Sarah + Mocha

Woman turns love of dogs and chocolate into a nonprofit candy company that helps save animal lives

Sarah + Mocha

I was living alone in New York City and trying to find my life’s purpose after an extremely truncated career as a professional ballet dancer.

The Brooklyn brownstone where I rented a room did not have a yard and did not allow pets. But I had grown up with dogs, volunteered at my local animal shelter and always considered them spectacular companions.

One winter day, I sat at the computer and cruised around some pet adoption websites—so many precious pooches, so deserving of forever homes. A few clicks later, my heart stopped. On the Foster Dogs NYC site, there was a photo of an emaciated pit bull with cropped ears and a big pink-lipped smile. Her deep brown eyes connected with mine. I just had to meet her – with no strings attached, of course. What harm could there be in scheduling an appointment?

I jumped on the subway, tore down the sidewalk on the Upper East Side and careened into the meet-and-greet room.

"She folded herself into my arms and shored up the hole in my heart that I hadn't even known existed"

We went home in a taxi. We moved to a new apartment, within a few blocks of Prospect Park. I named her Mocha. I loved her, fed her and hated the anonymous people who had bred her for their nefarious dog-fighting operation in the Bronx only to abandon her on the streets when they found out she was a lover instead of a fighter.

The rest of the time, I cobbled together a living as a part-time Pilates instructor and a helper in a raw chocolate factory in Queens. In addition to animals, chocolate had become my other passion. I scoured the city for unusual brands and maintained a scrapbook of my favorite chocolate wrappers. So, after a chocolate-heavy breakfast one day, Mocha and I were taking a walk when I got an idea; I could combine my two loves. Why not start my own chocolate company and donate the profits to animal rescue organizations?

I had some contacts in the industry, and they put me in touch with a co-packer nearby. We designed a logo featuring my smiling Mocha girl (with the caption, however, that chocolate is only for humans to enjoy).

Sarah and Mocha

One of our first flavors was called Peanut Butter Pit Bull. It became an instant best-seller. Another flavor, featuring coffee and hazelnuts, was called Forever Mocha – a testament to the fact that my sweet adoptee will be mine forever, thank goodness.

Now, more than six years later, I have a thriving company that has partnered with hundreds of animal rescue groups around the country to raise money and awareness. I have a meaningful career and a friend for life.

Discover love this weekend at Petco.

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Each year, the Petco Love invites adopters to share the story of how their adopted pet changed their lives during the annual Holiday Wishes campaign, giving the organization that they adopted from a chance to receive a grant award. This story by Sarah Feoli won Foster Dogs, Inc. in New York City, New York a 2016 Holiday Wishes award.