Erika Brunson and Louis Spirito

Malibu decorator Erika Bunson and local author Louis Spirito share their love of animals after making a generous donation to at-risk kids at Camp Gonzalez.

Local author Louis Spirito gained fame and acclaim from an unlikely happenstance.

In my quest to support Malibu’s fast disappearing mom-and-pop shops, I decided to do all my holiday shopping at Diesel, A Bookstore. I was going to get my mom, a noted animal activist, a popular New York Times best seller on dogs, knowing that, more than likely, she had already been given several copies as gifts.

I grumbled something to that effect to the cashier who said, “Wait! Hold on! Check out this local author’s book on animal rescue!” The book was called “Gimme Shelter.” It tells the true story of a damaged pit bull and an angry guy and how they saved each other. 

I turned over a copy, signed by Louis Spirito, who inscribed it with, “Don’t get angry ... get a pit bull.” It was accompanied by a paw print from his beloved dog, Tanner, with a saying, “Rescue dogs rock.” 

To my utter amazement, my mom loved the book and read it immediately. She returned the next day to buy every copy at Diesel. 

My mom, Erika Brunson, gave the books to members of her foundation. She is the founder of the Coalition for Pets and Public Safety, which works tirelessly to reduce the tragic pet overpopulation problem by providing free and low-cost spay and neutering services in some of the city’s most underserved areas. Even more surprising, she ordered another 100 copies! 

The nice folks at Diesel were so amazed they put the author and my mom in contact with each other.

In addition to writing, Louis works with at-risk youth, trying to help them through the anger management problems he knew all too well from his own childhood. 

Before you knew it, Louis and Erika were giving out copies of the book by the dozen to grateful kids at Camp Gonzalez in Malibu. 

The author was more than happy to share his story and what he’s learned by rescuing a timid, scared pit bull who taught him patience, unconditional love and control. 

Louis had wanted a sleek and frisky Irish Setter like he had before, but thanks to his wife, he wound up at the Agoura animal shelter and fell in love with Tanner. “It was a Romeo and Juliet moment,” he says. “I knew she was ‘the one.’”

There were adjustment issues for both of them, but each overcame the obstacles. He taught Tanner to play and cuddle and Tanner taught him that things like “misplacing your keys doesn’t have to be a big deal or an issue.”

Louis said he kept a journal on Tanner’s first year and never intended it to become a book, it just happened that way. Luckily for Louis, Tanner and the kids at Camp Gonzalez, it did. Happy Mother’s Day! 

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