BY Meghan Rodick

The 2019 Miss Dog Mom Pageant winner is known for much more than her newfound title – she is a professional dog walker and founder of the non-profit organization “East New York Dog Lovers,” which offers services for pets and owners in need. Despite her accomplishments, Maria Ducasse remains humble, “I’m still in awe and I’m honored to have won this title because this is so much bigger than me.” She credits the experience as “helping her to come out of her shell” as she faced her fear of public speaking with the best outcome she could have hoped for.

Long before her pageant experience, Maria’s journey with her two beloved dogs began. “Their happiness is my happiness” she says. Maria attributes her professional dog-walking career to Bella, her six-year-old ShihTzu with whom she won the Miss Dog Mom Pageant. “When I adopted Bella, I wanted to be with her as much as possible, while doing something where I could make a profit. I previously worked at a veterinarian’s office, where I realized that a career with animals was for me.” While she didn’t like seeing animals suffer, she knew that she was good at ensuring their happiness. She explains, “After that I began dog-walking to see how capable I was and it took off from there.”

In addition to caring for her dogs, Maria provides endless support for her community, and they are always eager to return the favor. When she informed them that she was entering the contest, they insisted that they contribute. “They were very proud” she says. “They told me ‘whatever you need, we will provide it’. I’ve met amazing people through this nonprofit.” Looking back at the creation of the organization, Maria remembers how necessary it was. “I saw how many people had to surrender their animals, and how much it broke their hearts. I knew that I needed to take it to the next level in order to help community members who could not afford essentials for their pets” she says, and she isn’t stopping there. “We need to do more,” she affirms.

During her time as Miss Dog Mom, she plans on organizing the first New Year’s masquerade ball of its kind - where pets are welcome. Maria wants to connect with those who are like her, saying, “everyone knows if I can’t bring my dogs, I might not show up”. She also wants to return home to the Dominican Republic and help their animals in need. Locally, her hopes for East New York Dog Lovers are high, saying “I hope my efforts will be expanded and we can keep dogs out of shelters.” Maria wants to keep owners and their beloved pets together in any way possible. “If I have it my way, I’ll be the first person to open up a shelter for both humans and their animals. I hate separations more than anything. We need to fix what’s broken in their families and help them to thrive and rise.”

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