DOGS, ART, & CASSIDY WILLIAM VEIT!

Before Tanner resumes his role as blogger-in-chief, I thought I’d mention a few more reasons we have to be thankful for our dolce vita. First, there’s good friends like John and Robby Mazza, and their pups, Lola and Porter, whose friendship we cherish and whose efforts to Preserve Malibu from over-development we deeply appreciate.

John Mazza & Lola @ Our Lady of Malibu’s Blessing of the Animals
Living with such a talented artist, I sometimes take Eugenie’s sculpture for granted. That’s why it’s great when other artists, like David Brady from Santa Monica’s super cool Studio FIVE08 Gallery, acknowledge her work. Eugenie has two of her ‘face-flowers’ in the current show. Saturday’s opening included a surprise visit from some other talented and beautiful friends. If you’re in the area, drop by and enjoy this inspired collection of amazing painters, photographers and, yes, sculptors. Studio FIVE08, 508A Santa Monica Blvd., Santa Monica, CA 90401, 310-994-9400.

Lisa Rinna, Eugenie and Harry Hamlin

Lastly, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the amazing creation that my niece, Krissie Veit and her husband, Billy, gave birth to this week…their son, Cassidy William. Eugenie and I are thrilled and can’t wait to meet the handsome little hunk.

Krissie and Cassidy William

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




‘BIG BANG’ IN THE ‘BU…COOL Y.A. WRITERS

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.


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’

WORLD BLOG HOP…HUH?

Instead of cool dog news or updates on Tanner’s latest exploits, this week we’re doing something different. We’re joining a worldwide blog hop for readers and writers called “The Writing Process World Blog Tour.” I’m not the guy who put the social in social media but I was invited to join WWBH by a hot new YA writer, K.V. Flynn, whose debut novel, ON THE MOVE (the first book in a middle grade/YA trilogy that really lives inside the world of skateboarding and boys’ friendships), will be published in early September. Be sure to add it to your must buy” on Amazon/Kobo.iTunes/B&N (notice I didn’t say must read,” since we writers have to eat – BUY it for yourself, or you teenage son/brother/friend). K.V. lives in the Manhattan-Huntington-Malibu Beach area. His favorite ride is an 8.25″ Krooked deck, Independent trucks, and 53 mm Spitfire wheels. He is half Spanish and half Irish and has a dog. K.V. and he and his bros regularly cruise Venice, Stoner, Skatelab, and Van’s. Check out the book here:www.OnTheMoveBooks.com.

About me and my book
I live in Malibu with my wife Eugenie, the love of my life, and our rescue dog, Tanner. I’ve written for film, TV, stage, magazines and newspapers. GIMME SHELTER is my first book. When I’m not writing (which is way too often these days), I work with juvenile inmates at the L.A. County Juvenile Probation Camp Schools in the nearby Santa Monica Mountains. For fun (read the book, and you’ll see the kind of guy who thinks it’s fun), I teach Okinawa GoJu Ryu (“Wax on; Wax off”) Karate and Tai Chi. In our downtime, Eugenie and I travel to Italy where we were married and where we have dual U.S.- Italian citizenship. 
                                                              ~ ~ ~
Today we’re answering four questions:
1) What are you working on? 
I’m currently juggling several projects. There’s a Stand And Deliver-style film script set in a juvenile probation camp (prison), a gritty urban short-story collection set in NYC and Northern NJ, and a stage play with music about the only soldier to ever successfully challenge the U.S. military’s ban on gays. In addition, I’m always outlining potential stories, scripts and articles that will probably go unrealized unless I live to a biblical age.

2) How does your work differ from others in your genre? GIMME SHELTER takes the feel-good dog story and stands it on its head. On my Amazon page, I say that GIMME SHELTER is… “The Sopranos meets Marley & Me: with a twist when a volatile, chronically ticked-off writer from a “Goodfellas” family struggles to help an abused, timid, big-hearted shelter dog. Unlike Marley, ours was a case of good” dog (a homeless pit bull) vs. bad owner (me). We made an odd couple and, for us to thrive, I had undergo a wholesale—and very challenging—personal transformation. Tanner, our dog, was the teacher who saved me from myself. Like me and much of my writing, GIMME SHELTER blends the raw emotion and sensibility of the street with more conventional, refined elements. This is coupled with a strong angermanagement theme, which is one of the reasons why the book has been well-received by the officials and juvenile inmates at local probation camp schools.

3) Why do you write what you write?
In the case of my film work, I usually stumble across an odd or intriguing story and then marry it to events and people from my personal experience. Since I have a darksensibility, my work is often too gritty for the YA audience. GIMME SHELTER was an exception, but then it was an accidental book. I say accidental because it started as a diary that I kept during Tanner’s first year with us. For some reason that I can’t explain, I diligently charted all of the mundane things that happened during that time. For more than twenty years, my wife, Eugenie, had bugged me to tell our story from the POV of the dogs we’d owned. Like a typical husband, I’d resisted fiercely. When she started bugging me about the Tanner diary, I said I’d think about it. Because I hadn’t planned on doing anything with it, the journal was a hodgepodge of 500+ pages with no structure or apparent theme – hardly the kind of thing to turn into a book. It took me eighteen grueling months and countless drafts to figure out that the real story wasn’t me savingTanner; it was Tanner saving me from my decadeslong battle with anger. Once I came to that realization I was able to chisel a book from the diary.

4) How does your writing process work?
I tend to let things simmer for a very long time. Then, once things reach critical mass (or my wife can’t stand it any longer), I get to work. I always outline extensively when I’m writing screenplays or short non-fiction. GIMME SHELTER was my first stab at narrative non-fiction and working without an outline (or any plan at all) caused me a lot of headaches. In the case of the aforementioned short story collection, I haven’t learned my lesson since I’m working mostly without an outline, although many of the stories have been percolating for years.  
                                                              ~ ~ ~
I’m very excited to introduce the 3 writers who will be joining the blog tour on August 19:

Shea McIntosh Ford is an author of openminded fiction.” Her latest book, THE STONE OF KINGS will be published on August 12 from Astraea Press . Shea blogs at: http://sheaford.wordpress.com/,  https://www.facebook.com/SheaMcIntoshFord 

Justine Korman Fontes has over 700 published titles, earning her the title “The Queen of Licensed Children’s Books” from Writer’s DigestJustine is the author of THE GRUMPY BUNNY series for Scholastic and the new CHEDDAR’S TALES series for Barron’s. She and her hubby Ron Fontes have written for all of the major publishers, adapted screenplays for major film studios, and created a host of original works including graphic novels. 
 http://www.sonicpublishing.com/about.html

 Teresa Howard Teresa writes several romance genres.  From historical romance, to contemporary romance, to time travel/paranormal romance, her abiding belief that love conquers all leaps from every page.  Her latest work, FOR LOVE ALONE, is a historical romance with a southern belle turned royal duchess as the heroine. It will be published on August 12 from Astraea Press. All of Teresa’s novels are available on Amazon.com and can be ordered directly from her webpage: www.teresahoward.net

BLESS THE BEASTS…AND ARTISTS – SAD FAREWELLS

Lou and I are excited to tell you that we’ll be leading Malibu Methodist Church’s annual Blessing of the Animals on Saturday, August 16 from 10:00 – noon at There will be vendor booths, contests, and, of course, yours truly selling copies of GIMME SHELTER. So, if you have a cat, rat, horse, or warthog in need of some blessing, drop on by. (30128 Morning View Dr, Malibu, CA 90265, 310.457-7505). 

Later that day, my ‘mom’, Eugenie, will part of a gallery opening at Malibleu Gallery here in Malibu. She’ll have ten of her amazing stone sculptures on display and we’re rooting for every one of them to find a good, well-paying home. Again, we’d love to have you join us for some great art and a glass of vino (Malibu CA. 21201 Pacific Coast Hwy).

Sadly, not all this week’s news is festive. Yesterday we learned that Menahem Golan, a partner in Cannon Films and a legend in the movie biz, passed away suddenly near his home in Tel Aviv. Lou and his writing partner, Gary Horn, had a personal connection to Menahem, who optioned their sniper-on-the-loose thriller ‘Holiday Season’ several times and was promising to make the move this year. Just a few weeks back, Lou mailed him a copy of GIMME SHELTER as a gift and here’s what he had to say: “Brilliant book (GIMME SHELTER) with great insight into, not only dogs but yourself. Some excellent ‘laugh out loud’ moments. My question is “How did you find such an amazing and loyal woman to stand by you whilst you were learning to deal with your anger?” 🙂 🙂 🙂 She deserves a medal! Well done to you all (including Tanner) and I look forward to your next book!

Menahem Golan“. 

Menahem Golan on the set

Unlike Menahem, Malibu’s Diesel Bookstore recently fell victim to the ravages of runaway retail rents. Unable to afford the astronomical fees, they reluctantly shut their doors. It was an especially dark day for us. When we published GIMME SHELTER in early 2013, we had no idea if it would ever sell a single copy, let alone find its way to a real bookstore. On a nudge from, Eugenie, Lou introduced himself to Lynn and asked if Diesel might be willing to carry the book and maybe even host an author night. To our delight and surprise, she said ‘yes’ to both. On Thursday night, April 25, 2013, Lou read to a packed house at Diesel, and we made our initial charitable book donation to Malibu Pet Companions. It was our first live event, a fun, magical evening that we’ll always remember. A month later, Diesel boosted our profile yet again when Gimme Shelter placed #2 on the Malibu Times best selling books for May. In December, we landed at #16 on Diesel’s 2013 Top Seller list. Any indie author would be thrilled to get that much push from a bookstore but there was more.

The ‘fan’, outside Diesel
 Sometime after Christmas, Malibu resident and reporter Kim Devore stopped by to get a gift for her dog-loving mom, Erika Brunson. A Diesel employee – Lynn I think – urged her to skip the nationally known volumes in favor of a local book, Gimme Shelter. Kim took her advice. Erika loved the book so much that she proceeded to buy all the store’s copies not once but twice. Thanks to Lynn, Lou contacted Erika and we met for coffee. When Eugenie mentioned that I teach part time at the local probation schools at Camp Miller and Camp Gonzales, and that they were interested in using the book as an anger management tool for the juvenile offenders, Erika jumped in and bought 100 copies for the schools. This fall, Gimme Shelter will be part of their formal curriculum on the theme of ‘Discovery’. Inspired by the school connection, the Probation Department recently purchased copies for the dorm libraries in all of the county’s juvenile camps. Lou is currently speaking with school officials at New York City’s Riker’s Island about using the book with their juvenile inmates. None of this would have been possible without Diesel Malibu. Things change, and when one door closes another opens. Eugenie, Lou and I sincerely wish that all of the new doors for the Diesel Malibu family bring adventure, success, fun and peace. Thanks for enriching our lives, and the city we love. We’ll miss you.

Tanner @ Diesel, April 25, 2013

DO JEALOUS PIT BULLS DREAM OF ELECTRIC CATS?…HONORING A ‘JERSEY BOY’

I sometimes overhear Lou & Eugenie saying that I was running in my sleep and having another ‘doggie dream’. Until recently, the idea of canine dreams was largely dismissed as another case of humans anthropomorphizing their pets. New research, however,  suggests that we may, indeed, be doing just that. In a recent Parade Magazine article, Your PetExlained: The Truth About Cats & Dogs, veterinarian Melissa Bain, associate professor at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, says that “we don’t know…but we think they dream.” That’s because their brain-wave patterns resemble those seen in people. “Dogs go through sleep cycles very similar to humans’, with periods of deep sleep and periods of rapid eye movement, or REM, sleep,” says Stephen Zawistowski, Ph.D., an applied animal behaviorist and science adviser to the American Society for the Prevention of ­Cruelty to Animals. “Dreaming happens during REM sleep, which is also when dogs twitch their legs, move their lips, or vocalize.” ­Wonder when your own dog might be dreaming? As a dog starts to doze, and his sleep becomes ­deeper, his breathing will become more regular, says canine ­behavior ­expert Stanley Coren in his book How Dogs Think. “After a period of about 20 minutes,” Coren writes, “his first dream should start.” (read the entire article).

Tanner and his newest ‘baby’ (Thank You, Aunt Robby)

Not only do we dream like our two-legged partners, it seems we get jealous like them, too. As reported by CNN online, “a study by scholars at the University of California, San Diego found that dogs showed jealous behaviors when their owners displayed affection toward an animatronic stuffed dog that barked, whined and wagged its tail. The dogs snapped at and pushed against the stuffed dog and tried to get between it and the human. This may come as no surprise to any owner of multiple pooches who has seen them jostle for space on someone’s lap.”

Joe Long, far right

Thanks to the billion dollar stage hit and recent movie, JERSEY BOYS, millions of younger Americans now know the music, and tumultuous story of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, a quartet of street smart ‘goombahs’ who mixed music with the Mob. Well, it turns out that Lou has a personal connection to one of the Seasons, #5, Joe Long (photo, far right). Joe was born Joe LaBracio, in Elizabeth, NJ. His mom and dad, Mary and Joe, lived on High Street, a scant half-block from Spirito’s Restaurant, the landmark eatery founded 80+ years ago by Lou’s grandfather. They were such close friends that Lou’s mom and dad chose Mary & Joe to be Lou’s godparents, a big deal for Italians. When the Seasons tabbed Joey, a talented, classically trained bass player, to replace the disgruntled Nick Massi, Joey became an instant hero in  the city’s Italian Peterstown neighborhood. Fifty years later, Joe’s hometown has decided to honor him by renaming High Street Joe Long Way. It couldn’t happen to a nicer, humbler or more deserving guy. (listen to the interview).

SURF’S UP…A TOUGH ACT TO FOLLOW

On July 10, Lou read from GIMME SHELTER and followed up with a Q & A for the juvenile probation students at Camp Miller. While they know him as a motivational substitute teacher, this gave the boys a chance to ask about the book, the writing process and his battle with anger. Afterwards, he visited the classrooms and talked about the opportunities available via KDP and CreateSpace to self-publish for no, or very little money. He tossed out a few intriguing story lines and offered to ‘give’ them to any student willing to run with the ideas. His presentation went so well that he was invited to do an encore this week at Camp Gonzales. In the fall, both camps will be using Gimme Shelter as part of a scholastic unit on the theme of ‘Discovery’.

Tanner & Lola (“‘She Was A Show Dog..”) Mazza

Switching hats on the fly, Lou went from speaker/writer to concerned citizen when he addressed the Malibu City Council, urging them to put an initiative intended to control local retail development on theNovember’s ballot. While he’s rarely at a loss for words, Lou admitted to being taken aback when he was asked to follow actor/writer/director and producer and Malibu resident Rob Reiner (All In The Family, Princess Bride, This Is Spinal Tap, When Harry Met Sally), who sponsored the initiative with his wife. In classic ‘dad’ style, Lou joked about having to “one-up the famous guy”. Then he made an earnest, humorous appeal to the council to honor the democratic process.
Rob Reiner
While most of our news involves dogs, books and related matters, we’re happy to give a hearty ‘Bravo!’ to our dear friend, John Mazza. A lifelong surfer who has amassed an impressive collection of boards, John generously loaned 15 of his vintage ‘sticks’ to the Mingei International Museum in Balboa Park in San Diego for an exhibit on Surf Craft. Richard Kenvin designed and organized the show which continues through December.

John Mazza, surfboard collector and historian

Here’s a YouTube tour of John’s Collection at the Pepperdine University Library. Below are some of the reviews and media coverage of the Balboa show: 

DOGS vs. CATS – WHICH IS SMARTER? HINT…WOOF, WOOF!

I don’t often post on hot-button issues but this one was too good to pass up. While the canine-feline debate has raged for ages, as reported in the Huffington Post,  the latest scientific (as in trained experts with proven methods) findings suggests that we dogs have the edge when it comes to smarts. How can that be, when those clever kitty killing machines manage to manipulate their human companions seemingly at will? Turns out that social animals, like elephants, dolphins, monkeys and, yes, dogs, develop larger brains to better foster cooperation with each other and, in the case of dogs, their human pals. If you’re a cat lover don’t despair, there’s some good news, too. According to Joanna Liebmann-Smith, PhD, “Dogs usually do outperform cats on most animal IQ tests and have larger vocabularies and bigger brains, but…Cats have almost twice as many neurons in their cerebral cortex. The cerebral cortex is considered the part of the brain responsible for learning and memory, among other things. Cats have 300 million neurons, while dogs have only 160 million, which means that cats have a greater capacity for information processing than dogs.”

Tanner (right)   and his Mensa friend, Porter Massa

And before Lou and Eugenie start gloating, recent studies suggest that ‘Cat People’ (loved the flick with Natasha Kinski, and the Bowie tune) are smarter than dog lovers. An article from LiveScience by Rachel Rettner offered this comparison: “People who said they were dog lovers in the study tended to be more lively — meaning they were more energetic and outgoing — and also tended to follow rules closely. Cat lovers, on the other hand, were more introverted, more open-minded and more sensitive than dog lovers. Cat people also tended to be non-conformists, preferring to be expedient rather than follow the rules.” Now that I have both sides riled (a trick I learned from Lou), let me suggest a compromise by paraphrasing Crosby, Still & Nash: If you can’t be with the pet species you love, love the one you’re with!”

Porter with his very smart and outgoing mom, Robby


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’