Every day I wake up and pinch myself I’m so grateful to be living in Malibu with my mom and dad. It’s a magical place and so, sometimes, we forget just how special it is. Take last night. We were all lounging together on the bed when we heard a loud ‘bang’ that sounded like a gunshot. Thankfully, it wasn’t the neighbors run amok but the prelude to a spectacular fireworks show at Paradise Cove that lit up the ocean and the highway. The shelling lasted for 20 minutes. By then, this pit bull was beyond freaked (loud noises and wind storms still take me back to my scary days as a homeless puppy) but Eugenie and Lou said it was the best show ever in the 23 years they’ve been living here. When they saw me shaking and quaking, they hauled me up onto the bed and spooned me until I settled down.  

Chill-axing after the ‘Big Bang’

Lou and Eugenie wanted me to mention that several friends have recently published Y.A. (Young Adult) novels. K.V. Flynn’s ON THE MOVE takes place in the SoCal skater culture, while Justine Fontes’ DEADLY DRIVE and BENITO RUNS offer gritty ‘high-low’ tales (advanced stories, accessible vocabulary) set in an urban Texas high school. If you’re looking to spur your kids’ interest in reading, give these gems a look-see.


While I love Sly and the Family Stone’s take on kicking back in summer, for lots of people, it offers a chance to bike,  hike, swim, kayak, golf, ploy tennis, and to make good on that New Year’s vow to finally exercise and shed some pounds. 

If you’re still having trouble finding the motivation, walking your dog might be the answer. Weight-loss guru Bob Harper says an early morning, low-intenstiy stroll on an empty stomach can rev up your metabolism. It’s also great for bonding with your pooch and Bowser’s kidneys will really appreciate the relief. One caution though. While sunny skies might be great for lounging by the pool, summer temps and high humidity can lead to heatstroke in humans and their 4-legged trainers. Responsible dog guardians should learn how to recognize and avoid heatstroke. (from GIMME SHELTER – ‘Dogs & Heatstroke‘)
                                                                           ~ ~ ~ ~
 Dogs regulate their temperature chiefly through panting. Heatstroke occurs on hot, humid days when they can no longer maintain a normal body temperature of approximately 101 degrees F. It often occurs when a dog is left outside on a hot day in direct sunshine or confined in a car, kennel or crate. 
It can strike suddenly, and if your dog’s temperature rises to 105 F or above, you must act immediately. If not, his internal organs will begin to breakdown, and he may die. Even if you are able to lower his temperature, he may still suffer irreversible internal damage.

The symptoms of heatstroke includeRapid panting, Warm, dry skin, Pale gums and a bright red tongue, Anxious expression or disorientation (blank staring, an inability to respond to its name), Increased heart rate, thick, clinging saliva, vomiting, difficulty breathing, Collapse, coma and death follow shortly thereafter.

If you suspect your dog is suffering from heatstroke: It’s urgent to quickly reduce the dog’s body temperature. To do this: Remove your dog from the car, kennel or wherever he was confined and get him to a place with cool, circulating air, like an air conditioned room. If possible, immerse him in a cool (not cold) bath, or hose him down. DO NOT leave wet towels on your dog and DO NOT use very cold water–both can prevent your dog from cooling himself. Ice packs may cause hypothermia.To promote blood flow, gently massage the skin and flex the legs. While you’re working to cool him, it’s essential that he be transported to a veterinary hospital as quickly as possible. Even if you manage to reduce your dog’s temperature, take him to the vet for a thorough exam, since serious internal damage to your dog’s organs might have taken place.

To prevent heatstroke: On hot, humid days, or days with strong sun, NEVER leave your dog in an unattended car. Keep your dog indoors during the heat of the day in a well-ventilated or air-conditioned room. If your dog must be outside, make sure he has cold water, shelter and shade. Since dogs really don’t know their limits, try and keep your dog’s activity to a minimum. If you must exercise your dog, do it in the early morning or evening when temperatures are generally cooler.

Dogs Prone to Heatstroke IncludeYoung puppies, older dogs, overweight dogs, sick dogs or dogs recovering from illness or surgery. Short-faced breeds, like Bulldogs, Shar Peis, Boston Terriers, and Pugs. Cold climate dogs like Malamutes, Huskies, Great Pyrenees, and Newfoundlands. Double-coated breeds such as Pomeranians, Samoyeds, Collies, Shelties, Akitas, and Chow Chows.


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


This past Monday, Eugenie and I had the honor of attending a book signing and Q & A by Garth Stein, author of the wildly popular “The Art of Racing In The Rain“.  – Enzo knows he is different from other dogs: a philosopher with a nearly human soul (and an obsession with opposable thumbs), he has educated himself by watching television extensively, and by listening very closely to the words of his master, Denny Swift, an up-and-coming race car driver. Through Denny, Enzo has gained tremendous insight into the human condition, and he sees that life, like racing, isn’t simply about going fast. Using the techniques needed on the race track, one can successfully navigate all of life’s ordeals. On the eve of his death, Enzo takes stock of his life, recalling all that he and his family have been through.”

Stein’s appearance marked the first in the initial season of the Malibu Library’s ‘author events’ and it was terrific. He read from his wonderful novel, told personal anecdotes related to the creation and publication of the book including how his then-agent told him that no one would ever read a book narrated by a dog and that no one would ever be able to sell or publish it. He didn’t gloat but then again he didn’t have to, since the book has garnered all sorts of praise, spent 150+weeks on the ‘best seller’ list, earned a gazillion dollars and is now being made into a major film by Universal Studios. He was charming, funny, serious, insightful – in short, it was the author as performance artist par excellence.  With my first two author ‘events’ fast approaching (details to follow shortly), this newbie was taking serious notes. I couldn’t help thinking that, unlike Garth’s racer hero, Denny, my issue is raging in the rain, the sun, the snow, the fog or just about any condition you can think of. If you’re wondering what I’m rambling about, you need to get a copy of GIMME SHELTER.  And while you’re buying books, if you’ve never read Stein’s gem, get it. And you tough guys, be sure to buy a box of Kleenex, too, because you’ll need it. 

Garth Stein signs ‘Racing’ for Lou and pal Robby Mazza, foreground


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.


Thanks to a loving nudge from Eugenie, this past Friday, January 25, I read an except from GIMME SHELTER at Bank Of Books, our newest local bookstore.  The manager, Ann Lambert-Vannoy Benoit and her daughter,  Krystyn Lambert, host monthly ‘author’ and ‘poetry’ nights, where local scribes get to read from their works or their favorite authors. The large, receptive crowd, included several friends and neighbors who’d come to lend their support.  Hopefully, this was just a preview of things to come.  My thanks to them, and to Eugenie and Tanner for making the evening possible.

For a great description of the scene at this welcome new addition to the community, check out the recent post by our friend and Malibu Times contributor, Alexis Deutsch-Adler.

@Bank of Books, Malibu, January 25, 2013

For anyone who’s thinking about following my lead and self-publishing, e-book or hard copy, I have two words: Kathryn Galan of WynnPix Productions. I was totally clueless about formatting, cover design and a zillion other details that left my head spinning until Kathryn stepped in. 
A writer, editor and former film executive, in a few short days, she had my manuscript formatted, designed and ready for publication.  Even better, she scoured my book, offering thoughtful edits that preserved my voice while improving the rhythm and flow of my prose.  She is nothing short of amazing and made a daunting process look like child’s play.


After a long week spent building a website, dabbling with FaceBook and tweaking proofs for the paperback edition of GIMME SHELTER, Eugenie, Tanner and I had an awesome playdate with our friends, Robby and John, and their ‘kids’, Lola and Porter. While the dogs ran roughshod all over the property, we humans shared a bottle of wine and and the local news. Like every visit, much of the dog time was spent tussling over toys. When we were leaving, Robby and John surprised Tanner with a slew of rubber toys – hotdogs, birds, truck tires – that her dogs so nicely agreed to share. Poor Tanner was crazed, longing to get at his new ‘babies’ and wondering why we would make him leave the coolest place on earth. Eugenie and I vowed to stash the toys and not to break them out until he’d trashed his newest ones, which were less than a week old. Hah! Barely an hour after we’d returned home, Tanner was splayed out on the living room floor, munching on a a slime-covered ice cream cone.

Tanner & Lola


Spent the morning cuddling with Tanner who was lucky to make it out of the shelter after spending seven weeks on death row.  We left him resting in his bed and made our weekly stop at the Malibu Farmer’s Market, where dogs are not allowed.  There was a pet adoption adjacent to the market and about half the dogs were Pits, no surprise there.  One was ‘Benny’, a beautiful white boy who was also deaf.  Dogs like him usually do well in homes where another dog can act as their ears and get them to follow commands.  There were two Pit pups, a blue fawn with the same tan and white markings as Tanner, and a cute brindle.  We have a friend will who says she wants a dog like ours and so we’re hoping that she might adopt one of them.  If you know anyone who might have room for a ‘ferocious’  bundle of love and kisses, contact The Forgotten Dog Foundation at 310.990-2020, info@theforgottendog.org, or check them out online at www.theforgottendog.org.

In other Pit Bull news, the Maryland state legislature recently passed a law declaring that all Pit Bulls are inherently dangerous:
Tracey v. Solesky, No. 53, September Term 2012, Opinion by Cathell, J.
Upon a plaintiff’s sufficient proof that a dog involved in an attack is a pit bull or a pit bull cross, and that the owner, or other person(s) who has the right to control the pit bull’s presence on the subject premises (including a landlord who has a right to prohibit such dogs on leased premises) knows, or has reason to know, that the dog is a pit bull or cross-bred pit bull, that person is liable for the damages caused to a plaintiff who is attacked by the dog on or from the owner’s or lessor’s premises. In that case a plaintiff has established a prima facie case of negligence. When an attack involves pit bulls, it is no longer necessary to prove that the particular pit bull or pit bulls are dangerous.
In practical terms, the law means that in any incident involving a Pit Bull, the owner or a or a landlord who rents to the owner of a Pit Bull will automatically be guilty of owning or harboring a ‘dangerous’ dog, exposing those people to legal liability.  In all likelihood, it will making adoption of Pit Bulls much more difficult, leading to more euthanized dogs.  If this rankles you (Imagine a law that said, owing to the nature of the Mafia, all Italians are inherently criminal), contact the Maryland State legislators and tell them to reconsider their prejudicial, misguided law.
The Writer and ‘inherently dangerous’ Tanner

Sadly, Maryland doesn’t have a monopoly on stupidity and Pit Bull-phobia.  After a 2-year battle, Lennox the Pit Bull was euthanized because of his genetic makeup as a banned breed.  http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/world_now/2012/07/lennox-the-dog-is-put-to-death-in-northern-ireland.html  One way to end the senseless slaughter of unwanted dogs is to eliminate puppy mills.  If you would like to help, you can voice your opposition by signing a petition to encourage the USDA to crack down on them. 


Those of you familiar with Tanner’s story will remember that, when he first left the shelter, he was one very skittish pup.  A scuffed shoe or a dropped plate would send him flying.  Thanks to Eugenie’s constant affection (she never took her hands off him) and my concerted efforts to reform my foul temper, he finally began to relax.  First, we were able to coax him up onto the sofa for TV cuddles.  Then, he learned to stretch out on our bed when invited.  Of course, he stayed in the middle, close enough to let us touch him but far enough away to avoid us when he chose.  Just recently, though, that’s begun to change.  When we’re watching movies in bed (been enjoying Ric Burns epic documentary New York) he been allowing Eugenie to drape her legs across his body.  And the other night, he curled up in my lap!  I’d been busy working at probation and doing a hurry-up rewrite on my play so we think it was his way of saying that he missed me.  Regardless, it was awesome to see him acting like the beloved family dog that he is. 

We’ll see how he handles the fireworks and firecrackers this week.  Even if he freaks, we’ll be there to buck him up. 

note:  Since I penned the ‘June Gloom’ headline, we’ve had most blue, sunny skies.  Maybe my public kvetching moved the weather gods.  Either that or we’ve been lucky for a change.  

JUNE GLOOM (AWOL From The Dog Park)

Dudley and Blanche

Ever since his 4-year anniversary, Tanner and his humans have been busy with a host of projects, including finding a home for GIMME SHELTER. The journey continues and we hope to have an agent in place by Eugenie’s birthday (June 21). In addition to tweaking the book, crafting a proposal and starting a rewrite on my play, “All That He Could Be” (the true story of the only solider to successfully challenge the ban on gays in the U.S. Military – a black drag queen!),  I’ve been I’ve been teaching at Probation and Eugenie has been carving like a mad woman. She’s submitting to several galleries and competitions and applying for grants as well.  On top of that, we took a quick trip to Palm Springs to visit Eugenie’s mom, for Mother’s Day. It was 100+ and Melissa’s AC was out!  Thankfully, our friends Toni, Ron and Alana let us stay at their place in Palm Desert. Tanner dislikes the heat and long drives but he bore up surprisingly well.  On a sad note, Melissa’s beloved Pug, Dudley passed away recently, a few months shy of his 15th b-day. Dud was a funny, mischievous little imp who trained his owner to do his bidding. For most of his life, he spent the summers with us when things got too warm in the Desert, so we’ll miss him terribly, too.

‘Make-Up’ cuddles

In addition to work and travel, we’ve been fixing up the house in anticipation of our niece Margaret’s wedding two months from now, when all of the Spirito famiglia will descend on SoCal, many for their first visit since we moved here in 1991. We can’t have them thinking we live in a slum, albeit one with palm trees and an ocean view (if you stand on your toes in the upstairs loft). Like his grumpy ‘father (and our late cat, Blanche) Tanner HATES changes to his environment or routine. Sprucing up the master bath fits that label, and he’s been on edge the entire time.  It doesn’t help that we’ve been AWOL at the dog park lately so Poor Tanner has had to make do with local play dates, extra treats and cuddles in bed.

As it too often does, the ‘June Gloom’ has settled in bringing overcast skies and chilly (by California standards) temperatures. Tanner likes it cool but not foggy, and he detests the rain. I like it warm and sunny, so I’m bummed. 
                                                                                               ~  ~  ~
“Our first year here it rained all spring and the lousy weather lasted well into fall.  Like a kid who’d been promised a trip to Disneyland but forced to settle for a T-shirt, I felt gypped. And ill. Before we quit New York, Eugenie’s mom graciously supervised the fix-up on our Malibu rental. Under her decorator’s eye, the place was painted top to bottom, the floors and furniture refinished, and new carpeting installed. The work took all of February.  During that time it rained so fiercely that she kept the doors and windows shut tight, allowing the petrochemical fumes to reach critical mass. When we boarded the plane that would take us to the Left Coast, we had no idea that we’d be moving into a toxic time bomb. Shortly after we arrived my head began to pound. I was green, listless, and in constant agony.  I tried aspirin, massage, and meditation. Nothing could blunt the pain. Either I was dying, or I was allergic to California. I agreed to give it one more week; then I was flying back to New York where I’d stay until I recovered. In desperation, Eugenie took me to see a homeopath who diagnosed me with chemical poisoning. I scoffed, but I took the little sugar pills and the headaches went away.” (from “Gimme Shelter: A Damaged Pit Bull, an Angry Man and How They Saved Each Other”).
                                                                                              ~  ~  ~
Right now Tanner is crashed out on his bed, taking advantage of a lull in the hammering and sawing to catch up on his sleep. He’d better since we’re off to Fashion Island in Costa Mesa tomorrow to visit with Eugenie’s godfather, Gene, and his wife, Jennifer. There will be tons of Yorkies, Shih Tzus  and other pocket pooches at the mall so Tanner will makes lots of new ‘friends’ and probably scare a few uptight O.C. residents.