Animal lovers understand all too well the grief of losing a furry or other non-human companion. But for a New York actor who had appeared in TV soap operas, the loss of his beloved dog Rocco was more than he could handle—especially considering the circumstances. The dog, a pit bull, was perfectly healthy at the time it was destroyed.
Forty-seven-year-old Nick Santino, whose TV credits included roles in All My Children and Guiding Light, took his own life on Tuesday, the New York Post reports. Earlier in the day, he euthanized Rocco, which he had rescued from a shelter several years ago.
Nick Santino knew all about shelters, having been raised himself in an orphanage and foster homes. He was fond of saying and even wrote on his Facebook page, “I did not rescue Rocco, Rocco rescued me.”
The decision to put down Rocco, possibly the most difficult Santino ever faced, was the result of non-stop pressure from neighbors in the Lincoln Center-area building where he lived. A regulation passed in 2010 prohibited tenants froom owning pit bulls as pets. The rule was not retroactive, however: It did not apply to pit bulls already in the building, which included Rocco.
That did not deter Santino’s neighbors from harassing him and complaining to the building management about the dog. He was not permitted to ride in the main elevators and was not allowed to be left in the apartment alone for more than nine hours.
Ulitmately, the anguish became overbearing. Santino, unable to find another home for Rocco, was left with no choice but the tragic one he ultimately made. After the deed was done, neighbors report that a tearful Santino brought dog treats and a fluffy bed to the building’s doorman and said, “Give these to the other dogs. Rocco is no more.”
One of those neighbors, James Steven Grant, is himself a dog owner. He found two rawhide bones on his doorstep. He is quoted as saying, “Rocco was the sweetest dog in the world. Rocco wouldn’t hurt a fly.”
Next to Santino’s body, authorities found a suicide note reading:
Today I betrayed my best friend and put down my best friend. Rocco trusted me and I failed him. He didn’t deserve this.
The same is certainly true of Santino.
Rocco was cremated, according to his owner’s instructions. A close friend, Stuart Sarnoff, has arranged for Santino’s remains to be cremated as well. “One way or another,” Sarnoff is quoted as saying, “their ashes will be together forever.”
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