Friday, June 8, 2012

In the Ring With the Pit Boss - Nothing Small about Four Feet Tall & Rising

 Image courtesy of Tantor Media, Inc.

The first line of the book pretty much says it all:

"I've got a big mouth. I came out of the womb wailing and I've pretty much been yelling ever since."

For those of you not in the know, Mr. Rossi is the creator and star of the Animal Planet show Pit Boss; he also happens to be a little person. But I can tell you - after meeting the man and giving his memoir Four Feet Tall & Rising  a listen,  there's nothing small about Shorty Rossi.

I had the pleasure of meeting Mr. Rossi before I read his book, which is co-written with S.J. Hodges.  Beyond being unfailingly polite, he is everything the book shows him to be - loud, honest, and ultimately, big-hearted. Seeing him interact with his gorgeous and gentle pit bull Hercules (see above on the book cover), who also happens to be his service dog, was like seeing two old, dear friends shoot the shit with each other. (Far from the pit bull fierce "attack dog" stereotype, Hercules nuzzled his nose into my hand when I reached out to pet him and started licking like crazy. "He likes the ladies," was Mr. Rossi's amused comment.)

I can't imagine this book being read by anyone else. No one else would be able to do it justice. It is so personal and raw, and cuts so close to the heart at times, especially when he talks about his decade spent in prison. He also gives the humor a cigar-nashing, pugnacious charm. Hearing his story coming out of someone else's mouth just wouldn't hold the same weight. When he talks about how he started rescuing pit bulls off the streets of L.A. after being released from prison, you can hear the depth of the emotion in his voice when he describes what these dogs mean to him, and how they are like family to him.

Being a volunteer at a no-kill cat shelter in my area and having grown up around a pit bull (her name was Rootie, God rest her gentle soul) Mr. Rossi's advocacy of humane animal treatment hit a deep chord within me. To have someone who grew up having to fight to have his own identity against his family's wishes, to have experienced prison, and to be able to come through it as a successful person who can still have the love and passion to fight for these dogs - if you can excuse the pun, it is a true underdog story.

I won't say too much more about the book because I don't want to take the words out of Mr. Rossi's self-proclaimed big mouth. I will say that his story will  stay with me long after I finished it, and I'm not sure it would've made such an impact if I had simply read it on the page - something about hearing it in the audio made an already incredible story that much more personal. It reminds us that we, as humans, have responsibilities for the lives of each other and the lives of the animals around us, no matter what the stereotypes are surrounding a particular man or beast. That above all, every creature - big or small - deserves love and respect.

 Thanks for having that big mouth, Shorty.

To listen to an audio sample, click here.


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