"A breed of satin and steel. Pit bulls are a mixture of softness and strength, an uncanny canine combination of fun, foolishness, and serious business, all wrapped up in love."

-D. Caroline Coile

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Pit Bulls and Chocolate

                              Sarah Gross’s rescued pit bull Mocha inspired her to market
                              vegan chocolates benefitting animal-rescue groups.

Gross loves her Mocha. And we don’t just mean chocolate — although she loves that, too. Mocha is the name of Gross’s 2½-year-old pit bull, a rescue dog who went from the streets of The Bronx to appearing on the label of a chocolate bar called Peanut Butter Pit Bull.

Funnily enough, the small pit bull with the cropped ears already had the name when Gross adopted her through New Hope, the rescue arm of the Animal Care & Control of New York City, but it was pitch-perfect for the pet of a self-confessed chocoholic.

“I was smitten,” says Gross of the time she first saw Mocha’s photo on a friend’s Facebook page. “Her eyes stuck with me.” The feeling only intensified when she arranged to meet the young dog near Central Park. “She was just all love. I couldn’t resist.”

Sarah Gross’s rescued pit bull Mocha inspired her to market vegan chocolates benefitting animal-rescue groups.

She adopted the dog soon after, and as Mocha settled into her new life in Park Slope, Gross, 25, set about exploring her other irresistible passion: chocolate.

She had always had a sweet tooth, but a couple of years ago, when she moved to New York, she actually found herself living the Willy Wonka dream with a part-time job in a chocolate factory. While working for Gnosis Chocolate, an organic, vegan and kosher line of sweets based in Queens, she helped create a best-selling flavor. After hours, she roamed New York looking for even more vegan-friendly options.

“I thought, ‘I’m going to try every vegan chocolate I can find,’” says Gross, who sampled Russian chocolate in Brighton Beach and Polish chocolate in Greenpoint.

The plans for her own chocolate line would never have come to life, though, if it weren’t for Mocha. One cold morning last December, Gross had a piece of dark chocolate for breakfast and then headed out to walk her pooch. With the sugar surging through her system, it hit her: Why not combine her two loves by starting her own line of vegan chocolates and donating the profits to rescue groups, like the one that had brought Mocha into her life?

Through her choc-world connections, Gross found a factory in Red Hook to make chocolate to her specifications, and in January she launched Rescue Chocolate (rescuechocolate.com). The all-vegan line offers chocolates in five flavors, including “Peanut Butter Pit Bull” (with crispy peanut butter) and “Foster-iffic Peppermint” (with crunchy cacao nibs) at $5 a pop. Each month, Gross donates Rescue Chocolate’s net profits to a different animal-rescue organization around the country.

Aside from appearing on the labels, Mocha’s job is to help promote her oft-maligned breed. “Pit bulls do take some understanding because they are strong,” admits Gross. “But if you train them and treat them well, they won’t be aggressive. [Mocha] is also a big snuggle-bug. My bed has become her throne.”

But even when she’s napping the afternoon away, Gross says, Mocha’s influence is always at work: “She’s my best friend, but also my ambassador. I want her to show people that pit bulls are really sweet.”

That and the chocolate, too!



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