I was the kid who spent all my allowance playing games at school fairs trying to win the goldfish, turtle, or whatever poor creature was the prize. I overheard my dad tell my mother after I brought home a sickly parakeet in a tiny cage, “Those games are rigged. Nobody ever wins. How is it she always comes home with some poor sick looking creature?”
I always won fair and square. The ping pong ball landed in the goldfish bowl or the ring tossed circled the square with a picture of the bird. I won the game and got to select which pet I wanted as my prize. I always picked the sickliest one in the tank or cage because I knew no one else would choose it. Maybe I could save it. I didn’t share this with my parents because they were already complaining they had to buy a bigger turtle bowl, a bigger cage, a bigger aquarium—a bigger creature residence. If they knew I picked a sick one they would have left it in the container I brought it home in figuring it was going to die anyway. They weren’t mean, just frugal.
Of course, once I found two baby mockingbirds that fell out of the nest and were in the grass. One was sickly and barely moving. The other one was hopping around and squawking. I put them both in a shoebox and the next morning the sick one was still alive and the one hopping around the day before was dead. The sick one lived for almost 20 years in a really big cage my dad made for it in our garage!
My dad always brought home stray dogs. He had the rescue mentality. We never had more than one dog at a time but we did have a dog, a duck, a chicken, and a parakeet all at the same time. Dad’s philosophy was ‘why pay for a dog when you can get a Heinz 57 for free?’ Heinz 57 was his endearing term for a mixed breed dog. My mother fed them and took care of them—constantly complaining. Don’t misunderstand, she loved animals, but she loved complaining a tad bit more so she was in heaven combining the two.
I didn’t get the rescue gene by accident.
Growing up we had no idea why anyone would pay for a dog. People would give us dogs or my dad would find them on the street but he always told my mother someone gave it to him. We weren’t schooled in specific breeds only that dogs were big, little, yappy, old, puppies, black, white, mean, and biting dogs. It was a total shock when I learned people paid a lot of money for some dogs (breeds) and even more money to have it vetted only to grow tired or bored with them and then give them away! They just didn’t give them away, they left them at animal shelters. The bigger shock was there wasn’t a line of people at the shelters waiting to adopt these dogs.
Rescue was a natural for me even before it was recognized. A man told me once, “Oh, you’re one of those rescuers and want to save them all.” While I wish I could save them all I really just wanted to save Schnauzers. I knew my limitations and at the time they were financial. Once the shelters knew I’d take a Schnauzer my name went on the underground Schnauzer Railroad. They gave my name to other shelters and to anyone who brought in a Schnauzer. Soon people would call me to take their Schnauzer they no longer wanted and didn’t want to feel bad by taking it to a shelter. Reasons ranged from the owner had to go into a nursing home (the only excuse I think is legit) to we’re going on vacation and can’t bring the dog, or it was just found as a stray trying to stay alive by eating out of our garbage cans and we can’t keep it. But before I became known as Schnauzer Rescue there was the first one. The first one that got me into what became my involvement with breed rescue was a little Schnauzer I found running along the highway. Her name was Schnitzel.
If I look back at a single event that got me into rescue it was Schnitzel. I found her running on the highway and brought her to the closest vet, which was my vet, to see if he recognized her or knew who she might belong to. I thought she was a puppy because even full grown she was only ten pounds.
The vet came out after his exam and said to me, “This little dog is a sad story. She’s in heat so hopefully, she isn’t pregnant because she has heartworms and really bad teeth. She looks to be no more than 3 years old. She’s covered in fleas, ticks, and tapeworms and she needs a groom. Someone probably put her out on that highway either to let her get hit by a car because they didn’t want to treat the heartworms or maybe they wanted someone to find her and take care of her. I’d like to think it’s the latter but over here, it’s probably the former.”
I asked, “What time can you have her ready to go home with me? I’ll take her. Give her a bath, shots and let’s get her scheduled for the heartworm treatments.”
“We can have her ready by 2:00 pm today, but don’t you want to go home and talk with your husband about it?” he asked.
“I will. Just get her ready. I’ll be back before you close.”
When I got home, I saw my husband working in the yard. I brought him out a cold beer and said, “I had a bad experience on my way home and it turns out to be a sad story.”
He stopped working and asked, “What sad story? What happened?”
“I almost hit a little Schnauzer running along Highway 22.” I could see the worried look on his face as I went on, “She was so small, I was lucky I got her in the car and took her over to the vet clinic. Dr. Bill said she’s in heat, has heartworms, and might even be pregnant. He thinks someone put her out on the highway to get hit so they didn’t have to treat her for the heartworms.”
“Go call them right now and tell them we’ll take her,” he said and tried to shoo me along to hurry and make the call.
“I told them to have her ready and I’d pick her up at 2:00 before they close.”
I named her Schnitzel because in German it means little chip. She was always small and never weighed more than the ten pounds she was when I found her. Holding her was like holding an infant whenever you picked her up because she was happy in the crook of your arm on her back. Once I bought a baby sling at a yard sale and carried her around in it. She looked like a Joey, a baby Kangaroo in a pouch.
She loved to go anywhere. I took her sailing and it turned cold and windy while we were out and I fashioned her a foul weather wind breaker out of a West Marine bag cutting a hole for her head and using the handles for her feet to step through keeping it close to her body. She wore it with her life vest when we were underway. She loved sailing and had quite the sea legs – four!
She was cat-like. She walked around on the back of my furniture and there wasn’t anyplace she couldn’t figure out how to jump to if she wanted to see something. She loved for me to dress her up for yappy hours at Jefferson Feed. Here is a picture of her in her Chanel suit and pillbox hat at the January AFTER FIVE even. She was quite the fashion plate and everyone loved her. Here she is with her escort Meaux!
Schnitzel was with me 13 years and she could have been as old as three when I found her. I thought she was only one-year-old because she was so small. She was cute, fun and an entertaining little dog.
In Loving Memory
1993 – 2006
How I went from two to four Schnauzers and then into rescue.