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Until There Are None, Rescue One: Rescuing Homeless Dachshunds

Editor's Note: Ms. Oag is an AEBC member residing in Belleville, Ontario.

My passion for rescuing dachshunds began innocently enough. I can't say I'd ever given much thought to "wiener dogs" until I borrowed a cassette tape from the library one day. Vet's Choice, by Dr. Alex Duncan, is a true story about the author's wife and a dachshund she remembered as a child from World War II Germany. Three years later, our family bought Pepper, a dachshund puppy who is loving, hilarious, and has the typical "big-dog" personality in a "small-dog" body, which we call a "Goliath Complex." I knew that I had made the right choice.

But a chance encounter at our vet's one day introduced me to the sordid side of dachshund ownership--a Canadian Dachshund Rescue (CDR) volunteer had brought in a puppy-mill dog for care. The quaking, matted mess on the volunteer's lap had spent six years pumping out litter after litter for pet stores until she was no longer profitable. She had never been outside of her cage, never been petted or loved by a human, and didn't even have a name. As I looked into her black, sorrowful eyes, I couldn't stop myself from tearing up.

As soon as I got home, I checked out the CDR website. I had no idea that puppy mills even existed in Canada; every province has successfully outlawed them except Quebec. Many "used-up" dachshunds make their way into Ontario on the "Underground Railroad" via shelters and rescue volunteers. It's cheaper for puppy mills to surrender them to the Humane Society in Montreal than to destroy them.

The real evil of puppy mills is not the mill operators who treat animals like commodities, but the people who buy the cute, little wiener dogs at the pet store. Without demand, there would be no supply. I bought Pepper privately, so I thought that wasn't as bad, but backyard breeders have no way of regulating blood lines, dispositions or health issues--something important for dachshunds with their predisposition to back problems. Purchasing a puppy from a registered, responsible breeder is best, for any purebred dog.

My love for dachshunds meant it wasn't long before I adopted from CDR--not once, but twice! A rescued dog must be assessed by a foster home before going to its "forever home", and I thought I could help the organization that way. But I failed "Fostering 101" miserably, because I couldn't bring myself to give up Milo after fostering him. I discovered I am better suited to administrative tasks, such as creating and maintaining a dog-tag database, helping coordinate dog transports, writing a newsletter for volunteers and supporters, and even writing thank-you cards to donors.

The need for CDR, unfortunately, never ends. The non-profit has saved and re-homed hundreds of little dachshunds since its inception ten years ago. Occasionally, we get dogs that have been surrendered by loving owners who, for various reasons, can no longer keep them, and who know CDR is dedicated to finding good homes. We often place the dogs with experienced dachshund owners because the breed is not for everyone.

Dachshunds are loyal, loving and intelligent, but they can also be stubborn, sometimes putting their own comfort before their desire to please you. Their inclination to pee inside, for example, where it's warm, instead of outside in the cold, rain, snow or wind, does not make them a good match for people who are especially proud of their white carpets! Dachshunds can be trained, of course, but it takes time and patience. And not all prospective owners research the breed thoroughly before acquiring a dachshund. They aren't prepared for its loud bark, breed-specific health issues (its short stature can lead to back problems and large vet bills), or its strong instinct to kill the family guinea pig (it was bred as a hunting dog). Dachshunds, furthermore, love to play, but children must be taught the proper way to pick them up.

Hard-core dachshund enthusiasts will overlook these quirks. We also tend to be angry with irresponsible owners. I was sickened when a young stray came into CDR with deep scars on his snout from having it held shut with either a rubber band or a wire tie. Dachshunds bark--that's a fact. Another time, a dog had a case of mange so bad that it almost died. How does an owner allow that to happen when mange is easily treatable? If a person can't afford health care for their pet, including spaying or neutering, then they shouldn't have one. And of course, CDR will continue to exist until puppy mills are shut down for good.

The driving force behind my passion for rescuing dachshunds is their tenacious capacity to rebound from whatever traumatic experience humans toss their way. I've picked up petrified dachshunds from shelters again and again, only to hear weeks later from their foster and adoptive families how well they've adjusted and how much joy they bring to their new owners. I've never seen a "broken" dachshund. Why these dogs would still love people after what they go through never ceases to amaze me, but they do. This is why I work hard to find the loving, forever homes they deserve.

For more information about Canadian Dachshund Rescue (Ontario), visit: http://www.wienerdogrescue.com

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