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

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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

CHRISTMAS COMES EARLY…HOLIDAY GIFT IDEAS

Eugenie and I received a wonderful Christmas gift yesterday when Dr. Dean Graulich called to say that Tanner’s tumor was a low-grade malignancy that shouldn’t pose any future problems. Our brave boy has a gang of stitches on his chest but the bandages are gone and he’s down to just an 80s-style midriff (midruff?) T-shirt to keep him from clawing open the stitches. We’re glad to be done with his post-op meds but he’s not as happy since we camouflaged each pill with a mound of ground beef.

‘Buona Festa’ to our 2 and 4-legged friends
(Tanner flew to Italy via photoshop)


If you’re looking for a nice, inexpensive gift for that special animal lover in your life, take advantage of the GIMME SHELTER 20% holiday discount, now through January 1, 2015. Tanner thinks it’s great idea and he’s not alone; over three dozen Amazon readers have given us an average 5-star rating. If that doesn’t move you, maybe this video from last years Diesel Bookstore event will serve to whet your appetite. 

If books aren’t the answer, you might consider sculpture, specifically Eugenie’s awesome stone carvings. She currently has work on display at the CANVAS women’s store in Malibu, and at Studio Five08 in Santa Monica. You can view the latest sculptures and new at eugeniespirito.com.

‘White Angel’ @ Canvas

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.

GIMME SHELTER SHOULD BE ‘SEEN’, AND HEARD

I no sooner published my last post when Lou strolled in and announced that GIMME SHELTER had garnered yet another media mention, this time in the ‘Malibu Seen’ column of the Malibu Times. Writer Kim Devore crafted a cute Mother’s Day piece entitled “How I Met Your Mother” in which she revealed the chain of serendipitous events that brought our book to the attention of her mom, superstar decorator and philanthropist, Erika Brunson, who subsequently sponsored the donation of 100 copies of GS to the local probation camp schools where Lou works. A hearty ‘grazie’ to Kim, Erika and all the moms out there who keep the love flowing to man and beast.
                                                                      ~ ~ ~
In our haste to mention this weekend’s No KIll LA mega-adoption, we forgot to report on last Sunday’s Woofstock, Malibu event. Hosted by actor and animal activist Brad Garrett (Everybody Loves Raymond), and our dear friend, Pet Life radio hostess Megan Blake, it drew a sizable crowd who came to browse the vendors, sample the free munchies – human and canine – and groove to the sounds of great local bands. While the ostensible reason for the party was the grand reopening of the remodeled Malibu Coast Animal Hospital, where Tanner’s vet Dr. Lisa Newall hangs her shingle, we’re hoping it will become an annual soiree, a doggie Coachella by the sea.

Eugenie and Tanner with Megan Blake and ‘Super’ Smiley

MORE TO B.R.A.G. ABOUT…’A PLACE TO CALL HOME…AVONDALE PET SHOW: A FAMILY AFFAIR

Just a few weeks back, we were thrilled, and honored when GIMME SHELTER was awarded the B.R.A.G. Medallion for Non-fiction. Paula and the indieBRAG folks gave us glowing reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Goodreads, the internet’s largest book lovers group, along with shout-outs on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. What more could we want? How about an awesome author interview with Stephanie Moore Hopkins on her writers blog, Layered Pages. Thanks to her probing questions, Lou comes across like a real writer, who wrote a great book about a riveting subject – me!

When you have a second, give it a look.
Tanner on what used to be Lou’s side of the bed
If you like great books with dog heroes (and who doesn’t?), check out G.A. Whitmore’s new volume, A Place To Call Home, the moving story of a rescue dog named Toby, who suffers the slings and arrows of outrageous doggie fortune before finding his happy ending.

As I mentioned a few posts ago, Lou and I have been invited as special guests to the 12th Annual Avondale Charity Pet Show in Palm Desert, CA on March 30 from 4:00 – 6:00. Thanks to sweet Joan Hopp, it’s now a family affair because Eugenie will be showing her sculptures while Lou hawks copies of Gimme Shelter. As always, a percentage of every sale will go to charity, in this case The Pet Rescue Center. Before signing off I wanted to alert our local SoCal friends to some other very cool upcoming dog events. First, on Saturday, April 5 at 10:30, Lou, Eugenie and I will be leading the pack at the American Cancer Society’s  Simi Valley ‘BARK FOR LIFE’ Fundraiser at Lemon Park. So if you live nearby, slap the leash on your best friend and join us for a good time and a good cause. Then, on April 27, my amazing vet Dr. Lisa and her colleagues at the Malibu Coast Animal Hospital will be joining forces with the angels at Heathcare for Homeless Animals (formerly Malibu Pet Companions) to host WOOFSTOCK, a combination block party and fundraiser featuring great music, fun events and celebrity hosts. I’ve already told Lou that we WILL be there, so book it, Dan-o! 
No explanation needed

GRAZIE, MERCI, DOMO ARIGATO, GRACIAS, DANKE…THANK YOU!

Each year, my 2-legged parents and the rest of their breed set aside a special day to be ‘Thankful’ which looks to me like an excuse to eat way too much yummy food that I don’t get to share. This year’s festa (Lou’s word) was at the home of Eugenie’s dad, Gene, and his wife, Sandra. Although they’re cat people, I like them very much and appreciate them letting me attend the party and steal the spotlight, as we pit bulls often do. Although I was denied a share of the goodies, I’d like to mention some of the many amazing things I’m thankful for

For Lou & Eugenie, who took me into their home and made me part of their family when no one else wanted me. They shower me with love, calm me when I’m frightened and make every day a fun adventure, even my baths and the car rides. Lou even wrote a book (with lots of help from Kathryn) and made me a local celebrity…For their friends and family (too many to mention) who treat me like a real person to be loved, respected and cherished…For my dog pals, Ceba, Otto, Dexter, Kona, Lola, Porter, Lucky, Coco, Charley, Buddha, Aldo, Harley, Magnus, Rocky, Rusty, Blur, Lady, Charger, Luna, Carl, Bobby, Roxie, the 3 Bellas and all of the gang from Malibu Villas and the Trancas Dog park. For the dog park, the beach, the farm, the meadow, and all of the other cool places were I get to run and explore. For squeaky toys, Skinnees, Kongas, tennis balls, Lou’s socks and the Malibu Villas cats. For chicken strips, Denta Bones, Check-ups, liver bits and the very occasional (hint, hint) table scrap. For the great SoCal weather. For my three comfy beds, and my parents’ Tempurpedic, where we get to cuddle and watch TV. For Dr. Lisa, Tony Rollins, Rob Lerner, and all of the staff and volunteers at the Agoura Hills Shelter where I started out. For Malibu Pet Companions, Karma Rescue, C.A.R.L., Linda Blair’s Worldheart Foundation, and all of the other amazing rescue groups that work to help dogs in need, especially pit bulls…For all the amazing humans who choose to share their lives and loves with dogs like me. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU!

Coming home from Trancas dog park 
Exploring ‘The Farm’


YOUR FIRST IS ALWAYS SPECIAL

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

THANKS…GRAZIE…DOMO ARIGATO

It’s been almost 6 weeks now since GIMME SHELTER went live. In that time, we’ve had a bunch of wonderful comments from readers who found our little ‘tail’ entertaining and inspiring. Tanner, Eugenie and I find it especially gratifying to learn that other people find understanding and comfort from reading about my ‘anger’ problem and how it’s possible to get a handle on it, even after so many years. 


Although we acknowledge them in the book, we want to give a shout out to some of the people who helped make the book, and my transformation possible: The staff and volunteers at the Agoura Hills (L.A. County) Animal Shelter for keeping Tanner safe until he joined our family. Kathryn Galán, for her editing expertise and formatting prowess without which this book wouldn’t exist. Dan Cohen, Davidson Garrett, Joe and Linda Simone, dear friends, talented writers and sharp-eyed readers whose encouragement and suggestions helped me immensely. Gary Horn, my pal, screenwriting partner and fellow
curmudgeon for insisting I keep on scribbling no matter what. The late Caren Bohrman, a terrific agent who loved her writers, even the temperamental one. 

Dr. Judy Dunn, Dr. Zari Hedayat, Dr. Andrea Brandt, and Dr. Fran Walfish for their invaluable insights into human psychology. Trainer Tony Rollins, for helping Tanner and me reach our full potential. Dr. Lisa and the staff at Malibu Coast Animal HospitalRob Lerner, CPDT-KSA, and Howie Baker, DVM, for their help with the sidebars. Senseis Andy Diaz and Mel Pralgo whose priceless instruction and wisdom kept me from going over the edge. 

Tanner @ ‘The Farm’

My in-laws Melissa, Gene & Sandra, Stephanie & Ernie and their son, Armand, for their love and encouragement. My parents for the lessons they helped me learn. My sisters, Honey and Mary, and my brother, Tony, who rode the childhood rapids with me, for their emphatic love and support. Debrah Caraway for her rescue efforts and the photo collage of Tanner. Carl, Roberta & ‘Charlie’, Robby, John & ‘Lola’ and ‘Porter,’ Hiroshi, Bonnie, Wren and ‘Winnie’, Zari, Ahmad & ‘Dexter’, Dani, Rich & ‘Kona’, Doug, Jeanne & ‘Ceba’, Bettina & ‘Otto’, Olivia & ‘Nikita’, Fernando, Mia, ‘Reina’ & ‘Lucy,’ and the gang at Malibu Dog Park for graciously sharing their friendships and dog toys with us. Ed King and the gang at A Course In Miracles for taking me into the fold and helping me “see things differently.” 

Finally…Tanner, an amazing dog, terrific companion, and my 4-legged therapist, for his gentle, healing, soulful nature that helped me discover my better self. Finally, Eugenie, my wife, best friend, and the love of my life, for always believing in me when I didn’t deserve it, and sticking by me until I saw the light.

‘GET WELL’ PORTER

Tanner asked me to send ‘get well’ wishes to his friend and running buddy (literally) Porter. Robby & John Mazza adopted Porter, whose first home was the South L.A. County Shelter. The poor pup had suffered a broken leg, which his first foster owner had repaired. At that time, they used a metal plate and screws to help it heal. It left him with a slight limp but he was still really active. Lately, though, when the leg began giving him problems, Robby and John turned to the Malibu Coast Animal Hospital for help.  After inspecting the big boy, they put him under and removed the plate. Porter made it through with flying colors and is now resting at home, sporting a very cool Rambo camp bandage. He’s on restricted duty for a while but should be back to his super self very soon.

Porter, aka Rambo-dog