Blessed are the pets – and Animal Charity – in Youngstown

By Sean Barron


A few years ago, Dorothy Mahalco was broken-hearted to see two dogs tied up outside of their owner’s residence with scarce food and water, inadequate shelter and little protection in subzero weather during the brutal 2013-14 winter.

“I didn’t think they would make it,” the Austintown woman recalled. “I cried.”

Nevertheless, she did a lot more than shed tears regarding the animals’ seemingly inevitable plight. She took the initiative to ensure they at least had straw and blankets. A while later, with the help of her daughter, Jacci Buzzelli, Mahalco rescued Roxy and Mittens, both Rottweilers.

The two, along with Zoey, a dog she had taken home from the Mahoning County Dog Shelter about four years ago, were among the estimated 20 animals that were brought to Saturday’s Blessing of Pets at Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Center and Pavilion, 1025 N. Belle Vista Ave., on the West Side.

Donations of money, blankets, toys, collars, leashes, dry and canned dog, puppy and cat food, bleach, laundry detergent, sheets, towels and paper towels were to benefit Animal Charity Humane Society.

Despite having endured extreme neglect and cruelty, Roxy and Mittens have grown more accustomed to being in a house and continue to thrive. They also are well-behaved, Mehalco explained.

“They have the whole run of the house,” Mehalco said with a chuckle, adding that she took the animals to a veterinarian immediately after adopting them.

Exhibiting a bit of shyness after receiving her blessing was Lola, a 7-year-old Chihuahua mix that Sharlene Senediak of Austintown brought home about five years ago from the county dog shelter.

“She’s protective and shy with strangers, but playful with me,” said Senediak, a Sts. Peter and Paul Ukrainian Orthodox Church member. “I treat her like she’s my child.”

Senediak, who also has a cat, has a long association with animals, including adopting some and taking in others that were strays. Saturday’s blessing was uplifting for her and likely a positive experience for her dog and the other pets, she said.

Senediak’s father, Ken Senediak, who has two dogs named Sophie and Ed, helped organize the event.

Conducting the outdoor blessing was the Rev. Gregory Becker of Sts. Peter and Paul Church, who blessed the animals individually and said each of their names, while offering a prayer to remember those pets that have died. Father Becker also brought Rumor, his 7-year-old German shepherd mix he found on, an adoption website.

“We just have to remember the [unconditional] love they give us and that God made all things,” he said.

The gathering also featured a reading from Job 12:7, which talks about the wisdom and guidance people can glean from the lessons of animals.

After the blessing, Mehalco urged more people to adopt pets from area shelters and provide them with loving homes and environments.

“Go to a pound and get these dogs,” she said. “They really need somebody.”

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