Vitolo Rossini: Standing Tall BY TRACI NUBALO PUBLISHED FEBRUARY 7, 2012 The Metaverse Tribune
Martial Arts Instructor, Ice Cream Man, Community Mainstay, Vito Rossini wore a lot of white hats as an involved citizen of Tucson, Arizona back in 2003. When he left his home that morning in his ice cream truck little did he know that by nightfall he’d be wearing a most horrific new title: TBI victim. Leaving work that day, he was struck by another vehicle and suffered massive damage to his head. Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) is the leading cause of death and disability in Americans ages 1 to 44. It results in approximately 52,000 deaths per year in the United States and a full 2% of the population – about 5.3 million Americans – currently live with disabilities from TBI, according to the Brain Trauma Foundation. In Vito’s case, he spent 6 ˝ weeks in a coma and two more years in rehabilitation. He was left partially paralyzed on his left side, and has serious pain issues. He gets around on a walker, and wears prism glasses to correct chronic double vision. During the long months in rehab, Vito met his lovely wife Patrizia, a medi-van driver, as she transported him to an appointment. They have been married for four years. In 2006 Vito discovered Second Life, and immediately found a world where he could do all the things he could no longer do in RL – run, dance, even fly. He got involved in creating and “training” artificial intelligence dogs in SL, and found that he had a knack for the scripting language required to program them. And, of course, he told other “TBI friends” about SL and they, too, logged on to join him here. Many of them got AI dogs from Vito and a very strange thing began to happen. He began to get reports that his some of his handicapped friends who were working with AI pets in SL were experiencing changes in the way they were dreaming at night. This was usually followed by some degree of measurable positive change in their health and functionality in RL.
It was learned that the “relaxed play” that one engages when interacting with a virtual pet can be a source of healing for the TBI patient. It’s assumed that by lessening the stress of learning via this “relaxed play”, the brain is encouraged to open new and healthier neuronal pathways. In many TBI patients this has resulted in welcome and lasting results. “They sometimes experience an exhilarating feeling of success in their inworld achievements,” says Vito. “And this stimulates them to work even harder and to begin to make progress in other important areas of life.” I had written a piece about Vito for a Second Life magazine in April of 2011. I decided to revisit Vito “The DogFather” Rossini to see how he is. Traci Nubalo: Great to see you again, Vito. How have things been going for you since our last visit? Vitolo Rossini: I’m doing very well, Traci. Thank you. I’m getting better slowly. I spent the last two years – following colon surgery – trying to eat more and gain some weight. I finally hit my target goal of 140 lbs. TN: Excellent! How did you go about this? VR: One of the things that has helped me the most is the use of medical marijuana. I guess I’ve become something of an activist in the medical marijuana community, helping others who are also benefiting from such medications.” Vito has also written a couple of articles in the interim. His topic of choice is the use of virtual worlds to facilitate RL growth and change. In one fascinating piece “Traversing the Real Life Dreamscape in Second Life” Vito discusses the use of “virtual fear abatement techniques for systematic desensitization.” Easy for him to say! An example of what this means is that Vito has begun helping those with a dread fear of falling by repeatedly getting them to roleplay “falling off” high buildings in Second Life. Over time, their RL fears relax as their anxiety over falling in SL quiets down. Similarly, he cites a case in which he used another form of the technique to help thirteen disabled friends, all of whom suffered with a chronic, dread fear of dogs. After the fear abatement roleplaying exercises in Second Life nine of the thirteen have relaxed enough that they are now able to own RL service dogs.
I find myself very moved by what this once-broken man has been able to do to help and to serve others, in the midst of his own personal tribulations. It seems certain that most of us might have folded our cards when dealt such a disastrous hand by life. This man’s attitude and infectious good will have left me humbled and hopeful for the rest of us. As we said goodbye Vito commented: “Life is good. Patty is very good to me. Second Life has made me more able to function in RL. It’s given me direction and made me less afraid of other people. I’m really enjoying helping others learn to use SL as a therapy in their own lives.” I’m learning that in a world that can beat people down so easily, a man like Vito Rossini becomes a valuable role model, inviting all of us to stand tall beside him.
My Hubby Vito has had so much on his plate that he has not had time to post. With so much work to get ready for the summer, he took a few weeks off, except for Wednesday classes at Rhoda. The hard stuff being done, Dogland now prepares for June. A brief mention- We have our Rhoda Menu Pups all at InWorldz. Just a few tweaks and they are ready to go. Same with Avination who will follow. During the break, Vito had to increase the size of the Pet Memorial Wall again, as we ran out of space. There is plenty of room now, and we are planning to expand that one even further! A group of members from VKC Dog Owner's Open Chat Group of Dogland have been preparing an agility show that will be announced in June, and everyone will be invited. The new class session for dog owners has started as well, with record attendance. The first week of June will begin with a Dog Talent Show organized by Grace and the rest of the Dogland Support Team (honorable mention to the Dogland Kid's crew). Details on this will follow in time enough for you to make plans! Don't forget Father's Day! We have an unusual hunt planned for that day! I have been taking care of emails and web stuff to lighten the load, but I am glad that's done. It was more work than it looked like! * My Hubby added a comment to this post. It is in the comments!
The Legend of the Stone of BlueMoon Bluff Posted 4/10/2011 6:37:06 AM
Portrait/Makeover Artist Starla Farella(Wyn Kelly), Made this video. We were happy to see that one of the stars of this video was a Dogland Dogs Akita. This is a Fairy Tale about love, desire, magic. Story and images by Starla Farella/Wyn Kelly. Music by Delphy Heungsung/Michel Glenn.This is a Fairy Tale about love, desire, magic. Story and images by Starla Farella/Wyn Kelly. Music by Delphy Heungsung/Michel Glenn.
The Dogfather: Giving Us Paws for Thought Posted 3/16/2011 6:35:54 PM
The DogFather: Giving Us Paws for Thought
By Traci Nubalo
One of the great joys of my years in Second Life has been the owning and training of my artificial intelligence dog, a gorgeous black lab named Bella. When we first got her I had no idea what an wonderful and fun adventure was about to unfold for me and my SL family. We took Bella home and found that she was a bit on the, shall we say, rambunctious side. She loved to run all over the sim, as any RL dog might. She loved to jump into the water which our SL home was next to. She even loved to sit in her food and water dishes, a trait that I knew from RL was peculiar to Labrador retrievers.
But she also had some rather irritating traits such as excessive barking and even a nasty, frightening growl that we really disliked, especially when company was visiting. We learned that this is where the AI aspect came in for the VKC dog. Whenever Bella did a behavior that we disapproved of we would type “Bella bad” into open chat. Similarly, positive behaviors would be rewarded with “Bella good”.
Over time we began to see changes in her. And over these few years Bella has become a fun, fascinating companion. But there’s a deeper tale to be told. After purchasing Bella we began to interact with an AI dog trainer named Vitolo Rossini. He’s also known as The DogFather.
Vito is a fun, 59-year-old guy who is the owner and operator of Dogland Park in Rhoda. We SL dog owners know him as someone who is passionate about the dogs and their owners and is always willing to help by answering questions, holding training classes and generally being a source of information and inspiration. Those of us who know him all agree that a more kind and fun-loving soul is to be found nowhere else in Second Life. On more than a few occasions we were delighted by his friendliness and willingness to spend as much time as necessary to make our dog-owning experience all it could be. He would even end each visit bowing from the waist saying, “Bowing with respect.“ As I got to know Vito more he began to open up to me about his past and how he became The DogFather.
In 2003 Mr. Rossini was a practicing martial arts teacher in Tucson, AZ who spent his days happily selling ice cream from his neighborhood truck. One day at work he was run over by another vehicle. In that instant Vitolo Rossini became a victim of TBI (Traumatic Brain Injury). He spent 6 ˝ weeks in a coma and two more years in rehabilitation. While being driven to an appointment one day he struck up a conversation with his Paramedic Services driver thus meeting his current wife of four years Patty.
In a recent chat he described the condition in which this horrible accident has left his body: “I am currently partially paralyzed on my left side. I have moderate to severe spasticity, primarily on the left side of my entire body, but it moves to the right side as well. I walk with the assistance of a walker (or dual canes) and I have chronic double vision, which is corrected by prisms in my glasses.”
Rossini also says that he suffers from short-term memory loss and is in a great deal of pain. He takes medications to control the spasticity and pain, but finds that sufficient pain meds seem to dull his mind. So he chooses to live in significant pain, but he’s able to stay alert.
In 2006 Vito discovered SL, and found a world perfectly suited to his limitations. He found that he could function fully in SL, and do things that impossible for him in RL. Using this new-found freedom he quickly got involved with AI dogs and their owners, discovering that he had a knack for the scripting languages used in the virtual pets. Soon he had created Dog Park and developed the TBI Center that flies above it. Other TBI patients heard about Vito’s work in SL and followed him here. Many of them purchased AI dogs and began attending the numerous training classes offered by him.
Some amazing things began to happen. At first Vito got reports that the TBI patients who had AI dogs were beginning to experience new and different kinds of dreaming experiences, often followed by positive emotional changes in life. Vito: “Owning and training a dog in SL creates a form of relationship between person and the K9. This shift in focus distracts a resident from the pressure that often accompanies learning; he is able to achieve learning without stress. A reason for this is that the participant feels as though he is playing with and loving a pet, rather than mentally putting emphasis on the often-scary process of learning new concepts.
“Second Life gives us (TBI patients) a new chance to function. We have notes to remind us of what we are doing, and a handy inventory window which reminds us of our tools. We are more able to function independently, and these tools offer us helpful assistance. As we use the tools and increasingly learn to function independently, our brains begin to build new neural pathways - new synaptic connections. This results in people finding new ways to think and function."
I asked Vito what it is about Second Life (and other virtual worlds) that attracts millions of us, whether physically-challenged or not. “There are no limits as we traverse the metaverse; there are fewer physical or personal constraints,” he replied. “When one becomes an avatar they also become free, in a sense. One finds a place where he can be amazed, or even just begin to feel comfortable within once again. We begin to make friends more easily and start to enjoy learning about others. Communication is of great value to all human beings and even more so to those who are home bound via injuries and for other reasons. And SL fills this need!”
At this point I felt like we had moved universes away from AI dogs and K9 training classes. The conversation had morphed into a fascinating new look at virtual worlds and their potential uses as platforms for personal growth and change.
The DogFather then made a startling claim: he believes that at least half of SL residents are in some way at least partially bound to the home. This shocked me until he pointed out that being “home bound” needn’t mean living in a wheelchair.
He wisely stated, “There are the physically homebound - but there are also the emotionally homebound, and the spiritually homebound residents. The physically homebound encompass many disabling conditions. But some people feel like they can't face the public for whatever reasons - valid or not. Emotionally homebound people have thoughts within that do not allow them to feel comfortable out in public: ‘I am too ugly,’ ‘I am not good enough,’ ‘I am stupid.’ Some are afraid of strangers, some of germs.
A person becomes spiritually homebound when they find that there is nothing that they have in common with others. They feel that they ‘can't relate’, and so they withdraw. In each of these cases, Second Life allows some interaction with a ‘world’ and with real people. It‘s a ‘window to the world’ in more ways than we might be aware of. ”
It dawned on me that most men and women in the world exhibit symptoms of such spiritual malaise. Essentially, we are lonely. We are seeking connection - every one of us. And for most of us finding deep connection in what we call the “real world” is becoming as increasingly-difficult process.
Yet, from the adversity that befell one simple man springs a vision of a greater Awareness. Via the unexpected vehicle of pixel pets many of us are finding fresh avenues to happier lives. New vistas in personal growth are appearing and many are finding freedom in areas that once felt restricted.
Perhaps you’ll decide to pay a visit to Rhoda, where you’ll find dozens of AI dogs to play with and be amazed by. You might choose to teleport to the TBI Center high in the sky above Dog Park or spend some peaceful time in the gorgeous meditation area adjoining the Center. But by all means make it a point to get to know the man whose wisdom and vision is quietly changing and enriching so many troubled lives on a daily basis.
Vito Rossini will tell you that the six-and-a-half weeks he spent in a coma brought him to his true potential to live his life in service to others. He will tell you that practicing good karma in SL is as important and effective as it is in first life. And he will ask you to always be aware of the fact that the avatar you are interacting with online may be suffering some very real physical, emotional or spiritual challenges that you will never know about.
2 Great SL Videos From Dogland's Family Posted 2/22/2011 6:22:11 AM
Dogland Star and Portait/Makeover Specialist Starla Farella made this video. We were especially proud to see one of our Dogland Dogs Mastiffs, "Duke" in a starring role!
On the same day, we received another video from Dogland's Machinima Specialist Freeta Kayo was also our VKC Dog Owner's Training class most accomplished, and hard working student. Her videos are a testament to her hard work.
Vito and I hope you will have as much fun watching these as we did!
ASPCA- Help Directly The ASPCA could sure use some help about now. No "middleman" is needed! If you want to be sure that any donations you give go to them, the best way to donate is to do so directly! ASPCA reminds all that too many times people that collect for this cause, lose track of portions of the money they are collecting. If someone says "I am collecting for Humane Society, will you donate?".... or other organizations, say "Thanks for reminding me!" and donate to the organization yourself! Want more info? touch the link I provided above! I expect follow up blogs in agreement, still reminding you that you can donate through other agents in SL and elsewhere. I will join the ASPCA in their encouragement to go to the source. On one hand you can donate direct. On the other hand... well there is no other hand! (beware of "buy my wares, and I will donate some to charity!")
Will The Real VKC Doby Please Stand Up? Posted 12/7/2010 11:00:39 AM
The new price policy of VKC, while complained about by many, has brought some very exciting events to Dogland Park. Last night Dogland had a "Hunt for VKC Dobies". 4 Dobies were released and set for sale at 1500 Lindens. They were spread all around the park, and they were intermingled with 20 dobies that were not for sale. To make it more fun, Vito set out an additional 25 "Alpha cutouts", 1 prim flat VKC Dobermans that looked very real until they were very close! It took members of VKC Dog Owner's Open Chat Group 40 minutes to locate the 4 Dobies that were set for sale. It was a very fun time!
In Search of The Dogfather Posted 11/3/2010 6:15:37 AM
Freeta Kayo always finds the most innovative technologies on the web. If it is artistic, she is there. You can now make great Videos of your own (or a friend's) name from Google search. Make a Google Search Video about anything! Take a look at the one she made for my Husband, Vito. www.youtube.com/searchstories
VERY IMPORTANT: I forgot to insert this---> While there you can get a 1200cc Special Touring Bike, in two varieties. There is a Night of the Living Dead Touring Bike and a Nightmare on Elm Street Touring Bike These bikes are at Spooky's for 13 L$ ( Lucky number 13), which is 99% off original cost! HAPPY HALLOWEEN SEASON!
In the virtual world of Second Life, my husband, Vitolo Rossini was able to recreate his life and find new ways to help others after a prolonged coma. Vito owns Dogland, an independent Dog Park serving ALL makes of Virtual Dogs. He also owns and maintains a group for others that are recovering from Brain Injury. Freeta Kayo, a dear friend and supporter of Dogland Park in Second Life. Asked Vito if she could make this video, to help get what she felt was a "worthy message" out to the public. Freeta is a Machinima Artist, and Media Specialist with extreme talent. The musical background for this piece was made by Composer Claus Gahrn from Denmark.