It’s the time to year to think about what really matters, like family, good friends, and helping dogs in need like Rex, Ranger, and Lemon (see below), three terrific pit bulls that are all looking for someone to share their love. If you’ve been waiting for just the right dog, or know someone who is, reach out and make some Holiday magic. Finding the perfect dog isn’t an exact science. Sometimes the ‘perfect’ dog turns out to be a less than perfect fit with their human counterparts. That happened to Lou & Eugenie with my predecessor, Reggie, and to L.A. Times columnist Steve Lopez with Hannah and Dominic. It took two tries and a lot of handwringing but eventually both dogs found their forever homes. Another way to help pups in peril is to buy a copy of GIMME SHELTER. You’ll get our Holiday discount and you’ll be spreading the word that pit bulls make great pets and we’ll donate a portion of the sale to one of our awesome rescue partners.

Tanner & Lou with Santa

REX has been at the Santa Maria shelter since late 2013. He originally had a home but his family lost their house and he was adopted, got out, and never reclaimed. Connie Kruse, a longtime volunteer at the Santa Maria (Santa Barbara County) Shelter has been working with him for the past year and says the he is totally ready to find a forever home.  Rex is about 3 1/2 years, weighs between 55-60 lbs. He is potty trained and leash trained, gets along extremely well with other dogs but we’re not sure about cats. He loves his toys so he’d be okay as an only dog as long as he gets some love and play time. He was a loved domestic pet who slept in the bed was used to help assess & train other shelter dogs’ temperaments. If you are interested, or know someone who might be,  please contact CONNIE KRUSE, 805-878-801clkjmw@icloud.com

RANGER is a 2 years old male pit bull, 65 lbs., with a pretty rare fur color of brown, with blue brindle.  He escaped a bad environment when he was about 3 months old and was picked up wandering the streets by a vet tech. His foster family couldn’t keep him but they taught him commands like sit, stay, and lay down. He loves walking on a leash and he’ll never pull. He’s even good off leash in a safe environment. He grew up with 18 other pits and 1 miniature pinscher, so he loves to be around other friendly dogs big or small. He’s house trained and crate trained, has been neutered already, has all shots up to date, and a microchip. Contact MIKE @  951-807-8786  or email SVT4ME95@yahoo.com

LEMON –  is almost 3 yrs old,  spayed purebread pit bull, approx. 50 lbs., with medium to high energy. She is very cute, with a heart shaped spot on her side. She’s very loving toward anyone she meets, and she is excellent with both adults and children. She socializes, plays and sleeps with a large group of other dogs, including pit bulls, that Mike is training for adoption.  She is excellent on and off leash and she knows her basic commands, sit, stay, down. Very eager to please,very playful, and would make a good running partner for someone. She is house trained and crate trained, micro-chipped and her shots are up to date. Contact MIKE @  951-807-8786  or email SVT4ME95@yahoo.com

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Before signing off, I want to compliment my mom, Eugenie, on the awesome story about her and her sculpture in last week’s Malibu Surfside News. Scribe Ashleigh Fryer did a wonderful job of capturing just what moves this fabulous artist, who also happens to be a first-rate dog momma, too.


Even though we’re on the wrong side of the tracks (in this case, Pacific Coast Highway), every July 4th we get to watch the Paradise Cove pyrotechnics from our balcony. It’s  huge treat for us humans but not much fun the neighborhood dogs. As he’s done for the past 5 years, poor Tanner spent several hours shivering like a North Pole skinny dipper while searching in vain for a place to escape the skyrockets and firecrackers. Four days later, he’s still not back to his normal, easy-going self.

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While Independence Day celebrates America’s breakup with England, this year the holiday brought us some love from the U.K. in the form of a glowing review of GIMME SHELTER courtesy of Emma Powell and The Review Group. Here’s hoping that her kind words lead U.K. dog lovers to rush out and buy a copy. From the review: “You don’t have to be a dog lover to appreciate this book. I was happy to review it as I have always had German Shepherds, my latest one a rescue with problems, so can empathise with judgemental attitudes that surround certain breeds. But this book is so much more than dogs; it’s a person’s story of how he developed coping mechanisms, life-changing attitudes and how hard it is to work at changing lifestyles.  By having to work with a dog that had issues, such as fearing everything, surrounded by people with preconceived ideas of the dog, the author cleverly shows how this path forced him to take his own issues to hand. The author is very honest and open that he has anger problems stemming from childhood and through his 20s and I think this is a very difficult and brave thing to do. “
Tanner…American Staffordshire Terrier & Yankee Doodle Dandy
If they’re anything like their Yankee counterparts, they’ll likely enjoy the book’s sidebars that offer tips on training and dog care, as well as pertinent statistics about dog-human interactions, such as dog bites and how to prevent them. Cesar Millan’s latest newsletter puts the annual number of U.S. dog bites at 4.5 million, with 31 fatalities. On the surface, these numbers suggest that  man’s best friend is nothing of the sort. As Tanner will attest, it’s crucial for pet guardians to train and socialize their dogs and to safely restrain them if they show aggression towards people or other animals. But before you muzzle Bowser or show him the door, consider that every day in the U.S. 4.5 children die from abuse and neglect and that the Center for Disease Control is predicting 33,000 gun fatalities for 2015.


It’s been just over 14 years since my mother, Buzzy (nee Florence) shuffled off to Valhalla, in her case, a perpetual day at the races where the long shots (gray horses of course) always come out ahead, the trifectas pay out five figures,  and the beer is always frosty. To be honest, I don’t think of her much these days but I was sorting through my bookcase when I happened on a photo of us taken a few years before she slid away. Tomorrow is Mother’s Day and it got me thinking about all the things I blame her for. 
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A child of the Great Depression whose fireman father died in the line of duty, she left home at fourteen when her mother’s new husband grew too “interested” in her and her younger sister. Armed with only a grade school education she talked her way into a waitress gig at New York’s then-swanky Hotel Pennsylvania. She used her meager wages to support them both, making “poor man’s eggs” (an egg stretched with corn starch and flavored with bacon grease, served with stale bread) for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  When she married my father, a handsome, hotheaded restaurateur, she thought she’d found her fairy tale ending. For a short time they were deliriously happy. Then came four kids, and his passion shifted to gambling, and girlfriends. We lived with the “enemy”, my immigrant grandparents who blamed her for my father’s failings. Since her siblings were either struggling or dead, leaving was out of the question. Pinned down in domestic trench warfare, she still found time to teach me baseball and to instill in me her love books. No Winnie the Pooh in our house; I cut my teeth on Kidnapped and Perry Mason, which explains my fondness for Michael Connelly novels, and gritty crime dramas like Oz, The Shield, and Justified

Florence ‘Buzzy’ Spirito

She ran her house with an iron fist; clean dishes and made beds were mandatory, fast food unheard of. To this day, the only blemish on my record, a single Egg McMuffin consumed in a seriously altered state. If I’m a food snob, it’s all her fault. She taught her four kids to speak their minds, even if it meant upsetting the powers that be, like the time she challenged a school tuition hike by asking the stately Parish Monsignor how many “god damn kids” he was struggling to raise. And she taught me to fight, forcing me to  trade blows with the neighborhood bully while she refereed. I was terrified and she knew it but that didn’t matter. That I took up karate instead of golf, I lay on her. She took the holidays seriously, insisting that we scour the Sear’s Catalog before submitting our Christmas lists, and dressing like a swarthy Arab sheik or a crazed Buccaneer for her annual Halloween visit to our classrooms. Her home, a scant half-block from the schoolyard, was a haven for friends and classmates. Everyone was welcome with no exception and only one caveat: her house, her rules, which meant a smack on the ass if you got out of line. She made it her mission to mend torn pants, scraped elbows and broken hearts. She took in stray dogs, wounded birds, lost turtles and even a stolen monkey. She’s have loved Tanner.

Halloween 1953

When our grandparents banished us from the yard during sweltering NJ summers, she borrowed from strangers to rent a cottage on Barnegat Bay where we could swim and fish in safety. When I started playing basketball she never missed a game, even when if meant a 2-hour bus ride with a team of sweaty boys. We scuffled plenty – mostly over girls and her fear that I might ‘get them into trouble’ – but I loved her to bits and considered her a mentor and friend. By example she taught me to love and respect all women, especially my wife of 25 years, Eugenie, who she adored. After a stroke forced Buzzy (I called her an Old Buzzard and the shortened version stuck) into riding a wheelchair, we’d make a weekly pilgrimage from our Greenwich Village studio to  to give her a shower, a beauty treatment and game of gin rummy, or just to sit on her bed holding hands while she watched her favorite cop show. 

with Buzzy and ‘Victory’ circa 1952


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.
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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


You look a little young to be a veterinarian!

Normally our posts have to do with me, Lou’s book or our life in Malibu, but this week two very cool stories caught my eye and I wanted to share them. The Best Friends Animal Society newsletter had a story by Kelli Harmon about how to find the ‘best’ breed of dog for your family. While I’m a big advocate for pit bulls, people thinking about a dog might want to give it a read: How can you find your own version of the perfect dog? Dozens of websites have quizzes or top 10 lists of the best breeds for families (or for protection, or for people who live in an apartment, and so on). But those lists of breeds miss the mark. Why? Because they answer the wrong question. There is no perfect breed — for anyone. But there is a perfect dog out there for everyone. You just have to know what to look for. Golden retrievers and every other breed are like snowflakes – When people seek out these lists, what are they really looking for? A dog who won’t bite anyone, or will be easy for a middle schooler to walk on a leash, or a breed that doesn’t bark a lot, or is active or not very active? These things are important considerations. But looking for any of these qualities in one breed over another sets up the expectation that if you get a (insert the name of the “best” breed here), he will absolutely have (or won’t have) what matters to you. That’s where the quizzes and lists fall short. Kristi Littrell, adoption manager at Best Friends, has successfully matched up thousands of dogs with families in her 15-plus years at Best Friends. She’s met hundreds of purebreds — a veritable dog show parade of breeds — over the years. Kristi says, “It’s wrong to think that every single poodle bites and every golden retriever is extra nice.” She says that anyone looking for the best dog for their family and lifestyle should base the choice on “the individual animal, and not on age, breed or mix of breeds.” Read more
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While we usually post canine news, this story about an Alasakn fisherman who went out for Halibut and came back with four deer was just too odd, and uplifting:Tom Satre told the Sitka Gazette that he was out with a charter group on his 62-foot fishing vessel when four juvenile black-tailed deer swam directly toward his boat.“Once the deer reached the boat, the four began to circle the boat, looking directly at us. We could tell right away that the young bucks were distressed. I opened up my back gate and we helped the typically skittish and absolutely wild animals onto the boat. In all my years fishing, I’ve never seen anything quite like it! Once on board, they collapsed with exhaustion, shivering.” Read the entire story:


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


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!


Many of you have read this before but, since I’m a dog and an interested party, I thought we’d pass it along to those of you who haven’t. According to web sources, the author is a British bloke named Stan Rawlinson (www.doglistener.co.uk). While it’s meant for us 4-legged ‘kids’, it’s a pretty good way to treat our 2-legged friends, too.


1. My life is likely to last 10-15 years. Any separation from you is likely to be painful.
2. Give me time to understand what you want of me.
3. Place your trust in me. It is crucial for my well-being.
4. Don’t be angry with me for long and don’t lock me up as punishment. You have your work, your friends, your entertainments, but I have only you.
5. Talk to me. Even if I don’t understand your words, I do understand your voice when speaking to me.
6. Be aware that however you treat me, I will never forget it.
7. Before you hit me, before you strike me, remember that I could hurt you, and yet, I choose not to.
8. Before you scold me for being lazy or uncooperative, ask yourself if something might be bothering me. Perhaps I’m not getting the right food, I have been in the sun too long, or my heart might be getting old or weak.
9. Please take care of me when I grow old. You too, will grow old.
10. On the ultimate difficult journey, go with me please. Never say you can’t bear to watch. Don’t make me face this alone. Everything is easier for me if you are there, because I love you so.
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REYES ADOBE DAYSLou and I  are thrilled to be participating in the ‘Authors’ event at next weekend’s Reyes Adobe Days, an annual festival celebrating the founding and cultural legacy of nearby Agoura Hills. In a way, it’s almost fitting, since Lou and Eugenie adopted me from the L.A. County Shelter in Agoura. So, in a sense, that caring community changed two lives, his and mine. We’ll be signing books on from 1:30 – 3:00 on Saturday, October 5, so if you’re in the area, stop by and say hello. You can find us at the Reyes Adobe Historical Site in the Adobe Barn, 30400 Rainbow Crest Drive, Agoura Hills, CA 91301. RAD runs from Friday – Sunday (Fr- 5:00 – 9:00 PM, Sat, Sun 11:00 Am – 4:00 PM) 

Hanging with my bipeds on the Pepperdine 9/11 Lawn


I don’t know how much longer Lou will let me keep posting so I thought I’d write about how we dogs usually avoid politics and stick to helping our 2-legged friends, no matter what their leanings.  Except when it comes to BSL, dog fighting and tainted treats, you’ll never catch us growling over partisan issues. That said, I wanted to mention the anniversary of 911 and what local students are doing to honor the memory of the people who died that day. For the past several years, students at nearby Pepperdine University (the water polo or volleyball players ?) have placed nearly 3,000 flags, from the victims’ respective nations, on the sweeping great lawn in memory of the dead. Lou and Eugenie took me there, and strolling through the impressive display flapping banners was a moving event. Lou said it reminded him of the simple crosses they place at Veteran’s cemeteries but I’ve never been so I’ll take his word for it. It will be up several more days so if you’re a local or passing by, be sure to stop and take it in.

Tanner, American Staffordshire Terrier on the Pepperdine University 9-11 Lawn

On a sunnier but related note, check out this video of a faithful pup being reunited with his soldier ‘dad’ who has just returned from a 6-month absence in combat. If this doesn’t make you smile, go see the undertaker, cause you just might be dead.

How many people would do this for a friend?
OM! Tanner and Eugenie getting mellow @ The Sacred Space, Summerland, CA

Lou with Tanner and his pal, Magnus, aka Mag-A-Noos @ Trancas Dogpark


Although school has already started for some unfortunate kids, Tanner wanted to spread the word about some terrific books he’s gnawing on. First is JIMMY & ME by Lew Bracker, who takes a fond look back at his brief but poignant friendship with the Hollywood icon, cut off before his time. Then there’s Sarah Bracey White’s PRIMARY LESSONS, a memoir of a young African-American girl who was “ripped from her middle-class lifein Philadelphia and transported to a single-parent household in the South where she refuses to accept the segregation that tries to confine her.” Finally, there’s RUBY’S TALE by Patrick Bettendorf, the true rags-to-riches story of a thrown away pit bull and her journey from the trashcan to media darling. Tanner gives them all ‘2 paws up’, and he’s sure you will, too. If you haven’t yet read GIMME SHELTER, be sure to add it to the list. Tanner wants his friends to knwo that there will be no book reports and no one will be tested on the material. Enjoy.