A MENTOR’S PASSING…BACKYARD DANGERS…AMY SCHUMER ON DOGGIE DAYCARE

Tanner graciously agreed to let me take the reins (keyboard, to be exact) this week so that I might remember Harlan Cary Poe, a mentor who recently passed away. When I met him in 1984, Cary was co-director (with Sensei Andy Diaz) of the Martial Arts Conservatory, a karate dojo in New York’s Greenwich Village. I had just returned to training after nearly a 10-year hiatus, and they welcomed me into the fold, which included several working actors and at least one world-class visual artist. I was struggling with my anger issues, and their spirited, philosophical teaching helped me keep myself in check. A skilled karateka who was proficient with several weapons, Cary was also an actor who appeared in many films and TV shows, including Someone To Watch Over Me, where he played a creepy hit man that was out to silence socialite Mimi Rodgers. Standing in the way was a NYC detective, played by Tom Berenger, Cary’s close friend. I lost touch with Sensei Poe when we left New York in the early ’90s. I know he went on to become a physical therapist, and he continued to live in his WestBeth apartment, a few floors above the original dojo. That’s where his body was recently discovered by a neighbor. He was seated in lotus position. 

Cary Poe in “Someone To Watch Over Me”

Sensei Harlan Cary Poe, circa 1988

Being a dog guardian comes with plenty of responsibilities. You must provide food, water, shelter, exercise, affection, toys and treats…lots and lots of toys and treats. If you have a backyard, you also need to be alert to dangers that might harm your doggie BFF, like wild animals (coyotes, cougars, bears, venomous snakes and insects), unexpected human visitors and intruders (utility workers, meter readers, and sadly, dog nappers), exposed outlets and power lines, uncovered pools, and gaps in walls or fencing that might allow your dog to escape and become lost or injured. In this week’s edition of Cesar’s Way,  celebrity dog guru and Cesar Millan gives a rundown on these backyard perils and how you can prevent them.

with Tanner @ The Sacred Space, Summerland, CA

Adopting a pet from a shelter or rescue group can be very rewarding experience. In our case, we rescued Tanner from a life behind bars (or worse) and he returned the favor by showering us with love and helping me finally tame my ferocious temper. If you’d like to learn the details, you can read all about it in GIMME SHELTER. While rescuing a dog feels good, it can sometimes lead to ego-driven oneupmanship. Like the drunken sailors in this scene from the classic movie Jaws, played by Robert Shaw and Richard Dreyfus, who get carried away comparing their scars, some doggie saviors feel the need to show just how precious they are. Leave it to Amy Schumer to skewer the do-gooders and the urban doggie daycare culture.

Amy Schumer

Robert Shaw & Richard Dreyfus, JAWS

DUMBEST PREDATOR…HARD LUCK MEN, HARD LUCK DOG…SENSE INSTEAD OF BSL

Which is the world’s dumbest predator? Hint – it hunts on two legs. As reported in the L.A. Times (Turning Hunting On Its Head by Amina Kahn, August 15, 2015), a study published in Science Magazine claims that humans slaughter other carnivores at a far higher rate than other top predators. Even more troubling than our bloodlust is the fact that we kill healthy, breeding animals needed to replenish their species, and not the small, weak elderly ones favored by other predators. If we hope to avoid altering evolution for the worse, we need to start behaving more like the hunters we’ve been wiping out. (read story)

While humans are super efficient at screwing things up, sometimes our high nature prevails. That’s the case with Petey, a pit bull that was used as a bait dog and horribly disfigured before ending up at the Carson (L.A. County) Animal Shelter. The Carson staff helped Petey make and impressive recovery, and Karma Rescue stepped in to find him a forever home. A mere six months later, the poor pup was diagnosed with cancer. 

Petey

Enter Chris M., an inmate/trainer at the CDCR- Los Angeles men’s prison where Karma runs their Paws For Life program, pairing shelter dogs with inmates for a 12-week training course. When he learned of Petey’s story, Chris decided to help raise money for his treatment – from his fellow prisoners, who average less than a dollar a day at their prison jobs. To date, Chris has collected over $1,000 from hard luck men moved by the plight of a hard luck dog.

Chris M and his Karma trainee

Like Karma, Best Friends works tirelessly to place rescue dogs in loving homes. Until recently, unwanted pit bulls in St. John’s County, Florida, never got that chance. An ordinance passed inn 2007 mandated a ‘no-adoption’ policy for pit bull terriers, ensuring they would be euthanized. At the urging of a pit bull advocate, Best Friends legal council challenged the ordinance as being contrary to state law. They prevailed and  convinced county officials that temperament screening  and not BSL, breed specific legislation, is the key to weeding out aggressive dogs. Thanks to their dogged (yes!) efforts, beautiful boys like Bobo (adopted by Mary Robinson) have a chance to do what they do best – teach us humans how to live and love more fully.

Bobo

 

A BATTALION OF SORROWS…A GREAT TAKE ON BSL

“When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.”  (Shakepeare, Hamlet, IV, 5) 

With just over four months still to go, 2015 has unleashed a battalion of losses on our small corner of the world. We’ve lost two close friends to the ravages of diabetes, including Tanner’s  trainer Tony Rollins, and another was recently diagnosed with a serious, neurological disorder. Several older relatives are also battling deadly maladies. The dog world has taken some hits, too. Tanner lost Ceba, one of his long-time buddies, and two other canine pals are suffering from serious ailments and advanced old age. The latest blow came last Saturday when our dear friend, Roberta Deutsch, passed away while awaiting treatment for a bone marrow disorder. Together with her husband, Carl, another dear friend, Roberta was an angel for all sorts of worthy causes. A supremely talented dancer and musician, who worked on dozens of TV shows and films, including West Side Story, where she was a fetching Jet girl, Roberta fervently supported diverse charities like SHARE, the Professional Dancers SocietyHomeboy Industries, and dozens of programs to help children in need receive early childhood intervention, and education in the arts, especially music and dance. She and Carl also established our weekly Course In Miracles meeting, a program that has helped me recognize and handle my sometimes crushing anger issues. Although she faced some long-standing, debilitating health problems, Roberta never lost her wicked sense of humor, or her impeccable style and grace. She leaves behind sweet memories, and a hole that will never be filled.

Roberta with Janie

BSL, or Breed Specific Legislation is an ill-conceived, ineffective effort to ban certain breeds of dogs, like pit bulls and Rottweilers, deemed ‘inherently dangerous’. Based on fear and bogus science, several cities and some states (yes, you, Maryland) have implemented BSL as a knee-jerk reaction to fatal dog attacks, which almost always result from the mistreatment of the offending dogs or  owner neglect. Nearly all canine experts, and President Obama himself, consider it a wrong-headed, ineffective tactic. Tanner and I consider BSL to be is just BS, and we have railed against it in the past. I recently came across a novel, funny take, by a lawyer who specializes in HOA law, on why scapegoating pit bulls makes no sense. In his weekly newsletter Adrian Adams, of Adams Kessler PLC, posted the following: QUESTION: Our condo association is plagued with prostitutes, drug use and pit bulls. I’m a non-voting member of the board and want to know what we can do about the pit bulls. RECOMMENDATION: I noticed it’s a class of dogs that bothers you, i.e., compact muscular dogs with great jaw strength such as pit bull terriers, Staffordshire bull terriers, and bulldogs. If your board were to get rid of the prostitution and drug use, I suspect most of your pit bulls would join the exodus. The task will be daunting but your board should work with the police and legal counsel to clean up the development. Or, in the alternative, you could designate yourselves a “sanctuary association” for drug dealers and prostitutes and then apply for federal subsidies. You could be eligible for truckloads of money.

Eugenie and I with Roberta and Carl at the Professional Dancers’ Benefit, 2007

FEEL THE FEAR…BE FIRM AND CLEAR

Sales of GIMME SHELTER were slow but we still had a great day at the Malibu Art Fair, sitting and chatting with our friends Sophie Kidian, the sponsor of Pooch Party, and Dr. Lisa Newall, of Malibu Coast Animal Hospital. When she’s not busy caring for handsome pit bulls, Lisa and her niece, Rosemary, create amazing designer cakes. They graciously treated us pups to homemade doggie cookies, and our humans to delicious cupcakes. As pit bull parents know, we ‘tough guys’ don’t really like the heat (or cold, or rain) but the canopy kept us sheltered from the sun. Unfortunately, our booth was right across from the stage, and the all-day concert by local rock bands. Like dad, I’m more an R & B guy. I freak when I hear a solo bass drum, which reminds me of thunder and fireworks. I started shaking, and so mom whisked me back home to the shelter of my bed. 

Sophie at her Pooch Party

The peace and quiet didn’t last. Dad had just turned out the lights when some actual pyrotechnics commenced at nearby Paradise Cove. While he and mom ‘oohed’ and ‘aahed’,  I lay quivering in my bed. Afterwards, dad sat beside me and massaged me back to sanity which, according to dog guru Cesar Millan, “was exactly the wrong thing to do. This is because a dog relates your behavior to whatever it is doing in the moment, and it’s how positive reinforcement training works. If you want to teach a dog to “shake,” you have to associate that behavior with a reward until the dog instinctively knows, “If I do this with my paw, something good happens.” To our dogs, affection is a reward. By comforting a fearful dog, you are rewarding what it’s doing in that moment: being scared. You cannot explain to a dog why it shouldn’t be scared, or tell the dog that the frightening thing won’t hurt it or is going away soon — they do not have the cognitive abilities to understand those concepts. What they do understand is, “I’m terrified and it’s getting me a reward. My humans wants me to do this.” Over time, a timid, back-of-the-pack dog can be turned into a skittish, terrified animal because of humans unintentionally rewarding him when he’s in a negative energy state. Dogs don’t need love when they’re fearful; they need leadership.” (read the entire article 

Eugenie and Lou flogging our favorite book at the Malibu Art Fair

(ps – check out the limited Tanner The Pit Bull tees)

Like my ‘parents’, most canine caretakers mean well but their good intentions sometimes led them and their pups astray. Like yesterday morning, when dad let me meander all over Malibu Colony while we were walking with our friend, Carl. He thought that he was giving me some slack (literally) to explore a new place, but he was really sending me a confusing, mixed message about who’s in charge.  Cesar stresses that people need to be consistent when establishing and enforcing doggie ‘rules’: “Like humans, dogs are curious and they will test the rules whenever they can. It’s how a dog in the pack learns what is and isn’t acceptable. They’ll gradually escalate their behavior until their mother or another dog corrects them. This process continues until they know the rules and follow them. When a misbehavior has no consequences, a dog is more likely to do it again. “(Read More).

 

“…BOMBS BURSTING IN AIR” – GETTING READY FOR THE 4TH

With the annual July 4 bombardment right around the corner, here are a few simple tips to protect your pets. 1) Even if you’re at home with them, before the fireworks start, be sure to securely fasten all doors and yard gates  to prevent an anxious dog (or cat) from going on the run. 2) For dogs, swaddling in a familiar blanket or their guardian’s old T-shirt can provide emotional relief.  3) If your pooch’s anxiety is way off the chart, there’s always Bach’s Rescue Remedy, a natural tranquilizer, as well as prescription meds. 4) Despite all precautions, dogs will sometime pull a Steve McQueen and pull a great escape. That’s why it’s important that your pet’s collar have your contact information, and that he be microchipped. 5) If your pet goes missing, immediately contact the local animal control and nearby veterinarians to see if your dog or cat has been brought in.

Tanner, a pit bull patriot

Tanner is still no fan of the 4th but he’s gotten better each year. Here’s a look back at how it went on his first Independence Day (from GIMME SHELTER, Chapter ) – “[Tanner] stayed home while we drove to Carl’s for a cookout supper and front row seats at the annual Malibu  Colony fireworks. Lounging on the beach as powerful explosions shake the earth and rivers of color rain down on the Pacific is a visceral, magical experience. We left early to be with our dog. We found him quaking in the dark, burrowed into his bed like a tick on a deer, a casualty of the neighborhood kids and their cherry bombs.” 

Lou and I are both both Instagram newbies (@tannerthepitbulll has way more followers than @louisspirito) and still learning how to share things we enjoy, like this picture of a strikingly handsome Husky with impeccable literary taste. Thanks to indieBRAG (@indiebrag) for posting and for honoring us with a BRAG Medallion in Nonfiction.

A NICE REVIEW…INSTAGRAM CONTEST…A FEATURE FOR ‘MOM’ AND HER ART

It’s difficult  for self-published books to draw attention from the mainstream press and so Lou and I are wagging our tails over a very nice review of GIMME SHELTER in last Friday’s Publishers Weekly.

We’re also thrilled to announce our first Instagram book giveaway contest, sponsored by @pitbullsandkids. The theme is Who Rescue Who (we know the answer to that one) and the contest has another day to run (until 9 PM EDT, June 17). If you hurry, you can still enter. Just repost this flyer, along with a brief story of how you and your dog rescued each other, along with a cute photo of your 4-legged savior,and make sure to hashtag #WhoRescuedWho5. Winners will be announced Sunday, June 21.

Instagram – @pitbullandkids

It wasn’t all book news this week. My mom, Eugenie, and her fabulous sculptures, were highlighted in a feature article in this month’s ‘Sustainability’ issue of  Unity Art Magazine. I’m no art scholar – I think dogs playing poker are cool! – but she crafts beautiful work. Lou just dragged home a 300-lb. chunk of alabaster, a gift from our friend, Zari, so I expect there will soon be more hammering and chiseling.

CH-CH-CHANGES EVERYWHERE…HUMP DAY HELP…A HERO’S TALE

It’s been awhile since our last post but we’ve been busy, working to launch the revised and redesigned version of GIMME SHELTER that grew out of our recent Pepperdine University experience. Given all of the clerical tasks and logistics – like uploading content and art, and redesigning websites and blogs – the process has been daunting, especially for Lou who’s more of a ‘big idea’ type that would rather be researching and writing.  Eugenie and I tease him that the book about a man who learns to overcome his anger has become a challenge to his progress!  Despite a few minor hiccups, he’s staying calm (a relative term), proving that I did, indeed, help him evolve. Our thanks to Pepperdine prodigies Jesse Segura and Klara Tomkins for the new cover, and to Timothy Mitchell, another Pepperdine ace, for helping rework our website louisspirito.com. For those of you who follow us here on Blogger, you’ll notice that Lou has tweaked that, too. Be sure to let us know what you think of all the hard work.

3-Dcover

cover design by Jesse Segura & Klara Tomkins

Despite all the busy-ness, we’ve still managed to squeeze in a little fun at the dog park, where I met the cutest Shepherd pups who think I’m just adorable. One strange thing though; every time I start jumping on them, mom and dad scold me and tell me ‘get down’ and stop ‘humping’. In his most recent newsletter, Cesar Millan explains why dogs hump, and what to do about it if your pooch is out of control. According to Cesar, our grinding and thrusting can be sexual, social, playful, or a result of over excitement, and isn’t limited to just male dogs. If you’d like to know more, read the article by Josh Weiss-Roessler.

doing the ‘doggie mambo’

Finally, with Memorial Day having just slipped past, here’r a reminder to check out our pal Dan Cohen’s new book, SINGLE HANDED,  about immigrant war hero and Medal of Honor Winner Tibor, ‘Teddy’ Rubin. It’s a riveting yarn, and you wont’ be disappointed.

‘REX’ COMES TO L.A. – A ‘SINGLE HANDED’ TRIUMPH

Ever since Christmas we’ve been urging our fans to help find a home for Rex, the sweetest pit bull who’d been marking time in the Santa Maria animal shelter. Well, it hasn’t happened yet but we’re one step closer. Connie Kruse and the other center volunteers brought Rex and a gang of his shelter pals to last weekend’s No Kill LA mega-adoption sponsored by Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. The Best Friends folks like Rex so much that they took him, and 10 of his pals, to stay at their beautiful West L.A. Shelter ( 1845 Pontius Ave, West LA 90025, (424) 208-8840, open 12:00 – 8:00 every day). What that means is that L.A. dog lovers and potential doggie parents can now go see him in person, fall in love, and whisk him out of there to a forever home. In case you’ve forgotten just how lovable (or, in his case, love-a-pitbull) Rex is, here’s a link to a short video of him with Connie, when she drove down to visit him yesterday.

REX

And speaking of awesome stories…If tales of bravery and heroism are your cup of tea, you absolutely must read our friend Dan Cohen‘s just released book, SINGLE HANDED, the story of Tibor “Teddy” Rubin, the only Holocaust survivor to have received our nation’s highest military distinction, the Medal of Honor.

 ‘Imagine you’re a young Jewish boy from Hungary who’s tossed into the Nazi death camps and forced to survive on street smarts and courage. After the Warthat same boy volunteers to fight in Korea for his newly adopted homeland, the U.S., where he displays unparalleled bravery only to be captured, imprisoned and tortured by the Chinese communists, who prove no match for his iron will and resourcefulness.’ The advance notices are terrific and Tibor’s exploits will leave you shaking your head.

Man Saves Dogs… Dogs For The Deaf… Saddle Up, Linda & Joe

Facing a liver transplant and feeling suicidal, 28-year-old former alcoholic Zach Skow credits his dogs with helping him find sobriety and turn his life around. As payback, Skow founded a charity – Marley’s Mutts Dog Rescue – to help save unwanted dogs. (Parade Magazine, February 8, 2015).

Zack Skow and his dogs

Zack Skow and his dogs

We all know about Seeing Eye Dogs, but Dogs For The Deaf? Founded in 1977 by longtime Hollywood animal trainer Roy G. Kabat, DFD takes dogs from Western shelters and trains them to act as ‘ears’ for humans with deafness, hearing loss or autism. Since it’s inception, DFD has placed 3,000 rescue dogs in homes across the nation.

Tanner&Mom

    Tanner and ‘Mom’ in San Luis Obispo

I was getting ready to teach my weekly Okinawan karate class last week when a dojo brother congratulated me on a Malibu Times Magazine piece about GIMME SHELTER. It was news to me but, sure enough, MTM had included the book as part of their local writers roundup (page. 23). After almost two years, I’m still amazed, and grateful, for all the kind attention the book has garnered.

Malibu Times Magazine Feb. 2014-page-0

I met Joe Simone and Linda Bianco during my freshman year at Iona College in New Rochelle, NY. Through our love of literature, movies, Italian food and each other, we became fast friends and spent the next four years hanging out in The City, cramming Shakespeare and doing what college kids did in the Woodstock era. (I won’t speak for them but I DID NOT inhale…at least not much) After graduation, Joe married the fair Linda and they spent the next 35+years living and working in NYC or nearby Westchester County. But all that’s about to change. My diehard New Yawker pals are pulling up stakes and heading to, gasp, San Antonio to be near son Justin and his wife, Nicole. Although I don’t get back East often these days, it will be strange when I do and they’re not there to share a plate of sushi or a glass of pinot grigio. Guess I’ll have to don my boots and a Stetson, trade the Prius for a pickup and mosey on down to Texas pay my pardners a visit in their new digs.

‘TIS THE SEASON TO BE CAREFUL

While we Californians are mired in the throes of a biting winter cold spell (daytime temps in the low 50s!) Tanner asked me to pass along some tips for avoiding two of the most common and most serious winter dangers for dogs:  Frostbite & Hypothermia.  Frostbite occurs after prolonged exposure to cold temperatures (below 32 degrees Fahrenheit), especially when there’s a high wind-chill factor. When outdoor temps drop, your dog’s body diverts blood to the core organs, leaving the skin and extremities – nose, tail, tips of the ears, and scrotum – at risk of frostbite. Signs are not always visible immediately but symptoms include pale, hard skin that remains cold to the touch once the animal is brought indoors, or swelling and redness once the skim warms. If not covered and treated, frostbite may result in permanent damage. In severe instances, the affected tissue or limb must be removed to avoid potentially fatal infection. Hypothermia can take place when your dog’s core temperature drops below the normal range of 100 and 102.5 F. If it dips to 99 – 90 F, your dog is at risk for mild hypothermia. 90 – 82 F put’s him at risk of moderate hypothermia. Below 82 and he’s in jeopardy of severe, life-threatening hypothermia. Symptoms of hypothermia include slowed pulse, shivering shallow breath, non-responsiveness to stimuli, and collapsing. If your dog shows signs of hypothermia, warm him with a covered water bottle or heated blanket and call your vet immediately.

A little common sense can help prevent both frostbite and hypothermia. As a rule, if you are cold and uncomfortable outdoors, so is your dog. Longhaired dogs like Siberian Huskies tend to handle the cold better than shorthaired dogs like Pit Bulls. Short dogs like Chihuahuas will get colder in deep snow than tall dogs like Mastiffs. Senior dogs, puppies, and sick dogs are more vulnerable to cold-related problems. 

When the mercury plummets, keep your dog inside. If that’s not possible, be sure to provide him with a safe, comfortable doghouse, and plenty of food and water.  A winter doghouse should be weatherproof, well insulated, and just large enough for your dog to lie down and turn around. If his shelter is too large, it will allow his body’s heat to escape. The entrance should be covered, and positioned away from the wind. It should have plenty of thick, clean, dry bedding. For added warmth, you might want to get your dog a sweater or coat, and, if he will tolerate them, booties to protect his feet from frostbite. Even with a doghouse, staying warm requires more energy (calories) than normal. If your dog spends a lot of time outdoors, be sure to increase his food supply, especially his protein intake. Water will freeze in cold weather. To prevent dehydration, use a heated bowl. Dogs’ tongues will often stick to metal bowls so consider using plastic ones instead.
Tanner with cousin Anthony and Delta
While Tanner drew first blood with his ‘Thank You’ blog, Eugenie and I feel a little ‘payback’ was in order. So, thanks to Tanner for inspiring me to write GIMME SHELTER ‘guarding’ us whenever the doorbell rings, even on TV…For nesting under our glass table during our dinner parties…For hogging the heater when it’s chilly outside…For loving all of the dogs we meet, even the nasty little ones that deserve a nip…For his enormous, soulful human eyes, his silky ears and his dripping kisses…For humoring us when we play keep away or jump…For graciously surrendering his toys and not lopping off our fingers…For allowing us to drag him along wherever we go, even when it means dealing with the car…For curling up on my lap and making my legs go numb during our long drives…For riding with his head out the front passenger window where I’m forced to endure gale-force winds…For leaping into my bed whenever the Santa Ana winds howl…For all of those delicious cuddles …For making me a kinder, gentler, better man and our home a sweeter, more loving place.
‘Thank You’, Tanner
Looking for the PERFECT HOLIDAY GIFT for the log-lovers in your life? Tanner thinks that GIMME SHELTER is just the ticket.