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Maddie Mastro is accustomed to having dogs around, and more often than not, they’re rescues. After living with up to six rescue dogs for most of her life, you’d think she wouldn’t have any issues adopting a new one of her own. “I probably applied for like 15-plus dogs and I didn’t get approved,” she says. Of course, she is also quite proficient in overcoming odds.
After going pro at the age of 16, the half-pipe snowboarder competed in her first Winter Olympics in 2018, before winning the US Open Snowboarding Championships in 2019 by becoming the first woman to land a double crippler 900. But more crucially, two months ago she was finally able to adopt her own puppy, Pippy, before making a second Olympic appearance in Beijing. “I met her and took her home within 15 minutes of meeting her. I was very much in love with her.” We caught up with Mastro to chat about the importance of adoption, her recent Olympic appearance, and why The Office is the ultimate comfort food TV show.
You currently have five rescue dogs: Archie, Beasley, Pippy, Zody, and Stevie. Were you always an adoption advocate?
As a whole, my family has five dogs and they’re all rescues. I grew up in a household where my parents were advocates — always adopting and rescuing dogs. Growing up, there was usually anywhere between two to six dogs running around the house. The importance of adopting was just something that was really instilled in me when I was younger.
Currently, my mom and dad have three dogs, but they’re family dogs so I feel like they’re still mine. That’s Zody, Beasley, and Archie. Then Stevie is my brother’s dog; she’s pretty much a family dog too. Pippy is the newest addition, also a family dog, but she stays with me the whole time. The other dogs stay with my parents. Pippy’s my own little one.
So do all of the dogs still spend a lot time together?
Yeah, we all spend time together when we’re in California. My mom watched Pippy when I was at the Olympics recently. I do spend a lot of time traveling and Pippy will travel with me. But for the most part, they spend a good chunk of time together.
How did the other dogs handle Pippy’s arrival?
They are used to other dogs but it did take some adjusting, for sure. She’s a full-blown puppy, only six months old still. I mean, each dog has their own personality and their own way of adjusting and learning. It took Pippy learning how each dog operates and each dog’s boundaries. They’ve done a pretty good job of adjusting.
What’s Pippy’s personality like?
Well, she came with the name Pippy. I normally like picking out my own personalized name for dogs, but she is a Pippy. I call her pipsqueak. She’s got a lot of pip in her step. She has a lot of personality. Honestly, she’s very bouncy. She’s just like the typical wiggly puppy, especially when she’s with other dogs. She’s just full of energy and wants to play. But she’s also very smart and clever, which can be a double-edged sword.
Given how clever she is, has she caused any havoc in hotel rooms while you’re traveling?
So far, so good. But she is learning how to get treats out of me. She definitely knows how to work her angles as far as things like that go. She also picked up fetch over the course of a day or so. But she really knows how to get treats out of you — that’s the biggest one. And she knows when someone’s going to come pick her up; then she won’t want to leave. She’s just very clever in that sense. She’s already good at reading people.
There are a few TikToks of Pippy in the gym with you. How often does she train with you? Does she do well in that environment?
She’s still a puppy, so I’m trying to get her comfortable with what my life will look like — which is also what her life is going to look like. This includes going to the gym with me, going to hotels, and all that. She is pretty well crate trained, so she usually just sits in her crate while I work out. [Afterwards] she plays some fetch. She loves the trainers and the physical therapist, so she’s learning to love the gym.
What has that been like, given you were just in Beijing competing at the Olympics? I’m assuming Pippy didn’t travel with you.
No, she didn’t travel to the Olympics with me. I’ve always wanted a dog of my own, but it was never the right time. I don’t think there’s ever really a right time to get a dog. And you can’t wait for the right time because there’s always going to be stuff going on in your life. Part of having a dog is figuring out how that dog can be included in your life.
Then I got hurt in December and was like, “Okay, this is it — I’m getting a dog.” With COVID, we had been traveling by ourselves in a bubble for so long and I wanted a companion who could travel with me. I wanted to always have a little buddy wherever I’m at, whatever contest I was at. I realized there was never going to be a perfect time and decided I wasn’t waiting anymore. So I was lucky to find Pippy.
Would you say adopting Pippy was a welcome distraction to the injury, Olympics, and everything else going on?
When I initially adopted her, I was pretty injured. I was not able to snowboard at the time. I was pretty sad and bummed about the whole situation, as most athletes are when they get injured. So when I did get a dog of my own, something I had wanted since I was like 12, it was a good distraction from the stuff in my life that wasn’t necessarily the best. It was a positive, shining light to help distract me from those negative feelings I was having about my injury and whatnot. I found that it was actually a nice way to take my mind off of the hard stuff.
As a professional snowboarder, I’m certain that this is important for both of you — has she had a taste of the snow yet?
She’s a stray off the streets of LA, so she is a city girl, a beach girl, a warm California weather girl. The first week I had her, we went to Mammoth Mountain in California, and then to Colorado from there. So the cold was definitely a shock to her system. She was pretty well house-trained, but as soon as we went to the snow, she went on strike from using the restroom outside. She was not into it. So it took some adjusting...
Now I think she’s come to terms with it and is finding enjoyment in the snow. But I don’t know if she’s completely sold on it yet, which is okay with me because on those really cold days, I don’t really know if I even want to go outside. I live in California for six months out of the year. So I 100% feel her on that.
Is it true that while you were competing in the Olympics, you watched The Office every morning? It’s become a very common “comfort food” show.
I actually watch The Office before any competition, because I do find that it’s a good distraction to take my mind off of the contest and the pressure and all that. It’s a good way just to keep the mood light, and now it’s become a little bit of a ritual. First of all, it has an amazing cast — this group of people that you genuinely fall in love with. Then it’s got this lighthearted comedy that isn’t serious and can help take your mind off of whatever is happening. I find so much of it relatable. “Comfort food” is a perfect description for The Office.
You recently finished 13th at the 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics women’s halfpipe, one spot out of the qualifying 12 for the final round. How difficult was it to miss by such a small margin, and has coming home to Pippy helped ease the pain?
Having the Olympics not go the way that I had wanted or hoped or expected or any of that was a really, really big heartbreak. That is the best word to describe it. I was extremely sad after, on multiple different levels. Instantly after I had realized what had just happened and that I didn’t make finals, I was like, “Okay, I just want to go home right now. I want to hang out with my puppy. I want to be in California with my dog that I’ve just recently adopted and just try to mentally work through this at home with my dog.”
So although it would have been great to come home with better results, there isn’t anything I’d rather come home to than a puppy. That definitely helped, knowing that at the airport, I was going to get some puppy kisses.
How important is it to you to advocate for rescue dogs?
Advocating for rescuing and adopting dogs is something that I take seriously. It’s so important because there are thousands upon thousands of dogs who are sitting in shelters and need homes, and time is not in their favor. So the more I can educate people about adopting — because sometimes they simply don’t know enough about it — to save the life of a dog who doesn’t have much time left, the better.
Any rescues you want to shout out?
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Sean Zucker is a writer whose work has been featured in Points In Case, The Daily Drunk, Posty, and WellWell. He has an adopted Pit Bull named Banshee whose work has been featured on the kitchen floor and whose behavioral issues rival his own.