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Last Updated:
3/15/2022 11:23 AM


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Nov 25, 2001

Residents coming to the aid of neglected animals
By CHARITA M. GOSHAY Repository staff writer

25 Rescue
Repository / Bob Rossiter

ONE PET AT A TIME. Robin Aufderheide of Canton holds Toby, a Chihuahua she said she acquired from a commercial dog breeder who had no more use for him. Aufderheide is a rescuer, one of several area people who find homes for unwanted animals.

CANTON -- Toby’s lower jaw is missing. So are his teeth. He has flat feet and a dislocated breastbone.

He probably weighs less than a hoagie.

Robin Aufderheide thinks he’s the most beautiful dog in the world.

Aufderheide said she rescued the 9-year-old Mexican Chihuahua in March from a commercial breeder, or what she calls a “puppy mill,” in Missouri.

“He’s lived all his life in cage. That’s why his feet are flat,” she explained. “He was just used for breeding.”

Aufderheide recently found Toby a home in Norton.

When she is not working, Aufderheide spends most of her spare time, and a good chunk of her money, caring for animals that have been discarded by someone else.

Robin Aufderheide is a rescuer.

Stark County is home to at least a dozen animal rescue groups, most of them mom-and-pop organizations started by people who say they do it simply because they love animals.

They’re aided in their mission through an informal network of veterinarians, pet stores, and kennels.

The animals “need a chance,” Aufderheide said. “They don’t have anybody to speak for them. They didn’t ask to be born.”

Aufderheide, founder of Wolf Spirit’s Animal Rescue, has been rescuing and finding homes for unwanted and abused animals since 1977, when she acquired an abused German shepherd puppy.

She recently bought five acres and a barn in East Sparta, where she said she plans to build a shelter to house 150 to 200 animals.

Aufderheide is not a rich woman. Though she charges an adoption fee, it barely covers the cost for the animals’ care, including food, veterinarian visits, spaying and neutering.

For now, the dining room of her two-story home serves as a makeshift “orphanage” for 10 toy-breed dogs, many of which, Aufderheide said, have special needs: Dogs with lupus, epilepsy, severe skin conditions, bad hearts.

“Whatever it takes, you do it,” she said. “They depend on you to make them well again.”

Though Aufderheide isn’t opposed to euthanizing animals because of illness, she refuses to euthanize an animal simply because it isn’t wanted.

Aufderheide said people often don’t realize what an enormous commitment comes with owning a pet. Puppies bought as presents can wind up dumped and deserted when owners realize they’re not ready to care for a dog.

Aufderheide said she has gone to people’s homes to confront them about animal neglect. Once, when she yelled at a man for beating his two dogs, the man came after her.

“Our Ohio laws are not tough enough when it comes to animal cruelty,” she said.

Aufderheide gets help from her family, especially her daughter Jennifer Algeri, who remembers helping her mother rescue animals as a child.

“It’s always been about helping animals,” she said. 


Tobi did not find a forever home and WolfSpirit's land deal fell through, as the property owner changed their minds.

'Puppy mills' among issues that need addressed
The Review

  dog saver
Review Photo/Ed Hall Jr.
Kim Morrow, holding her miniature dachshund, Mandy, is working in the Alliance area to bring awareness about cruelty to animals. She is a volunteer with the Wolf Spirits Animal Shelter in Canton.

If Kim Morrow had her way, the organization for which she volunteers her time would be extinct for lack of business.
But she knows better, so she continues to spread the word about animal cruelty with the zeal of a missionary.
“If you are interested in animal cruelty there are many things to be addressed,” she said. “We are just trying to get people’s attention.”
Morrow always has loved animals, but her involvement in rescuing those who are not so loved began last fall after reading an article in a newspaper about an animal rescue group.
She called the organization in Canton to volunteer her time, and since then has been the unofficial Alliance representative and a vocal spokesman for the group.
Morrow has learned all about unscrupulous pet stores, how “puppy mills” work, the tactics of “backyard breeders,” the use of animals for experimentation, and how certain “pets for sale” advertising may threaten the health of animals.
The group with which she volunteers is Wolf Spirits Animal Shelter, a nonprofit organization in Canton run by Robin Aufderheide.
“There are many rescue groups in the area,” she said, “and they work to collect dogs from abusive situations, from ‘puppy mills,’ strays and sometimes we will take in animals after a death in a family.”
She said too many animals live and are bred in undesirable conditions, and she has learned the details of such conditions through her involvement with Wolf Spirits.
Morrow said “puppy mills” are breeding factories for some pet stores.  "They are not a good things because of what they do to dogs," she said.  "The dogs live in cages in horrible conditions.  Often cages are stacked on top of one another and the dogs below become covered with urine and feces, and they have little medical care."
  The mothers breeds and that's all and some never see life outside of their cage,"  she said.  "They are bred as fast as they can and the puppies shipped out to be sold."
   She said there are no "puppy mills" in the area, as far as she knows.
  "Don't get me wrong, " she said, "there are reputable pet stores, but if you see a cute little puppy that developed medical problems after you bring it home you have to wonder."
  Another concern, she said, is what she calls "backyard breeders."  These private individuals house numerous dogs for breeding purposes.
  How do people tell if they are buying a dog from a backyard breeder as opposed to a legitimate breeder?   "Ask to see the papers  if it is a purebred dog," she said, "and if they don't let you see the dogs' living conditions or let you take the pick of the litter, you should be suspicious."
  Morrow also cautions against putting ads in the newspaper offering "dog (or cat) free to good home."
  "Sometimes these "free" pets are picked up for experimentation purposes," she said.  "You really don't know what type of home they'll be going to."
  To discourage that practice, she said it is better to charge a small amount.  "If someone want a pet they will still pay $20,"  she said.
  Morrow spends time posting informative flyers in stores all around town to tell about the rescue shelter and to encourage people  to get their pets spayed and neutered.
"It (spaying and neutering) is not free so we also are trying to get organizations involved to help defray the cost for those owners who can't afford it,"  Morrow said.
  Morrow said after a dog is brought to the WolfSpirit's Animal rescue the animals are taken to vets, given immunizations, provided dental work if needed, fed and cared for before they are put up for adoption.
   For those who do not want a lifelong commitment to an animal, the shelter offers a temporary foster care program until a permanent home can be found.
  "If more people knew about it maybe it would happen more often,"  she said.
  She said the shelter welcomes donations in the form of collars, blankets, food or "anything to help with the upkeep of animals," she said.

Posted on Sat, Mar. 20, 2004

Oddball toy pooches find refuge

Akron woman exits rat race for work with WolfSpirit's

Beacon Journal

Janet Weitzel-Janca had been climbing the corporate ladder when she was stricken with breast cancer four years ago. It seems like yesterday that the health food sales rep was undergoing radiation and chemotherapy -- and her perspective changed forever.

``I spent a lot of time soul-searching and hanging out with my pets,'' she said. ``My dog and two cats were always at my side, a great source of comfort. But they were older and I knew they weren't going to be around long.

``I knew I might not be, either.''

Speck the Dalmatian, Bill the brown tabby and Helen, the gray and white cat all passed on.

But Weitzel-Janca prevailed.

The experience gave the Highland Square resident clarity about the direction of her life. She could continue her climb and make a lot of money, or she could dig in and help these mystical creatures for a different kind of reward entirely.

She chose the latter and began exploring her options, eventually linking up with a small grass-roots rescue operation named WolfSpirit's Animal Shelter, a 501(c)3 charity that finds homes for castaways, abused and neglected toy breeds, especially from junkyard breeders and puppy mills.

When it comes to toys, less is more, she insists, her four small pooches perched on the back of the sofa in the afternoon sun.

``I couldn't rescue as many if they were big,'' she said. Three of them are wearing little sleeper jammies. It is a comical sight. They snooze until someone jostles the pile, reshuffle, settle and go to sleep again. They are sweet, docile, content -- and did I say different?

Crested pooch pair

Take Lenny and Jack, for example, an unusual looking pair of pooches from any aspect. It's their job, as Chinese cresteds, to be hairless and inform the citizenry that not all dogs are arfing, walking carpets.

Readers may be asking themselves what the breeders were thinking when they cooked up a recipe of 6- to 13-pound hairless dogs back in the Han Dynasty in 200 B.C. Well, they were probably thinking that hairless dogs provide few places for fleas to hide, but they were forgetting that this delicate skin is vulnerable to the ravages of the sun. In any event, Chinese merchants were soon shipping hairless dogs everywhere.

There are two varieties. Most Chinese cresteds have hair on their heads, tails and paws. The ``crested'' part refers to their topknots. Lenny and Otis were somehow cheated of these. The second type of Chinese crested is the Powder Puff. These dogs have a more traditional coat of fine silky hair.

Owners of hairless cresteds should prepare for a typical life span of 15-16years of questions such as, What happened to your dog? and, Is your dog undergoing chemotherapy?

That doesn't mean they don't have stature. Hairless dogs are depicted on the tombs of the Egyptian pharaohs. The joke is that they are party dogs because they come in a palette of colors that include pink, lilac and blue.

Lenny and Jack came into WolfSpirit's from a junk breeder who didn't want them anymore, said Weitzel-Janca. The breeder kept Lenny pregnant until she had to have a Caesarean, then tossed her aside. She and Jack had grown up together and were inseparable.

Internet placement

WolfSpirit's nursed them back to health and put them up as adoptable with their pictures on the Internet. They languished there for seven months, until Janet and her husband, Chris, a finish carpenter, brought them home. ``We were going to foster them, but once they were here, we fell in love with them,'' she said. ``Now they are going nowhere.''

Lenny is no spring chicken at 10, but she is a model Chinese crested. She has ears the size of footballs. She looks like Yoda. As is so typical of puppy mill dogs, she had never seen a vet. WolfSpirit's had her rotten teeth pulled and she feels better now.

Lenny has a tiny tremor when she's nervous and barks like a grandma who has been smoking for 40 years. She likes to be close and can sit motionless a hair away from Weitzel-Janca's face with great aplomb.

Lenny's sidekick, Jack, is quirky even for a Chinese crested, a drama queen who screams if you touch his back legs. Otherwise, he is joyful, especially after a walk outside. You see, Jack recently unlocked the secret to the great outdoors -- it's a potty! ``When he comes in, he runs through the house, happy, he's so proud of himself,'' she said.

The couple's third Chinese crested is the chocolate-colored Otis, who came to them through the Medina County Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. ``Otis is nonchalant, casual, playful. He lopes like a greyhound,'' she said. ``The first time I saw him, he ran and ran and ran, and then he slept for 11 hours.''

Socks is their charcoal and white shih tzu who thinks he's a crested. The couple found him on www.petfinder.com -- a great place for readers to look for adoptable dogs -- before they joined WolfSpirit's. Socks had been hit by a car, had a broken pelvis and broken leg. ``His owners were going to put him to sleep,'' Weitzel-Janca said. ``We said no problem, we'll take him.''

WolfSpirit's start

WolfSpirit's began as a family-run rescue in the early '90s and has about 26 animals in foster care locally, according to Robin Aufderheide, president and founder. The rescue is not breed-specific and has a group of 15 volunteers who have placed dogs, cats, turtles, ducks and chickens in happy homes, pulling animals from puppy mills and auctions.

The group is hoping to build an animal shelter in the future and would be grateful for the donation of a storefront that is not currently being used. WolfSpirit's also needs volunteers, donations and a grant writer.

Readers can log onto www.wolfspiritsrescue.com for detailed information on how to help. 

``I don't care about climbing the corporate ladder anymore,'' said Weitzel-Janca. ``Working with animals is so much more peaceful. I have more energy and more drive because I feel more purposeful. This is a beautiful life.''









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