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[personal profile] stusegal
Sept 11, 2009 - today we lost Vito. Rather than dwell on the battle against declining health made by this stoic dog, I’d like to tell you how he affected so many people over the years:

We adopted Vito, a 145 lb. bullmastiff with a head the size of a basketball, at age 2½ . So fierce looking that people would cross the street rather than approach him, so fierce looking that delivery people would start up our front steps then stop when they saw him sitting inside the house behind the storm door.

But we found out in short order that Vito liked everyone. I mean everyone - people, dogs, cats, rabbits, squirrels. (In seven years we never heard him growl – not once). Over the years we learned he had a special affinity for people who are old/infirmed and children. He somehow comprehended people’s frailties, and when he was with an old person or a child he was always on perfect behavior, never knocking into an older person, and never objecting when a child would hang on him, or pull his ears, or stick their fingers in his nose or mouth.

Vito met hundreds of people over the years, because we took him to either the park, or Main Street, every day - - and he’d meet strangers. Dog lovers were fascinated with him and would want to say hi, and non-dog lovers and people who were afraid of dogs would often inquire (or we would ask them if they wanted to say hello). There were an enormous number of people who were skeptical or scared, who approached and petted Vito after being assured by us that it was safe, who learned that big fierce-looking dogs are not necessarily what they thought. I just can’t describe the feeling of watching Vito win them over.

And then there was the Therapy work. My Mother became terminally ill in late 2003, and it became very obvious that Vito understood her situation and wanted to comfort her. So obvious in fact that I decided to take him for the Therapy Dog Certification Exam as I thought he might be able to bring a little happiness and comfort to other terminally ill people.

So I read about the certification process and registered for the exam. Let me tell you, while the certification isn’t hard, it does require a dog that is extremely obedient - much more so than a normal housepet or companion dog, more like the obedience expected from trained K9 dogs. The reason of course is that these dogs are expected to go into sickrooms, hospitals and convalescent centers and not wreak havoc either intentionally or unintentionally. So I showed up, and here I was with a bunch of people and trainers who had obviously put their dogs through extensive training and were warming them up putting them through practice exercises. I, on the other hand, sat down next to Vito, looked him in the eyes and gently told him to just look and listen to me, and to stay calm. I don’t want to brag about how Vito’s behavior put to shame all the trained dogs, but it did. Somehow he knew it was important to pass this exam, and he performed flawlessly.

Which led to visiting terminal patients and their families at the Barbara E. Cheung Hospice. Vito went twice a week – he would visit the nurses station, then go bed to bed (he would go into each room and check to see if anyone was in the beds) visiting patients. Truth is, most patients at the hospice were in their final days, and were heavily medicated. But occasionally he would have a tremendous impact on the family members, who were there on what was basically a “deathwatch”, and were tired, stressed, sad. I could tell when it was about to happen because I would see some family member, slumped in a chair, who would make eye contact with Vito, and their face would just light up (after all, the last thing anyone expects to see in a hospice is a big friendly bullmastiff). Which would usually lead to them getting down on the floor and spending a half hour patting Vito and talking about their dog or maybe dogs they used to have. And for that half hour or so they would be transported away from their deathwatch to a place where they were just happy to be with big Vito.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Vito enriched the lives of hundreds of people. The loss to Rashmika and I, and the ones closest to us, is more than you can imagine.


For more photos and info about Vito, see: Vito’s Webpage


At age 2 ½ Vito was diagnosed with a number of serious orthopedic issues, including hip dysplasia, a condition which usually prevents dogs from living a full life. Under the guidance and treatment of our friend, veterinarian Kurt Blaicher, Vito lived a long, happy life, making it to the ripe old age of 9 ½, very old for a bullmastiff; I’m sure without Kurt this would not have been so.



There are several organizations which helped Vito and/or with which he was involved. If anyone would like to make a donation in memory of Vito those organizations are:

Rawhide Rescue - who rescued Vito and placed him with us.

University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School - who provided specialized health support for Vito.

Therapy Dogs International – who certified and insured Vito as a Therapy Dog.

Visiting Nurses Association of Central Jersey - who do amazing work supporting Hospice patients, and
                                                                    who even let 140 pound bullmastiffs volunteer to help their patients.

Humane Society of the United States – who fight every day for humane treatment of animals.



Date: 2009-09-13 05:27 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] splinister.livejournal.com
Stu, my deepest sympathies. Vito sounded like a marvellous companion. It must be a terrible loss.

Date: 2009-09-13 06:14 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ex-frankwu.livejournal.com
Awwwwwwwww. Awwwwwwwwwww. What a great dog. To bring peace and joy and happiness to so many. Awwwww. My deepest condolences.

The Gentle Giant

Date: 2009-09-13 06:31 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Your testimonial to Vito was very moving. It expressed both your devotion to him, as well his faithfullness and courage most people don't show in an entire lifetime. You are so fortunate to have had such a mutually rewarding relationship. What a dog!

Kathy

Date: 2009-09-13 06:59 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fjm.livejournal.com
What a lovely, beautiful dog. I have always had a soft spot for mastifs.

Farah

Date: 2009-09-13 07:19 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] fredbassett.livejournal.com
Here via [livejournal.com profile] fjm who mentioned your loss on her LJ.

Vito sounds a fabulous dog. I'm so very sorry.

Date: 2009-09-13 07:42 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] kaaronwarren.livejournal.com
What a wonderful life he had, Stu.

Date: 2009-09-13 08:44 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] alanashinean.livejournal.com
I am so sorry to hear this. I know the pain of losing a beloved companion. He had such a wonderful life, and gave so much to the people who came in contact with him, and that is something truly special. My thoughts are with you.

Date: 2009-09-13 09:16 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] patchwork-prose.livejournal.com
What a beautiful dog-friend! So sorry that you had to say good-bye so soon. I know from personal experience that it is never easy to let go; the new puppy cannot replace the one who is no longer there.

Liz, currently owned by Rascal and Samantha

My condolences on the loss of a true friend

Date: 2009-09-13 09:28 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
I tried to copy Vito's success story from our web site.I'm sorry that the pictures did not come through.

Vito Lends A Helping Paw

I'm writing this update, because believe it or not, it's almost 5 years since we adopted Vito. For those of you who don't know Vito, he is a 140 lb. bullmastiff, who was surrendered to the NYC Animal Shelter on Staten Island, and was rescued by Rawhide. The Hutchens family fostered him, and found out what a sweet dog he is.
When Vito came to us he was the sweetest dog you'd ever want to meet (and also incidentally, was housebroken, leash trained, trained to respond to hand commands, and the best behaved dog we had ever met). He also came to us with some medical issues - a neutering which had gone wrong, and took a month or so of very intensive care, followed by a diagnosis of serious dysplasia which has required a lifetime of daily therapy (controlled exercise), medication and diet for Vito.
BUT WHAT A SUCCESS STORY FOR AN ADOPTION! Not only is Vito the best mannered dog we've ever known, in 2005 he passed the Therapy Dogs International test and began doing therapy work with Hospice Patients. Vito goes weekly to the Barbara E. Cheung Memorial Hospice at the Roosevelt Care Center in Edison, and visits with patients, families and staff. In the most somber of environments, Vito brings a smile to the faces of stressed family members and overworked staff. About the last thing family members expect to see in the Hospice is a big sweet bullmastiff - and those who are animal lovers just seem to warm up to Vito.
When not at the Hospice we try to take Vito to both Main Street and the Park, where he lets all the kids hug him and hang on him. He is absolutely the greatest ambassador for both bullmastiffs and rescue dogs.
Without Rawhide to rescue Vito, there's no telling what would have become of him. Today he's a 7 year old bullmastiff, who is a wonderful family member, and through his Therapy work has brought a smile to many people going through some of the toughest time of their lives. Thank goodness for Rawhide Rescue.
Stu & Rashmika



Whenever we lose one of ours now we say they are walking with Ingela. I know Ingela is proud to have Vito as a companion.

Laurie

Re: My condolences on the loss of a true friend

Date: 2009-09-14 12:13 am (UTC)
From: [identity profile] ellen-datlow.livejournal.com
Vito sounds and looks as if he was a wonderful companion. My heart goes out to you.

Date: 2009-09-13 10:02 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Stu & Rashmika,

So sorry to hear about Vito's death. Your written tribute is beautiful. Don't forget about the Rainbow Bridge....

Karen

R.I.P. Vito

Date: 2009-09-14 02:37 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
When Vito was rescued, he was lucky enough to find a loving family and a happy home. He found a way to give that love back to people. He was a special dog.
-Pete

Thank you.

Date: 2009-09-15 01:47 pm (UTC)
From: [identity profile] stu-segal.livejournal.com
Thank you all for the kind words and the positive thoughts . . . Stu & Rashmika

Date: 2009-09-15 10:01 pm (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Stu and Rashmika,
So sorry for the loss of your Vito. As a Rawhide volunteer, I am ever so grateful for the home Vito has found with the two of you. One dog rescued, so many lives touched.
Ellen
Rawhide Rescue volunteer

My Big Buddy

Date: 2009-10-06 12:50 am (UTC)
From: (Anonymous)
Stu-
Thanks for the kind words- it is ALWAYS a joy and privilege to see you in the office, and sheer happiness to be with one of a handful of pets that I will remember til my last day. In due time, I'm sure I'll see you and Rashmika again...until then, be well, and thanks for letting me be associated with your fine, fine family-
Kurt

September 2011

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