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


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. 


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.




“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


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).



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


The April 24, 2015 issue of The Week  highlights two animal rescue organizations – Pilots N Paws  and Wings Of Rescue – where volunteer fliers are helping shelter dogs and cats avoid the threat of euthanasia by ferrying them from badly crowded urban shelters, where they stand little chance of being rescued, to less burdened areas where they are often quickly adopted. If you have some loose coin burning a hole in your pocket, maybe think about giving them a few shekels to keep up the great work. “More than 4 million pets are euthanized in the U.S. every year, mostly because of overcrowding in shelters. But a growing number of kindhearted pilots have been donating their time, fuel, and aircraft to transporting unwanted rescue dogs to less overburdened shelters, where many of them are quickly adopted. Groups like Wings of Rescue and Pilots N Paws have helped tens of thousands of strays find new homes over the past several years, and the number of volunteer aviators continues to rise. “We get a lot of the glory,” said pilot Angela Garcia. “But in reality, it’s just pure fun.”

Guardian angel with his rescue pups

Since mid-Janaury, Eugenie, Tanner and I have been working with Advertising students at Pepperdine University to design a new campaign for our favorite dog memoir, GIMME SHELTER. The three awesome teams delivered their final pitches last week and we were blown away by the depth and breadth of their creative genius. They covered everything from redesigning the book cover and business cards, to implementing exciting digital, mobil and social media strategies, leaving us with the unenviable task of choosing a ‘winner’. We’ll keep you posted on when, where and how we’ll be rolling out their ideas. A huge thanks to all 19 students, and their amazing professor, Dr. Ginger Rosenkrans, for an unforgettable experience.

Tanner kicking it at a Pepperdine photo shoot

In this week’s issue of his Cesar’s Way Newsletter, dog guru Cesar Millan focuses on ‘dangerous’ dogs and BSL – Breed Specific Legislation. Although it’s discriminatory, and proven not to work, some elected official and communities still advocate banning breeds like Pit Bulls, Rottweilers, Mastiffs and other ‘bad’ dogs to keep their citizens from being slaughtered. As Cesar points out, you are 650 times more likely to die in a motor vehicle accident than to be killed by a dog attack. If safety concerns are the issue, then maybe BSL supporters should also consider turning in their driver’s license, draining their swimming pools and lobbying  stringent gun control laws. From Gimme Shelter, here are some odds on the chance of being killed by a Pit Bull:  

–       According to CDC studies, about 10 persons die each year as a result of dog attacks. Of that number, Pit Bulls are responsible for approximately 28% or 2.8 deaths.
–       In 2008, the Consumer Products Safety Commission reported 7 deaths from fireworks. Based on that number, you are two times more likely to die from a fireworks mishap than from a Pit Bull attack.
–       Approximately 10 people a year die from snakebites, 3 times the number killed by Pit Bulls.
–       From 1990-2003, 756 Americans (an average of 58/year) died from lightning strikes. That means you are more than 20 times more likely to be killed by lightening than by a Pit Bull.
–       CDC statistics show that every day 10 people die from drowning, the second leading cause of non-intentional death for people ages 1-14. A person is 1,300 times more likely to drown than to be killed by a Pit Bull.
–       Every year in the U.S. more than 1,700 children (roughly 5 each day) are killed by their parents or guardians, either through abuse or neglect. A child is more than 600 times more likely to be killed by their caretaker than by a Pit Bull.
–       For every Pit Bull that kills, there are MILLIONS that DON’T!


The sun is shining, and the mockingbirds are warbling but it’s a sad day for me and my parents. We awoke to news that our friend, the amazing dog trainer and Malibu fixture, Tony Rollins, had passed away due to complications from diabetes. A popular cable network likes to boast, ‘Characters Welcome’. Well, Tony was a character with character, a loving, patient guy who overcame his tough Brooklyn childhood and some early scrapes with the law to build a devoted following working with dogs, and their equally unruly, neurotic humans, at Bluffs Park obedience classes. Fans of GIMME SHELTER might recall how he ‘coaxed’ me into following the rules and helped bring my relationship with mom and dad to a new level of trust and commitment. In time some new trainer will come along and fill the vacancy left by our friend. But for us, Tony will always be ‘the man’ and the Bluffs his place. RIP Tony. 

Tony Rollins

In Hamlet, Shakespeare writes “When sorrows come, they come not single spies but in battalions.” That was the case today. We no sooner heard about Tony when Lou received an email saying that my longtime pal, and all-round fabulous dog, Ceba, had moved on to the big dog park in the sky. Ceba was a tiny Shih Tzu but he had the heart of a lion, the rollicking good nature of an Irish bartender, and a sweet loving souL that no dog, or human, could resist. I met him when I first came to live with Lou & Eugenie. I love dogs, and I didn’t think twice about lunging to greet Ceba. But Lou and Ceba’s dad, Doug, saw it a tad differently ; “Watching Tanner drag me across the road, Doug was wary of greeting the new stud. Ceba wasn’t. He held his ground and sniffed Tanner from stem-to-stern. Having made his point, he hoisted his tail and led us down the sidewalk, pimp-rolling like a 4-legged gangsta, posse in tow. Whenever Ceba stopped to mark the bushes, Tanner followed suit. It was their version of social networking, where dogs friend each other by peeing on walls instead of writing on them.” (from GIMME SHELTER) For the past few months, Ceba, Doug and Jean have been living in San Jose so I didn’t get to say a proper ‘goodbye’. I guess I’ll take a quiet moment and toast him with a few extra treats – Lou always had a goodie for the little guy – and then go out and mark some bushes in his honor. 


Lou says ‘never end on a negative’ and I’m going to follow his advice and urge all of our friends and followers to help us do just that and find a home for REX, an amazing pit bull who’s been marking time in the Santa Maria animal shelter for nearly 16 months! We’ve posted about him before and two potential adopters stepped up, only to run into snags with landlords that refused to let them shelter a pit bull. I know what it’s like to live behind bars and, while it’s better than scuffling along on the street, it’s no substitute for a loving family. So…let’s get back to work, spread the word, and get this boy a home. Now. 


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 know anyone who would love to share their life with this bundle of love, please contact CONNIE KRUSE, 805-878-801,  clkjmw@icloud.com. If not, please pass this to your contacts and/or post on your social media.