Kathleen Winter, The Pied Piper Of Dachshunds
(Published March, 2000)
At first glance, you might think they are extraordinarily
large rats. Not that the long-nosed, long-bodied, long-tailed, short-legged
creatures could ever be mistaken for rats ... but because the scene before you
is remarkably similar to that of the 13th Century legend of the Pied Piper
leading hordes of rats away from the plagued Saxony village of Hamlin. They
follow her around as though she has cast some magic spell on them, yipping,
yapping, bouncing in a brisk staccato cadence at her heels. The moment she sits,
there is a squabble for who can jump to her lap first. They watch her every move
and heed the call to follow. But there’s something very different about this
scene: This Pied Piper’s horde is a horde of ‘hunds – as in Dachshunds.
And while the Medieval Piper’s tune was a song leading the rats to their
death, hers is a melody of life.
Kathleen Winter didn't set out to be a champion of dog
rescue. Twelve years ago, all she really intended to do was take a tour of the
new animal shelter in her town. It looked respectable enough - not a luxury
resort, but not a dungeon either. Then she saw a little dog that she describes
as looking like "Benji," and it was nursing new puppies, and she made
a mistake: she asked what would become of mother and babies. They'll be
euthanized on Friday was the response. This was Wednesday. And Kathleen could
not accept what she heard, so the family went home with her. Then there were the
poodle and her babies. And more and more. Because Kathleen couldn't just let
them die, and because she realized that whatever else shelters can do, they just
don't have the time or the resources to actively find homes for the animals that
society throws out. Maybe Kathleen didn't have the time or the resources either,
but she found them.
Over the years, a lot of what she has done has been to work
the phones. Thousands and thousands and thousands of phone calls have changed
death sentences to happy lives for more dogs than can easily be counted.
Kathleen teaches school as her "day job." For
some years she taught kids with attention deficit disorder, and she saw them
drawing pictures in which they portrayed themselves hurting and killing animals.
Kathleen brought dogs to school with her and convinced a number of kids that
animals are potential friends, not targets of abuse. Now she teaches in a high
school for the performing arts, and dogs come to class with her all the time.
Her students bring in more strays, and they know that Kathleen may have to jump
in her car and pick up dogs in danger at a moment's notice.
We asked how Kathleen came to specialize in dachshunds
(although she has a number of Chihuahuas as well.) She said that the first
dachshund she saw in the local shelter was behind a fence with ominous signs
like "Dangerous" and "Dog Will Bite." She looked him in the
eye, and knew that he wouldn't bite her. And as so many of us
Dachsaholics have discovered, they are a very addictive breed.
We first met Kathleen about 3 or 4 years ago at an AKC
dachshund specialty show hosted by the Dachshund Club of Southwestern Ohio. We
were there hawking our Dachshund Delights goods to the ‘hund lovers gathered
there. Kathleen was there making contacts for her rescue work. She informed me
that in a couple weeks she would be hosting a "reunion picnic" for
those who had adopted from her. She asked if we might be willing to make some
donations for door prizes and perhaps some catalogs for people to pick up. Of
course we couldn’t turn down free publicity ... not to mention the chance to
help in the rescue effort. Little did we know that in just a few years, we would
be adopting from her. I could imagine adopting from a rescue group in the
distant future ... but I could never have fathomed, at that time, the situation
that would prompt me to adopt so soon.
In late September, 1999, we lost our precious Stubby to a
drowning accident (click here for her story). We couldn’t
bear saying that we had "four dachshunds" when for several years it
had been "we have five dachshunds." So we started searching the
dachshund rescue Web sites, hoping to find something close to home (near
Cleveland, Ohio). We found Kathleen’s
Wild Wiener Ranch site and searched the faces and descriptions of the many
doxies in need of a permanent home. It was from Kathleen that we finally got Scarlett. Her story and her life began badly, but
she's with us now, and as if she finally clicked her ruby slippers, she's home.
One thing you should know: Many of the dogs that
Kathleen takes in are in desperate need of medical care, and she makes sure they
get it. Some of the dogs she rescues from puppy mills run up vet bills of $1,000
or more, and this is money that comes out of Kathleen's pocket. She didn't ask
us to try and raise funds for her, but we're going to do it anyway. Very few of
us have the strength and the stamina to do what she does, but those of us who
might have an extra dollar or two can still be a part of the work. Please, if
you can, send a few dollars her way. The checks can go to Dachshund Rescue of
Ohio, Inc., c/o Kathleen Winter, 3214 Oregonia Rd., Lebanon OH 45036.
Thanks to Kathleen, hundreds of dogs (mostly dachshunds)
have a new song to sing.
If you are as disgusted by the whole concept of puppy
mills as we are and want to learn more, here's at least a start to your mission:
a site called nopuppymills.com.
Owner, Dachshund Delights
Webmaster, Dachshund Delights