens often return the favor. In an essay in Parade Magazine, Love Me, Love My Dog, author Jon Katz (The Dogs Of Bedlam Farm) recalls how to wooing his wife meant befriending her very skittish rescue dog. It took time and patience, but eventually he captured  both their hearts.
                                                                  ~ ~ ~
Want to be a loving caretaker to your 4-legged amigo? Be sure to check out Cesar’s Way article by Jon Bastian on ‘Puppycide’,a documentary in progress which examines the rise in dog shootings by law enforcement, and offers some tips on what might be done to curb potentially fatal dog-police encounters

Aldo: Honey’s ‘snow dog’



A few days ago 29-year-old Alex Jackson was arrested and charged with murder in the death of Pamela Devitt, 63, the Lancaster, CA woman who was fatally mauled by a pack of Jackson’s dogs with a history of previous attacks. Despite his wife death, Devitt’s husband, didn’t blame the dogs involved, or demonize the breed. Her husband told KCAL-TV he blamed the dogs’ owner for what happened. “I do not blame the dogs. I don’t blame pit bulls,” Ben Devitt said. “I blame people who don’t take responsibility for their animals.” For more details, check out the Huffington Post report.

When I wrote about our last book signing at Bank of Books a few weeks back, I forgot to thank some of the friends who stopped by to show an share some love. Since it’s better late than never, a big ‘Thanks’ to – David & Terry, Annette & Jasmine, Carl, Robert, Zari, Margaret & Ryan, Karen, Gary & Eleanor, Jake and Melissa. Eugenie, Tanner I I really appreciate your support. 

Dexter & Tanner: Pitbulls are inherently dangerous. Really?

If you are looking to keep your dog healthy, happy and under control, consider dispensing with that retractable lead and using something that offers more control and safety. In an article in Dog Whisperer Cesar Millan’s online newsletter, Jon Bastian writes:There are three big issues with retractable leads, the first of which is safety. Since they can effectively allow your dog to run for twenty or more feet before the end of the line, they allow your dog to build up a lot of speed. Remember “force equals mass times acceleration” from high school physics? Well, give even a small dog a twenty foot head start, and they can build up enough speed to pull you off your feet, break the lead, or yank the handle right out of your hand. That last situation can be particularly disastrous, since the handle will then retract on the lead, and the sound and motion of that big hunk of plastic suddenly whizzing up from behind can make your dog think something is chasing it, inspiring it to run faster and farther. 
There’s also that twenty feet of line between you and your dog, which can be nearly invisible under the right circumstances. Your dog can get tangled in it, or tangle you or another person in it. Even the website for a prominent manufacturer of retractable leads warns of multiple possible injuries, including cuts or burns from the line, falls, eye and facial injuries, and even broken bones or loss of fingers. You wouldn’t let your dog run free in the middle of the street, but very long leads can allow exactly this to happen. Dogs on retractable leads can and have run into traffic and been killed by cars. Beyond safety issues, retractable leads just teach your dog the wrong thing: That pulling on the lead will get them what they want — in this case, the freedom to run all over the place. When they stop pulling, the lead pulls back, so the desire to pull and run away is constantly reinforced. Finally, retractable leads may be illegal in your area. For example, the leash law in the city of Los Angeles reads, “Every person owning or having charge, care, custody or control of any dog shall keep such dog exclusively upon his own premises provided, however, that such dog may be off such premises if it be under the control of a competent person and restrained by a substantial chain or leash not exceeding six feet in length [emphasis added].” The same is true for leash laws in Los Angeles County, and may be similar in your jurisdiction. Aside from endangering a dog’s safety, many users of retractable leads may not even know that they’re breaking the law.                                                                    


As some of you know, before Tanner came along, the dog love of my life was Rebell, an Irish Setter I rescued when I was a wild child wannabe actor living in Greenwich Village during the 1970s at the height of the sex, drugs and disco era. While GIMME SHELTER is mainly devoted to our wonderful Pit Bull baby, and how he helped me finally grow up, Reb, and our Dalmation from Hell, Roxanne, get a lot of page time, too. Since today is St. Paddy’s Day, I thought I’d post a picture of the big red mug, and one of Tanner with Dexter, his Irish Wheaton Terrier pal. For a rundown on the history of the Irish dog breeds, check out Cesar’s Millan’s latest newsletter.
Rebell @ ‘Head of the Meadow’ Beach, Cape Code, MA

Tanner & Dexter, the cereal killer

from GIMME SHELTER:  “These peaceful strolls [with Tanner] were a far cry from New York and my walks with Rebel. Morning and night, those streets throbbed with the energy of eight million bustling souls leaving their mark on the Naked City. Every trip meant seven flights of stairs, or waiting for the elevator and a possible scuffle with one of the hulking Shepherds, Akitas, and Dobermans that called our building home.  For fun, we had the parks. There was Washington Square where Rebel made a game of rumbling over the homeless men who bunked in the weedy grass, and tiny James Walker on Hudson Street where we played ball in the snow at 4 AM after I’d finished driving my cab, cheered on by Norway rats the size of wildebeest.

Excitement was commonplace, even in Greenwich Village. On one occasion I foiled a car burglary, threatening to sic Reb with his wagging tail and goofy demeanor on the startled and not-so-bright thief. Another time, we chased a purse-snatcher down 8th Street and held him at bay until the police came screeching to the rescue. And there was the day, on a Westside Pier, when I pried a terrified Poodle from the jaws of a snarling Malamute. I took six stitches for my efforts, while Eugenie and Reb watched from the sidelines. 

We met our share of city dogs–a Setter named Shiloh and a pointer named Raff were Reb’s favs-– but most of our pals walked on two legs, not four. Like the Lebanese brothers who owned the local deli. I don’t remember how it started, but they took a liking to “Rappi” as they called him. They insisted that I bring him along whenever I stopped by. While I did my shopping, he’d sit by the counter as they chucked him remnants of ham, turkey, and other cold cuts that they’d set aside just for him. If a customer dared to complain about the unsanitary practice, he was told–not asked-to leave. One gusty autumn afternoon, Rebel and I were strolling down Commerce Street by the Cherry Lane Theatre. He had just finished scarfing down a mountain of bologna. I was babbling to him, cooing his name or some variation (Reb or Rebbie) as he did his business. While I was picking up, I noticed a diminutive old woman headed my way. She was scowling. “You should be ashamed”, she said, wagging her finger and shaking her head. Her accent was European and thick, like Maria Ouspenskaya –“ It is the pentagram, the sign of the wolf”–in the original Wolfman. “You should be ashamed”, she repeated, waiting for an apology. I shrugged, perplexed. I’d bagged the poop; what more did she want? “To name the dog for the rabbi and make fun!” Being a heathen, it took me a moment to process my transgression. When I did, I rushed to explain but she waved me off and scuttled away, clucking in disgust.”


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. 
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.


Lou took me to Dr. Lisa today to update my shots.  I can’t believe it’s been almost 3 years since he and Eugenie brought me home from the shelter.  Seems like only yesterday, I was a scared, skinny (okay, not really skinny, I’m a Pit Bull, but underweight for sure) boy and now look at me, 63 pounds of solid muscle and no shaking, unless the winds are up or fireworks are booming.

While we were waiting to go in, I heard Lou talking with a nice lady about her dog.  Starr is a Rottweiler rescue who lives at the Agoura Shelter and Craig was there to have her examined.  One thing led to another (it always does with Lou) and he mentioned that I used to live there, too.  She got the strangest look on her face, then she blurted out, “I remember Tanner from the shelter; he was the best!”  I loved hearing that even back then, people could see how hard I tried to be a good dog.  She took our picture and promised to tell all the staff how well I’m doing.  Dr. Lisa and the gang at Malibu Coast Animal Hospital are really, really sweet, but this mini-reunion made the visit even better. 

Kickin’ it at the crib

Before I forget, Cesar Millan had dedicated February to helping Pit Bulls beat the bad rap they’ve gotten in the press.  You can read all about it online at Cesar’s Way