If you ask Jennifer Mazzocchi to name one pet who has had the most impact on her life, she very well might say “Mayday!”
Mayday is a little pit bull who was scheduled to be euthanized at a local shelter. He had an eye condition that virtually eliminated any chance of his adoption. For Mayday, rescue came in the form of a kind animal control officer. She allowed Jennifer to adopt him, get him the surgery he so desperately needed and provide him with a loving home.
From then on, Jennifer dedicated herself to saving pit bulls in similar situations…those whose lives were hanging in the balance between ambivalence and compassion.
Mayday is now a happy and healthy member of Jennifer’s family. The rescue group she established in his name is devoted to creating that same future for other pit bulls in need.
Jennifer also happens to be a senior recruiter for PetSmart®, so recently I sat down with her to learn more about her and her passion for this misunderstood breed.
Q: Who or what inspires you and why?
My father has been my biggest inspiration…his love of animals, his curiosity about life and his overall compassion for all living things inspired me in a million different ways. Mayday was founded in his memory. Our rescue dogs also inspire me daily. To see them overcome so much, without complaint. It is like witnessing miracles every day.
Q: What one word best describes you?
Busy. Like me, most people in rescue work full time as well. It can be a difficult balance. Mayday focuses not only on pit bulls but on pit bulls with extreme medical/behavioral or special needs. So, it is a huge investment of time to provide them the care they need. For example, at the moment, we have 3 dogs with limb deformities, two amputees, one dog with a brain tumor, one that is paralyzed, two that are blind and deaf and several with extreme fear issues to overcome. It is a lot of work, but is a labor of love.
Q: Why do you feel this breed is so misunderstood?
If you have never interacted with a pit bull and your only knowledge of them comes from the media, you will believe all of the negative stereotypes. Pit bulls can look intimidating and are so often portrayed in a negative light; people tend to believe the hype rather than discovering the true, loving nature of these dogs.
Q: What advice would you give a family that is considering adopting a pit bull?
Educate yourself. Research. Learn as much as possible about this group of breeds and determine whether or not they are right for your lifestyle. These are energetic, playful dogs that desire and need time, affection and an investment in training, socialization and exercise. If you cannot provide that for them, they are likely not the breed for you.
Q: Generally speaking, are pit bulls good with children?
Absolutely! They are extremely affectionate and loving with children. They were considered nanny dogs for many years because they are so wonderful with kids.
Q: What is the key to being a responsible pit bull owner?
Being a pit bull ambassador at all times. You are not just a dog owner. You are a pit bull owner. Everything you do can either put your dog (or other responsible owners’ dogs) at risk or can change perceptions for these breeds for the better and end their suffering.
You have to take an active part in changing perceptions and that means always going above and beyond what is expected of other dog owners. In every interaction, be cognizant of the fact that people have fear or apprehension. Pit Bulls can be very strong, very vocal and very energetic in meeting new people or pets and in play. To the Pit Bull owner, this is all very normal. To those who are not familiar with Pit Bulls, it can be intimidating or even scary.
Go the extra mile to ensure that every interaction is positive. Ensure that all dog and people introductions are appropriate and controlled. Spay/neuter (read about PetSmart Charities’ Primp Your Pit program). Use a leash (no exceptions). Secure your yards. Invest in training. Socialize your dogs but respect their limits. If new people, large gatherings, other dogs, etc. are difficult for them, find other ways to build in exercise and play time.
Q: What is the biggest pet ownership issue you wish you could change?
People who give up their pets without first exhausting every option to keep them. People contact us asking us to take in their dogs without ever having made an investment in training, socialization, time, exercise, whatever they might need to help them overcome any behavioral issues. It is sad to see a lack of commitment like that.
Q: If someone is not in the position to adopt a pit bull, can they help in other ways?
There are so many ways to help! They can volunteer time, donate or foster. There is not a rescue group I’m aware of that isn’t in need of more help.
Q: What is the one thing about this breed that people should know, but don’t?
They are extremely sensitive. They are aware of and very sensitive to their owner’s moods. They have a strong need for affection and love. They are comedians at heart so it makes it easy to forget just how sensitive they really are.