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CWE Pets

CWEnder Laura Holman Byrne’s Tater Tot dishes on The Golden Rule

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater CWE Pets  The Cup Tater Tot Laura Byrne Emily Hart Clearwater Creek Elementary School

When CWEnders Laura Holman Byrne, a science and communications professional, and her husband Dennis, a hospitality executive, adopted an English bulldog, it never crossed their minds that “Tater Tot,” the runt of the litter, would one day become the subject of a life lessons adventures book series teaching children (and adults) lessons on how to follow the Golden Rule.

The effect their smushy-faced pup had on people of all ages surprised them. “There’s almost no one who hasn’t melted into a smile when they meet him,” Laura Byrne said. “Barriers and prejudices seemed to melt away, so while my husband and I were taken aback by the reaction, we knew we had to do something.”

Byrne’s experience in marketing and advertising was the catalyst for using Tater Tot as the perfect “fall guy” for demonstrating how important it is to show others respect, even in the smallest ways.  “It’s obviously written as a children’s book,” explains the author, “but it is also a subtle and fun way for adults to to think about their own behavior too.”

Last December Tater Tot posed for photos on the red carpet outside The Cup, 28 Maryland Plaza Rear, before a reading of Byrne’s latest book, Tater Tot at The Chase: Too Much! The Cup proprietor Ericka Frank’s background as a registered dietician inspired the author to feature moderation as a character-building life lesson. You’ll find more on Tater Tot’s connection to The Cup later in this post.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater CWE Pets  The Cup Tater Tot Laura Byrne Emily Hart Clearwater Creek Elementary School  So much has changed since December—to put it mildly—that Byrne and I finally met recently for the first time on Zoom, while Tater Tot snoozed in the background.

Laura and Dennis Byrne moved to the CWE  7 years ago.  When they were exploring neighborhoods in St. Louis, the CWE reminded them of their former neighborhood, Russian Hill in San Francisco. Byrne said that they’ve moved so often over the years that “we’ve made a pact to love wherever we live.”

In our conversation the author explained that “the goal of all of Tater Tot’s Adventures is to provide a non-judgmental way to discuss behaviors that engender respect for everyone in any situation.”   Each volume focuses on very simple behaviors that are easy enough for the youngest readers, ages 4 to 8, teenagers, and most “stubborn” adults, to understand.

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater CWE Pets  The Cup Tater Tot Laura Byrne Emily Hart Clearwater Creek Elementary School

Byrne practices what she preaches in the Tater Tot books. She  has gifted over 3,000 books to military schools and organizations, children’s hospitals, elementary schools, pediatric cancer foundations and neurosurgery centers around the world.  The signing event at The Cup benefited Carol House Quick Fix Pet Clinic.

Tater Tot became known to employees at The Cup long before the book was published.  On early morning walks with Laura, the pup caught the attention of Emily Hart, the production supervisor at The Cup, when he barked at the door to the employee entrance. The visits became more frequent, the staff became smitten, and soon Hart developed a “pupcake,” taste tested by Tater Tot, which is now frequently on the menu at the neighborhood’s cupcake shop.

Hart continued: “Our experience with Tater Tot shows how connected the CWE community is. While working in a cupcake shop it’s rather hard to practice moderation, as discussed  in Too Much!, but we try our best to heed his advice.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater CWE Pets  The Cup Tater Tot Laura Byrne Emily Hart Clearwater Creek Elementary School  One of Tater Tot’s many appearances was at Coldwater Elementary School in the Hazelwood School District. Teacher Carrie Fisher could not have surprised her students more after reading Tater Tot’s first adventure, A Happy Helper, when there was a knock at the door and Tater Tot and the author were standing outside with bags of books for the students. Byrne could not have considered anything more worthwhile than sharing books with these students who showed such a sincere interest in learning and showing kindness. “They make you want to be a better person,” the author said of her visit.

Fenton elementary reading specialist Diana Stites emailed that Tater Tot is a character her students love “because he’s not only cute, they can relate to the lessons he learns in the books.”

Stiles continued: “Laura’s stories provide strong character elements that help students see the transformation Tater Tot makes as he learns and grows. The illustrations are engaging and enhance the story’s examples of respect, kindness, and learning from our mistakes. Tater Tot’s books provide a perfect example of an excellent character in a lovable imperfect pup.”

Nicki's Central West End Guide Books, Dance, Music, Theater CWE Pets  The Cup Tater Tot Laura Byrne Emily Hart Clearwater Creek Elementary School

I followed up with Byrne the other day to see how an outgoing pup like Tater Tot is handling social-distancing guidelines:

“Tater Tot has been virtually busy,” she said. “Now more than ever with all the new ways to communicate, Tater Tot is showing people how to be virtually respectful!. FaceTime, Zooming, webexing, you name it. He’s been talking directly with friends and fans.”  So when you see him out in the neighborhood, be sure to say hello—from a distance of course.

Tater Tot Adventures™  can be ordered at for $17.99 each, $30 for the set. The books are proudly printed in Missouri by Garlich Printing.

P.S. – Thanks to Laura Byrne for providing all the terrific photos.

West End Grill & Pub’s staff rescues barred owl

Nicki's Central West End Guide CWE Pets Shop News  World Bird Sanctuary West End Grill & Pub Caytee Bretz barred owl

From General Manager and Bartender Caytee Bretz:

“Love my team at WEGAP. They rescued a barred owl today. They found him in the alley next to the restaurant with a broken wing. The World Bird Sanctuary immediately dispatched an amazing lady to come pick him up. My lovely team kept him safe, warm and cozy while she was on her way. She gave us his patient number so we can check to see how he is doing. And we can even be there for when they release him back into the area ??♥️

And as of now, we are calling him Owlie. Get it? ALLEY/OWLIE?
Everyone send your good vibes Owlie’s way.”— at West End Grill & Pub, 354 N. Boyle.

CWE’s Children’s and Pet Parade cancelled due to rain, tonight’s party is still on

Nicki's Central West End Guide Art & Architecture CWE Pets Events, Sightings For kids  CWEScene  Snapshots from 2018’s Halloween festivities
The legendary Halloween street party in the CWE is scheduled for Saturday, October 26.  Here is the line-up of activities:

11 a.m. | Children’s costume parade and party
noon | Trick-or-treating at neighborhood businesses
1 p.m. | Dog parade and costume contest
2 p.m. | Live music and entertainment, featuring Jason Garms and Saint Boogie Brass Band
6 p.m.- midnight | Adults-only street party
8-10 p.m. | Infamous adults-only costume contest

Halloween in the CWE is one of our best neighborhood traditions and something people from throughout St. Louis look forward to every year,” says Kate Haher, executive director of the CWE Business Community Improvement District. “The costumes continue to get more elaborate, the festivities more outrageous — the Central West End is definitely THE place to be this Halloween.”

Registration for the adults-only costume contest begins at 6 p.m. Individuals and groups are encouraged to register for a chance to win as much as $2,500.

The Legendary CWE Halloween party is produced and presented by the CWE Business Community Improvement District, and presented by Budweiser and BON & VIV, with additional support from Johnny Brock’s Dungeon, Washington University Redevelopment Corp., St. Louis Earth Day, Shriners Hospitals for Children, Busey Bank, AT&T, State Farm, and numerous neighborhood restaurants and retailers.

For more information, including a complete schedule of events and costume contest rules, visit