On Centre: Bald Eagle Area | Warm heart helps songwriter grieve for frozen canine

January 14, 2014 

Cold-hearted neglect burned Bill Dann.

He kept thinking about the unfortunate Curtin Township dog recently left outside to freeze to death on a single-digit night. Its owner, Ronald Eugene Haines, was charged with animal cruelty.

The Howard songwriter knew what he had to do.

Dann sat down and penned “Just a Warmer Place to Rest,” an ode to mistreated pets and a departure of sorts for him.

Though he and his creative partner, Altoona musician Jack Servello, have teamed up for serious songs among their dozens of collaborations since 2008, most of their latest creations have been novelties along the lines of “Thor, the Purple Squirrel from Jersey Shore” and “Punxy Phil’s Bad Rap” and nostalgic tunes such as “Tonka Trucks and Tinker Toys,” done for this Christmas.

But this time, Dann wasn’t in a humorous mood.

“It was bothering me to the point where I thought I had to do something about it,” he said. “To me, songwriting is very therapeutic.”

In one fell swoop, as is his style, he set down lyrics that pull no punches.

“When the mercury falls on winter nights/And you’re glad to be inside,” the opening stanza reads. “Remember those who shiver out/In the yard where they reside.”

For the refrain, Dann switches to a suffering dog’s point of view.

“Dear master, how can you leave me/In the frigid winter air?” he wrote. “My love is unconditional/But I wonder if you care.

“I ask only for essentials/Why put me to the test? How I long for just a warmer place to rest.”

After he posted the song on Facebook on Monday night to gauge reaction, Dann soon found others shared his outrage. He said the lyrics drew more than 50 admiring comments.

“When I saw that, I called Jack and said, ‘Hey, Jack, guess what our next song is?’ and he agreed,” Dann said.

Among the responses, one woman wrote: “As my Reidy boy, my adopted border collie, lays beside me in front of the heater, he says thank you for writing this song for all his buddies out in the cold night, maybe it will sink into some owners’ heads that dogs are our best friends and deserve only the best!!!”

Buoyed by the early reviews, Dann now waits for Servello to do his part and craft a melody. A video also is in the works, and could be released within a couple of weeks and shown at http://www.youtube.com/user/dreamsedge.

Dann said he thinks “Just a Warmer Place to Rest” could rival the success of “Tonka Trucks and Tinker Toys,” which aired on more than 170 radio stations.

“We really believe that this has ultra-viral potential, just simply because it touches a nerve with anyone who cares for domestic animals,” he said.

In the meantime, he hopes the song will fulfill a public service role, opening a few eyes to a common injustice and perhaps saving some lives.

“They are meant to be companion pets/Entrusted to us for life,” Dann’s song reminds. “Not left out in the elements/Where the wind cuts like a knife.”

Chris Rosenblum writes a weekly column about news in the Upper and Lower Bald Eagle valleys. If you have news to share, email crosenbl@centredaily.com or call 231-4620.

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