Akron woman exits rat race for work with WolfSpirit's
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.
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 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.''