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Woman Sacrifices Everything to Save Hundreds of Dogs in Need
Photo: Helene Wirt

Have you ever adopted a rescue dog? If you haven’t, you are missing out! Adopting a dog, any dog, is exciting and you form a bond with your canine companion very quickly. Adopting a rescue dog is so much better than that. You’re not just giving a home to a wiggly happy puppy that has other options; you’re giving a home to a dog with no other options.

The magic of that cannot be written in words. Helen Wirt found that out nearly 20 years. In 1997 she lost her father and went through a devastating divorce from her husband. But that year she was also given Baldwin, a mixed breed dog in need of a loving home.

RELATED: Pros and Cons of Neutering or Spaying Your Dog

Woman Sacrifices Everything to Save Hundreds of Dogs in Need
Photo: Helene Wirt

Baldwin gave Wirt the same thing that rescue dogs have been giving their adoptive owners – an overwhelming feeling of love and affection. She’s been chasing that feeling for nearly two decades now; giving up her previous lifestyle to save hundreds of dogs in need.

Wirt calls her home, located in San Ramon, Costa Rica, “Dogland,” and she has more than a few furry friends. Currently, there are more than 240 dogs residing at Dogland. Of course, she can’t tend to all of those dogs herself. Staff and volunteers help Wirt make sure that every dog in her care has medical exams, is vaccinated, fed, spayed or neutered and entertained.

Dogland is mostly funded by Wirt’s own savings that she’s been collecting throughout her life. Originally from Austria, Wirt worked for the Austrian government for years and then started her own tax-consulting firm. In 1991 she moved to Costa Rica, and since 1997 has been spending most of her money on dogs in need.

“I could live a leisurely and also very comfortable life, if I had to just take care of me, but I do not know how I would live luckier.” – Helene Wirt

Woman Sacrifices Everything to Save Hundreds of Dogs in Need
Photo: Helene Wirt

Some of the dogs do get adopted by families looking for a canine companion, but Wirt says that she only allows them to go to adopters that will give the dog a better life than the one they have at Dogland. As you can imagine, there aren’t too many dogs that get adopted out.

Backyard breeding is an epidemic in Costa Rica. So is the bias against mutts and stray dogs. Wirt says that many people illegally breed dogs to supplement their income so they don’t have to work outside the home. Although it may be worse in Costa Rica than in other parts of the world, irresponsible canine breeding is a problem everywhere.

Irresponsible breeders don’t understand the genetics of breeding, and if they do they just don’t care. Genetic diseases and hereditary conditions can be passed down to pups from either parent. Sometimes these health problems aren’t noticeable until adulthood.

RELATED: Cost of Owning a Dog: What Every Potential Pet Parent Should Know

Woman Sacrifices Everything to Save Hundreds of Dogs in Need
Photo: Helene Wirt

Unsuspecting potential pet parents purchase a puppy and don’t realize until it’s too late that the breeder was irresponsible and bred dogs with poor genetics. Irresponsible breeders don’t worry about the homes that their puppies are going to either. As long as the person pays for the dog, they don’t care where the pup ends up.

Sometimes these puppies end up with animal abusers, in homes that do not provide proper care for the dog, and sometimes they may even end up being involved in dog fighting rings. As important as it is for a potential pet parent to screen breeders, it’s just as important for breeders to screen the people adopting their pups.