PITTSTON — Diane Milazzo has pampered and polished many pooches in her 18 years as a groomer, but never a canine that drew a crowd to her downtown salon.
Milazzo, owner of Pawsitively Perfect Pet Salon on South Main Street, treated Luigi “Shorty” Rossi’s 8-month-old pit bull Francis to a spa day prior to Rossi’s speaking engagement at Mohegan Sun at Pocono Downs casino Friday.
Rossi, who is best known for his show “Pit Boss” on the Animal Planet that aired from 2010 to 2013, was referred to Pawsitively Perfect Pet Salon through friend, Exeter resident Diane Gubbiotti, former owner of Gucci Poochie Dog and Cat Salon in Shavertown who has since retired.
Gubbiotti and Rossi met when he spent a year living in Glen Lyon back in 2002.
“When I had Gucci Poochie, Diane (Milazzo) was one of my workers,” Gubbiotti said. “She’s got the neatest, cleanest, nicest shop.”
Milazzo groomed Francis by cleaning his ears, giving him an oatmeal bath, deshedding him by vacuuming off some of his extra fur, brushing his teeth, shining his coat, and trimming his nails.
As he stood on the table, the pit bull pup was anxious at first, but Milazzo knew how to keep him calm.
“I talk nice in a calm voice and I stroke him, but never on the head because that’s their sensitive area,” she said. “I stroke him under the belly and just talk nice to them. They don’t want to be here because they’re not a hair dresser dog. Just a nice calm touch and pat helps.”
Rossi, who currently resides in La Mision, Baja California, Mexico, owns nine pit bulls, including Francis, and said he rescued the puppy from someone looking to get rid of him.
“We were down in the Tijuana section and someone came to me and said, ‘Buddy, take my puppy; otherwise we’re going to let him run the streets,’” said Rossi. “I felt I didn’t need another one but there (are) a lot of stray dog problems down there, and there are more dogs on the streets than in houses. We took (Francis) in and he’s taken the lead becoming a service animal and traveling the world. Coming to the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton area is his first trip on an airplane. He did great, he freaked out on the plane for a bit, but he slept most of the way.”
Rossi only travels with one pit bull at a time, and the others are cared for in his home in Mexico by two caretakers.
His event at the casino with Francis was all about raising pit bull awareness by informing people how to properly care for the breed and teach them that pit bulls are lovable, if raised correctly. He said there’s usually a negative stigma attached to the breed.
“With the (pit bull) breed itself I understand because they’re misjudged for what they’re not, just like little people are misjudged for what they’re not,” said Rossi. “People don’t understand we’re doctors and lawyers, too. So, I know what they’re going through.”
Rossi travels all over the world holding seminars and events throughout the United States and countries such as Peru, Argentina, Costa Rico, and Panama to name a few.
He said he travels about 150,000 miles by airplane every year.
Rossi owned his first pit bull at the age of 14 and now, at the age of 47, has owned 300 pit bulls in his life and helped 5,000 more get adopted.
After Francis was done with his star treatment, Milazzo presented Rossi with a $200 check for his animal rescue business as well as a cupcake for Francis from Purple Squirrel Pastry Company.
Milazzo said grooming a celebrity dog was a wonderful experience.
“I was born and raised in Pittston and to me, in my career of 18 years, it just blows me away,” she said. “It’s a total honor in my career that I get to do a celebrity dog. Never did I think on Main Street in Pittston … would I ever be grooming a celebrity dog; it is an honor.”
Reach Jimmy Fisher at 570-704-3972 or on Twitter @SD_JimmyFisher