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Shorty Rossi shares his thoughts on pit bulls, passion and criticism

Shorty Rossi and Hercules at the Beantown Pet Expo.
Shorty Rossi and Hercules at the Beantown Pet Expo.
Nicole Adams (Examiner)

I had the opportunity to interview Mr. Shorty Rossi, star of Animal Planet's Pit Boss, at the Beantown Pet Expo in Plymouth, Mass. on Saturday April 12, 2014. An inspiring man, Mr. Rossi was down-to-earth, forthcoming, and open about not just the bully breed, but what drives him, how he feels about dog owners, and how he deals with haters.

Nicole Adams, Examiner: Many people think you are still physically rescuing dogs – what prompted your change to focus more on education of bully breed awareness and breed specific legislation?

Shorty Rossi: When you rescue, you can only rescue a certain area. There's no way you can travel around every city and country, and try to rescue pit bulls. Otherwise, that's all you're gonna be doing and you're not gonna be able to do anything else, including work to pay your bills. We found that it's more prudent or more resourceful to spread the word of breed awareness and breed specific legislation.

Because of the two shows on Animal Planet, it's done more for the breed than any one human could possibly ever do. It's changed a lot of people's minds, and it's done a lot of great things. By focusing more on the charity of it, the philanthropy side, it's become more effective and bringing more people aware.

I mean, what's better: rescuing a dog in south central Los Angeles or is it traveling with Hercules around the world showing what a pit bull really is. That's more effective because it's changing people's minds.

When you see a nine year old telling me that my parents let me have a pit bull because of your show or some husband saying that the wife finally liked the pit bull because of your show, or a ninety year old retired granny saying I got a pit bull because of you. That's more effective because you save more in a short period.

Adams: If you only had a few minutes to educate someone on the pit bull breed, what is the one thing you would want to make sure you got across?

Rossi: First I do a little short thing in a nutshell of their history, where they came from, who, why, what, when. But I also tell them, pick up a book, read about the breed. It may not be for you. Understand the prejudice you're gonna get. If you are thin-skinned, you don't need a pit bull, because you're not going to be able to take it, the prejudice. It's just like an African-American marrying a white lady, if you can not take the pressures you're gonna get, then you have no business doing it. Now, if you can be strong and you're loving with the person you're going to spend the rest of your life, then do it. It's the same thing with a dog.

A lot of people shouldn't even have a dog. Just like they shouldn't have kids and shouldn't have a gun. Period. Because they just don't know what to do. They jump into things.. don't think about what you're doing now, think what this dog is gonna be five years from now. Because a lot of people are like “well, I gotta give up my dog because I'm moving.” No, no, no, no.. you adopted the dog or you bought the dog, or whatever you did... you have a kid, are you going to do the same thing? No.

Adams: What advice would you give to someone who wanted to advocate for the pit bull breed?

Rossi: First, you have to learn about everything, know the facts, know the statistics. Then if you want to be able to speak, make sure you can speak. Don't get up there and screw everything up. Some people are made to speak and some people are not. Put out informational flyers, do stuff like that. Some people are made to do certain things. Maybe you're not made to bring awareness, maybe your job is to foster or donate your time. Do something in the same category. You don't have to be a speaker.

Do you volunteer or help people rescue? If you can't donate money, walk a dog, get it out of its cage. If it poops, pick it up. That's what you can do. There are so many rescues, why do you want to start another one?

Adams: Did you ever think you would be where you are now? With such a tumultuous childhood, did you dream of making such a positive impact on the world?

Rossi: No. I thought maybe I'd be working in a law office because I like fighting.. legally.. verbally. And I studied law and became a paralegal in prison. When I got out I couldn't get a job, I'm like, okay.. start in entertainment, another thing I thought I was never gonna be doing. Then I thought I was saving a pit bull and a pit bull saved me. If you asked me ten years ago if I thought I would be on a world tour, no. Would I change anything in my life from the day I was born to today? No. Because if you change anything...

Adams: What would you say to someone who is in a situation where their future seems hopeless?

Rossi: If I listened to people telling me to get a real job when I was an actor, or those dogs are either gonna kill you or make you broke.. again, I would not be here. Listen to your dream. Don't listen to other people. You may not succeed in your dream but at least you tried. It took me over ten years to get a shot.

It's all in what you want to do, not listening to other people. You can be anybody you want to be no matter how bottom of the earth you were.

Adams: What is your most memorable rescue moment?

Rossi: The worst, the best, they're all rescuing. [Do you miss any of that?] Yes and no. I mean, I miss it when I wasn't popular. Now that I'm popular, people expect more. I'm not superman. I'm not captain hero.

Adams: How do you do it? Where do find the energy necessary to travel so much and speak at numerous events?

Rossi: It's called motivational drive. It's not physical energy. It's more a motivation and drive for what I enjoy. I don't let people tell me what to do, I do what I want to do. And this is what I want to do. Whenever my body stops and tells me you can't walk any more, then we'll work at that.

Adams: How do you handle criticism that comes your way?

Rossi: People always make the stupid comments - “must be nice to spend all your money on first class seats and five star hotels”. (But what they don't realize is that) I haven't spent one dime on airfare in over two or three years, neither has the charity spent money on airfare. It's all reimbursement from people paying me to travel around the country. Because we fly so much we have a million miles, we automatically get upgraded to first class. We get upgraded to a one bedroom suite even though we booked the cheapest room.

Criticism.. all that makes me stronger actually. I thrive on people's stupidity. I thrive on people's ignorance. So keep it up, I don't care.

Adams: If Hercules could give advice to his prospective replacement (possibly Nicola), what do you think he would say?

Rossi: Woman, you have no idea. You have no idea what you're gonna get into. If Hercules could talk, I think my career might be over. (laughter)

Adams: Can you say anything more about TV for you and Hercules?

Rossi: All I can say is that me and Hercules will be back on TV in the summer of 2015. That's it. Trust me, if I could (say more), I would. Contract.

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