Fans of Van Halen and David Lee Roth are familiar with Shelly Toscano for her video editing work on The Roth Show. Toscano researches, gathers and edits photographs, comic book imagery, film clips of David Lee Roth at work, archival footage and online quotes from fans, and integrates the content into each of the show’s half-hour episodes.
A New Jersey native, she worked on numerous television series, commercials, talk shows, and for MTV, VH1 and Comedy Central. She also has two independent documentaries to her credit: Famous: The Buzzy Linhart Story and :not notable: The Genmay Documentary.
After years of editing work, Toscano and her husband relocated to the West Coast. In 2011, she was hired to do some editing work for David Lee Roth, which also includes The Roth Show. She commutes to Pasadena as needed and edits from her home, which she shares with her husband and their senior pit bull, Redgee, a rescue who was diagnosed with spindle-cell cancer.
In this interview excerpt, Shelly Toscano discusses Redgee’s condition and what is involved in caring for her.
What is Redgee’s story?
We got Redgee when she was about 18 months old. Someone had ditched her and she was found running around in the Bronx, which seems crazy to me because she’s so tiny. It would be so easy for her to get run over. She comes up to your shin. I don’t know how that happened, or how someone coaxed her into a car and got her to a foster home. But they did and we got the call. My husband wanted a pit bull and I wanted a small dog, and it’s not very often that the two are the same, but she’s a little thing. She weighs about 26 pounds, but she’s the size of a 13-pound cat. If she sits down next to a gallon milk jug, she’s just a little taller than the jug. Redgee’s a pocket pit. She looks like she’s half pit bull and half French bulldog. We didn’t know that there was a breed called pocket pits until Dave [David Lee Roth] handed me a magazine and said, “You see these, kiddo?” It was a magazine called Atomic Dogg and it had tons of pictures of these miniature pit bulls. That’s when I knew what she was. She’s really adorable.
Redgee is a special-needs dog.
Redgee had a Stage 2 cancerous tumor somewhere in her upper thigh. It was entangled in her muscle, so now that it's been removed, her walk has been affected. She also has a slow-growing cancer on her face that we've been dealing with for over five years.
How did you find out about the cancer?
My husband discovered it while petting and inspecting her. I’m so glad he did. I never noticed it. She's a bit growthy and we take a good look at her fairly often just to make sure everything is OK. We took her to the vet, they biopsied the tumor and called us the next day to say it was Stage 2 and that we should get her back in there as soon as possible to get it removed. This was maybe two years ago.
The cancer on her face is a spindle cell cancer. We think it was activated when she hit her head on the corner of a coffee table in 2008 when she had some sort of a puppy fit. I honestly thought it was just a knot, because she hit that table really hard. The vet in upstate New York thought so as well, because it appeared within a day of hitting the table. But then it started to move and grow. In mid-2008, we came to California and we took her to a cancer specialist here. She biopsied the bump on her face. The biopsy triggered more growth, unfortunately. So her face is quite misshapen at the bridge of her nose, and one of her eyes suffers a bit because of it. The one thing that the biopsy told us, other than spindle cell, was that it was the absolute slowest-moving cancer the doctor had ever seen. Our only operating choice would be to remove her eye and a good portion of her skull, and that seemed to be way too much to put her through. We'd spend our last dime on her if it came to that, so it wasn't a money thing. We don't allow her to play with other dogs, just in case she gets a nip on the face somewhere, because then of course the cancer would have another growth spurt. We called a holistic vet in upstate New York who gave us a list of things to give Redgee. We get her some drops from a vet in Australia, and also some other drops from another place. Cancer likes carbs, so we try to give her a low-carb dog food. She is not on any prescription meds for her spindle cell. She takes a prescription medication for pain for some leg problems that she has. She also has a luxating patella. Redgee had a growth the size of a Tic-Tac on her eyeball under the upper lid. Prednisone got rid of it, and she still takes it to make sure it doesn't come back. We also give her a glucosamine supplement that our vet recommended.
Redgee also has some other crazy growths on her. It seems as if her little body handles calcium in a very strange way. She has calcium deposits all over her feet, and some other areas like her face and neck. The cancer specialist had never seen it before. When she had Redgee under for the spindle cell biopsy, she also biopsied one of the growths on her feet. The growths actually contain dry, chalky, white calcium.
How is she doing now?
We take her to get checked, but there’s nothing they can do about the cancer. We’re not going to get half her skull removed, so we’re watching it, making sure she can see and that she’s not in pain. It grows slowly. She’s had it since 2008 and she will be 13 [this month].
Does Redgee mind when you come home from Pasadena smelling like [David Lee Roth’s dog] Russ or covered in Russ hair?
In my opinion, her biggest thing is that I’m home and safe. I think she gets worried when I’m not around. She doesn’t know where I am or how long I’m going to be gone. When I come home, the first thing is, “Oh my god, she’s home!” She’ll run and get whatever toy is nearby and she does the toy parade. You know how they are. They can’t just come over and kiss you. They have to get something and show it to you. She picks up whatever it is, her moose or something she’s long taken the squeakers out of, and it’s like, “See?” And I say, “Oh, that’s great!” Redgee is just happy that I’m back in the house. I think she thinks I’m weak and defenseless, and if I’m not around, she thinks I’m in some sort of trouble.
The separation must have been tough while you were on tour with Van Halen in 2012.
It was. My family is my husband and my dog, and to be separated from them was crazy. If I were 20-something with no family or boyfriend or dog, I would have been fine, but it’s rough when you miss your loved ones. At least we have texting and calling. Imagine being on tour in 1981, probably standing in line with all the other crew members, waiting to use the pay phone.
Read Shelly Toscano’s interview in its entirety here: http://www.examiner.com/article/video-editor-shelly-toscano-on-the-makin...