Date published: March 1, 2011
HFMA member Joe Attaway raises award -winning neapolitan mastiffs and is the president of the United States Neapolitan Mastiff Club.
Joe Attaway was a fan of bulldogs until the day a neapolitan mastiff- a large -breed dog known for its grandeur and gentle nature- caught his eye at a dog show.
"I thought, 'Wow, look at that dog. What a beautiful animal,'" says Attaway, a healthcare consultant and a member of HFMA's Alabama Chapter. "They're very bestial in appearance and movements, and I was just fascinated by them. "
Attaway became friends with one of the oldest breeders of neapolitan mastiffs, a man who bred mastiffs in Italy for about 12 years. It wasn't long before Attaway adopted a neapolitan mastiff puppy of his own- and raised a champion. "At our first dog show together, we walked out with the award for 'best puppy.' I thought, 'This is really cool,'" Attaway says.
Today, Attaway has two neapolitan mastiffs at his home in Birmingham- a puppy, Giovanni del Pescatore, 17 months old, and an older female, Sola. He also co-owns and shows neapolitan mastiffs who are being raised by families in Indianapolis and Montgomery, Ala., and is the president of the United States Neapolitan Mastiff Club.
"It's a labor of love, more than anything," Attaway says. "Neapolitan mastiffs are very expensive to keep, expensive to own, and expensive to breed. But they are the most loyal dogs you'll ever meet. All they want is love. If they could be byyour side all the time, they would be very happy. And they like to have a job, which is to protect you. They are very protective, but if bred correctly, they are very gentle as well. "
The dogs have become members of the family for Attaway and his wife, Leah, who also have two children-an infant daughter, Lucy, and a 3-year-old son, Ramsey. "They're really good with our children," Attaway says. "My son will put a lead on Giovanni and the dog just follows him- he listens to Ramsey; he just adores my son. It's very fun to watch. We always make sure that our children's interactions with the dogs are supervised. Neapolitan mastiffs are so big, they could knock a child over very easily, and you would never want to put the children or the animals in a situation where something bad could happen. "
Attaway travels to dog competitions four times a year with selected pets. "The last big show I went to was in Los Angeles. I actually drove to Los Angeles from Alabama with my dogs and three friends and their dogs. It was quite a trip! " he says. "This year, the big show will be in Atlanta, which is practically in my backyard. That will be a much easier trip. "
He also runs monthly meetings of the United States Neapolitan Mastiff Club. During these meetings, representatives discuss every aspect of the breed, from health (neapolitan mastiffs face a variety of health issues, with joint problems and teary eyes being common ailments) to fund-raising, initiatives to grow membership, developing an annual show that will appeal to members, and more. His skills in healthcare finance have been helpful in his role as president of the club. "Our ultimate goal is to make things better for the breed as a whole," he says. "I run my meetings like you'd expect of someone who has an MBA. Sometimes people will disagree during board meetings. I keep everybody on the right path and ensure that everyone's opinions are respected while keeping the conversations on track."
For Attaway, the time he devotes to raising and showing his dogs is a release from his work in healthcare finance (as a consultant, his specialty areas are treasury, transition, turnaround, and startup). "Finance people are analytical people. When I come home from work, I put my analytical skills to use in analyzing every single aspect of my dogs: how they're growing, how they're progressing, how they measure against the standard for their breed. That's a good escape for anybody who has dogs and likes to show dogs."