As usual, Christmas was too fast, and too furious, at least for this pit bull. First, my parents hauled me across the canyon to Taco’s house for a late breakfast, then it was back in the car for a schlep to W. Hollywood and a visit with the Spirito cousins, Chris and Ingrid, and their sons, Jack & Dylan. After Lou stuffed himself on antipasto, homemade lasagna, meat balls, sausage and cookies, it was back on the road for a 2-hour trek to deliver Eugenie’s mom, Melissa, back to Palm Springs. By the time we rolled into her place, I felt like Santa after the Christmas push; I was too beat to even touch my dinner. The only bright spot was Lou sleeping on the aero bed, which meant I got to crawl in with him and spend a few hours snoring nose-to-nose. Can’t do that at home but that’s what holidays are for, right? It was awesome and I can see why mom likes to snuggle with him.

with Taco, aka ‘The Nasty Little Dog’

We came home to news that Diesel Books, our local mom & pop bookseller, had sold all their copies of GIMME SHELTER, which placed 16th on their ’50 TOP-SELLING BOOKS OF 2013′, ahead of some pretty big names. Word is Diesel plans to close its doors unless they find a buyer. Hope some literary angel steps up and keeps our favorite venue going.


With Christmas only a few days off, I wanted to share a pretty cool experience that my mom, Eugenie, had this week. She was driving to work in Malibu when traffic suddenly ground to a halt. She glanced across the highway to the lush Pepperdine University lawn where she saw a dozen deer charging down the hill, followed by a free roaming dog. Just as the deer reached the edge of the highway, the dog’s owner appeared and called him off. Poised on the edge of the blacktop, Rudolph and company about-faced and headed back toward the mountains, where a fat dude in a red suit was waiting beside a cherry red Camaro. Really.

A nativity scene was erected in a church yard. During the night, workers can across this scene. The dog…a Shepherd 

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About MABEL, a pit bull rescue from the Central Coast, north of Santa Barbara. She’s in need of a great home and this video shows just how lucky whoever steps up will be. If you or someone you know wants to adopt this ray of ‘Sunshine’, get in touch and we’ll connect you with her volunteer caretakers. 
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Since we’re spinning yarns and touting great dogs, here’s an excerpt from GIMME SHELTER about my first Christmas with Lou and Eugenie. Enjoy, and Buon Natale, Feliz Navidad, Joyeux Noel or just have a Merry! – “There’s magic in the scent of a real Christmas tree. One whiff of a Scotch Pine or a majestic Douglas Fir and I’m seven again, scouring the Sears Catalog, scribbling Christmas lists, and baking cookies for Santa. Dogs aren’t quite that nostalgic. For them, a real tree is just a handy porta-potty. With that in mind, we skipped the walk down memory lane and settled for an unholy fiber optic “tree,” a cross between a Chia Pet and a Lava Lamp. Tanner watched from his bed while we hung the ornaments and garland. We lugged a small mountain of gifts from the garage, dusted them off (thanks to Eugenie, they’d been wrapped since our Solvang trip in October), and deftly arranged them under the polyester bush, creating the perfect Hallmark moment. Then we left to have a glass of wine with some neighbors. We came home to a scene from The Terminator. The tree was askew. The floor was littered with ornaments. Scraps of soggy wrapping paper were strewn about the room like confetti. In our brief absence, Tanner had clawed his way to the bottom of the pile where we’d stashed some plush dog toys.

From day one he’d been gentle, even nurturing, with his “babies.” Lately, however, he’d started savaging them at an alarming rate. The carnage began one evening when we went to a movie. He was fired up and wanted to play. We thought about bringing him along, but weren’t sure he could handle staying in the car alone. And there was always the puking thing. As we closed the door, he glared at us, annoyed at being left behind with so much fuel in his tank. We returned to find his bed had been ransacked, the sheepskin throw torn to shreds. In the past, he’d accidentally ruined a few toys. With his shark-like jaws some collateral damage was inevitable. This was clearly intentional. And he wasn’t finished. In quick succession he gutted Duckie, decapitated Blooie, and mangled his new bear, nicknamed Un Occhio since he was now missing an eye. Sharpie somehow survived the rampage, but was so disfigured that he could star in Phantom of the OperaHoping to stem the onslaught, we bought Tanner a Konga, a thick, rubber toy the pet store clerk called “indestructible”. He promptly trashed it…and four subsequent replacements. When I complained, the saleswoman threw up her hands.“You might want to skip the toys,” she said, “and just buy him an old Buick.”


At Tanner’s urging I wrote a piece for WOOF MAGAZINE‘s December issue highlighting some of the common cold weather dangers faced by dogs and offering tips on how to keep our 4-legged buddies safe and comfortable. If your dogs face snow and cold temps, give it a look. My sister’s ‘boys’, Aldo (below) and Harley are featured. For safety tips on other perils like heatstroke, rattlesnake bites, and dog aggression, check out the sidebars in GIMME SHELTER.

Aldo, the snow dog


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?
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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.
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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’



Tomorrow is Veteran’s Day so Lou, Eugenie and I wanted to give a heartfelt shoutout to our longtime friend Joe Simone, and all of the brave men, women and dogs who’ve risked everything to defend our country and its values. Originally called Armistice Day, was started by President Woodrow Wilson in 1919, to commemorate the end of the WW I, ‘The Great War’, one year earlier. Made a legal holiday in 1938, the name was changed to Veteran’s Day after WW II and the Korean War. The U. S. has had many celebrated canine soldiers but the most famous, and most decorated was a Pit Bull named Sgt. Stubby. We’ve written about Stubby before and here’s a link to his amazing exploits.

Tanner, the patriotic Pit Bull

Sgt. Stubby, war hero

Not all dogs see combat but some of them do live in rural and semi-rural places like Malibu where they’re at risk from other creatures, like coyotes. Dog expert Cesar Millan offers these tips for keeping your dog pals safe from their  canine cousins.
  1. Be particularly cautious during coyote mating season, which is January through March. During this time, coyotes travel long distances to find suitable mates and require extra calories to carry them on their journey. They then expend extra energy to build dens for pregnant females, who will need to stock up on additional meals. Studies show that coyotes are particularly aggressive during this time.
  2. Keep an eye on your dog when outside. A small dog left unattended in a backyard is an easy target for a coyote. The best way to protect your dog is to go outside with it when you let it out. While a coyote will go after a dog, they tend to shy away from humans. If you come into contact with a coyote, it’s suggested that you wave your arms, shout, and do anything you can to scare it away, such as spray it with a water hose.
  3. If you have a fence, make sure it’s coyote-proof. According to an article by the University of California Agriculture and Natural Resources department, a fence won’t always keep a coyote out. Coyotes can jump over fences and have the ability to dig under a fence or slide through a fence gap. While it’s tough to build a fully coyote-proof gate, fences should be a minimum of 5.5 feet high and should be built on a sloping terrain. To defer a coyote from climbing, fences should not exceed 6 inches between stays. In addition, a galvanized wire-mesh apron can be buried beneath a fence to hinder a coyote from digging under. An additional way to ensure that a coyote won’t leap your fence is to install a coyote roller, which rolls off an animal that tries to climb the fence.
  4. Keep coyotes wild: Do your part to make sure that coyotes remain fearful of humans. Don’t feed coyotes or leave food out for them. This will cause them to come back to your area and to become accustomed to humans. Don’t put your trash out at night, as coyotes tend to be most active in the evenings and early mornings. Also make sure to securely seal the lids of your garage cans so that coyotes don’t smell food and come into suburban areas.
  5. Keep your dog on a leash when walking it outside: A dog running loose will attract a wandering coyote. Keeping your dog on a short leash when walking, especially through areas where coyotes tend to thrive, will help to ensure its safety. Read more:
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Like coyotes, bees, wasps and hornets are a natural hazard for dogs that like rumbling through the flowerbeds and bushes. Here’s some helpful advice from Cesar’s newsletter on how to respond if your bruiser should suffers a sting.
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Lastly, many people share their homes with rescue dogs like me and work to improve the plight of homeless animals,  few of us are familiar with Henry Bergh, a pioneer in the fight for animal and children’s rights, who founded the ASPCA (1866) and the New York City Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children (1878). If you’d like to learn more about this amazing man, our good friend, devoted animal advocate and ‘father’ of Luke & Curley, Gary Kaskel has just published Monsters And Miracles, detailing Bergh’s brave efforts to help the helpless.


No, this is not a post about the classic War tune. It’s Lou’s diatribe against the annual shift to Standard Time. Before we get to his rant, reprinted from GIMME SHELTER, it might helpful to note the origin of the spring/fall time shift.  According to Time Magazine’s blog, Daylight Saving Time, one of the universe’s great mysteries, like the afterlife, or who really killed JFK…dates back to the good ole’ days when we did everything based on when we had sunlight. It got more serious when Benjamin Franklin decided to be “that guy,” suggesting we all get up earlier to save money on candles. Thanks, Benji. It was a major blow to all the unhappy, unhealthy, and unwise people who love to snooze.The practice wasn’t formally implemented until World War I, when countries at war started setting their clocks back to save on coal. Daylight Saving was repealed during peacetime, and then revived again during World War II. More than 70 countries currently practice Daylight Saving Time, because they think it saves money on electricity (in the U.S., Arizona and Hawaii have opted out). But studies show that Daylight Saving Time actually results in a one percent overall increase in residential electricity. And that it messes with sleeping patterns. Oh, and also it may cause heart attacks, according to the American Journal of Cardiology. So it’s no surprise that more and more countries are reevaluating whether to hold on to this relic from the past.”

Viva Daylight Savings Time!

Lou disagrees. As he makes clear every Fall, he DETESTS the time change. A self-admitted ‘boy of summer’, he gets the blues when it’s dark before dinner. Here’s his take from our book: “Ever since I was a kid playing hoops in the schoolyard till the last shred of light, I’ve hated the time change. Darkness has its advantages, and even makes sense in some places like work-driven New York, where the residents look harried and the buildings grimy during daylight hours. Once old Sol goes nighty-night, however, and the shimmering lights come up, the City takes on a magical glow. Freed from their desks and cubicles, put-upon Manhattanites retreat to theatres, museums, and restaurants where they actually look…happy. It’s different in California, the land of Endless Summer where diehard surfers, hikers, and bikers relish the outdoors the way that cultists lap up Kool-Aid. Mandating premature darkness and forcing them inside where they’re stuck watching reruns of Gossip Girl, is just plain wrong. If the Golden State ever mounts a secession movement, the time change will be our rallying cry.”


Lou, Eugenie and I want to wish all our friends a Happy, safe Halloween. While you humans seems to take all the faux gore and mayhem in stride (some even relish the chance to be naughty for a night) remember that your 4-legged pals can see the commotion as weird and intimidating. So make sure we’re well secured when all those goblins and ghouls start ringing the bell, demanding you pay up or else. The last thing either of us wants is for you to spend a spooky night searching the neighborhood for your missing friend.

Some news stories that caught our eye. In the LA Times on Friday, October 25, there was a short piece about the Project Homeless Connect fair in downtown L.A, where the National Museum of Animals and Society, and other groups gave out free dogfood, toys and vaccinations to those without permanent shelter.

A.J. Martin & his puppy, Soldier at the Project Homeless Connect Fair
Also in the L.A. times on Saturday, October 26, a terrific column from Sandy Banks urging animal lovers to consider the plight of people forced to surrender their pets. Quoted in the story is Lori Weiss, the founder and leader of Downtown Dog Rescue, whose groups runs an intervention program to help keep dogs and cats from the shelters. She urges understanding and compassion for people sometimes forced to make a painful choice between keeping a pet and sleeping on the street. Read the article

For those of you thinking about getting a rescue pet, NO KILL LA (NKLA) will be sponsoring their Fall mega-adoption on November 9 & 10, from 10am – 4pm, at the La Brea Tarpits, 5801 Wilshire Blvd., LA, CA 90036. With over 1,000 dogs and cats from 50 rescue groups, you’re sure to find the friend of your dreams. At the May 2013 event, 400+ animals found homes. How cool is that! So spread the word and help set a new record saving lives.

Finally…our Halloween/Dia De Los Peros (Day of the Dogs) GIMME SHELTER GIVEAWAY was a huge success. During the 2-day promo, over 1,500 people downloaded the book. Now all we need is for them to write rave reviews and tell everyone they know. In a simultaneous giveaway on Goodreads book lovers’ website (owned as of late by Amazon), nearly 400 people entered to win 5 signed copies of Gimme Shelter. Our thanks to everyone who took the time to join us for either event.

Getting some love from the ‘Kiss Bulls at NKLA, May 2013
Lou, Eugenie and Tanner at NKLA, May 2013


Earlier this year, Eugenie and I convinced Lou to enter GIMME SHELTER in the annual Writer’s Digest Self-Published Book Awards Competition. Although he won’t admit, we all felt we had a good shot to win the big enchilada. Turns out we came close, but no cigar. We did, however, receive a very positive commentary from the judge that we’d like to share: GIMME SHELTER is a well written, sincere account of a special friendship between Mr. Spirito and his dog. Unlike many pet-human memoirs, this once tells an appealing story with a real arc for both the author and the dog Tanner.The author does a nice job integrating his early family experiences with his ‘current’ story of acquiring and caring for…the rescued pit bull. It’s important for the reader to have some context about the author’s anger issues, and the italicized passages provide real insight…Another element that works well is the information and advice on pet / dog owning, presented at the end of the chapters. This is a generous extra, which elevates the book above the run-of-the-mill.”

Tanner on alert for the sound of treats

Courtesy of Karma Rescue, here’s a great poem by Joe Hernandez-Kolski that captures the joie de vivre of our four-legged pals and the need to step up the rescue efforts until they all find two-leggeds partners. (cute dog, too)

Attention Tanner fans and Pit Bull lovers! Don’t miss the freeGIMME SHELTER’ HALLOWEEN GIVEAWAY, October 31 & November 1.  See why American Dog Magazine called GIMME SHELTER “Wonderful, interesting and insightful” and why Actor/Author Harry Hamlin said “I loved this book!” To get your free copy, just go to our Amazon page. Don’t have a Kindle? Download the free reader app for your PC. Mac or iPad. And please share this with your friends.


As friends and fans of GIMME SHELTER know, I was living at the Agoura Hills Animal Shelter when Lou & Eugenie happened by. They weren’t looking for a dog, especially not a Pit Bull, but my sweet disposition and composed demeanor (my friends at Sandpiper Kennel call me “Tanner With Manners”) won them over. If you want to know more, you can read all about it in the book, which would make a great holiday gift for the dog lovers’ in your life, hint, hint. I mention it now because on October 5, we participated in the Author’s Event at the Annual Agoura Hills ‘Reyes Adobe Days’, a festival commemorating the founding of the pueblo-turned-city. We had a fabulous time chatting with visitors and signing books. We must have made a good impression because they invited us to participate (as in sell books) at their Annual Holiday Boutique. Many thanks to Amy Brink Jones, Jamie Goldstein, their colleague and the people of Agoura for making us feel welcome. And a big ‘thank you’ to the folks at the L.A. County Agoura Shelter, for helping animals in need.

Flogging GIMME SHELTER at Reyes Adobe Days, 10/5/13

It’s Treats not Tricks with the GIMME SHELTER GIVEAWAY. Lou and I want to spread the word that on October 31 and November 1, we’re giving away digital copies of GIMME SHELTER to celebrate Halloween and Dia De Los Peros (Yes, it’s Dia De Los Muertos but we’re rolling with the dog theme). Just go to Amazon and download the e-book for free, gratis, nada, bupkis, zilch, zero. Don’t have a Kindle, download the free Kindle reader for your PC, Mac or iPad. Be sure to tell your friends and to share on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc.


This was a great week for those of us who roll on 4 legs, and our human friends.  First, Elle a Pit Bull (yes, a pit bull!) was named 2013 ‘Hero Dog’ by the American Humane Association. Making it even better, our friends and dog park pals, Megan Blake and Smiley were there to co-host the gala.

Megan and Super Smiley with last year’s emcee, stage superstar Kristin Chenoweth

Then there was a moving piece in the Huffingtom Post about a woman who rescued a wounded Pit Bull and took to Craig’s List to chide the dog’s abusive former owners. Be advised, Kleenex necessary.

Mama Jade
Finally, in case you think I have a pit bull agenda (moi?) that runs toward saccharine, my hard-nosed ‘dad, Lou asked me to include this story from the New York Times about Gregory Berns, a neuroscientist from Emory University whose work is proving what we’ve known since the first dog strolled into the first human encampment, that  DOG ARE PEOPLE, TOO. – “For the past two years, my colleagues and I have been training dogs to go in an M.R.I. scanner — completely awake and unrestrained. Our goal has been to determine how dogs’ brains work and, even more important, what they think of us humans. Now, after training and scanning a dozen dogs, my one inescapable conclusion is this: dogs are people, too.” (read the article & watch the video)

With Tanner and his girl, ‘Lola’ Mazza – Whatever Lola Wants, Lola Gets!