Woman Gives Up Everything To Save Hundreds Of Dogs
Nowadays, she cares for upwards of 200 stray and abandoned dogs at a time, but for the first 50 years of her life, she never owned a single dog.
That changed with Baldwin.
It was 1997, a year that Helene Wirt both lost her father and divorced her husband, but it was also the same year that she was given Baldwin, a dog in need of a loving home.
"He saved and changed my life," Wirt told The Dodo. "I cannot explain what was going on inside me. Maybe I felt beloved [for] the first time in my life."
Whatever emotion it was that Wirt was feeling, she decided to chase it, and for the next 19 years, she's worked every single day to save the lives of hundreds of dogs.
"Dogland" is the name Wirt has given her home in San Ramon, Costa Rica, and these are her dogs ... well, a few of them.
Although her original rescue, Baldwin, has since passed away, Dogland is currently home to 244 dogs whom Wirt cares for on a daily basis.
She doesn't do it alone. As operations have grown over the past years, so have the hands on deck. Along with staff and volunteers, Wirt has organized for each and every dog who goes through Dogland to be fed, medically examined, vaccinated, spayed or neutered and, of course, thoroughly entertained.
Below is one of the many photos of Wirt using a hands-on approach for ensuring the happiness of her dog family.
Wirt funds most of the project with the savings she's built up over her life. Born in Austria, Wirt studied finance and worked for the Austrian government for several years before starting her own tax-consulting firm. She moved to Costa Rica in 1991, and since 1997, most of her money goes to caring for the dogs who come her way.
She's not rich. Between daily supplies and medical treatment, the bills add up, but that doesn't stop Wirt from living generously.
"I could live a leisurely and also very comfortable life, if I had to just take care of me," she said. "But I do not know how I would live luckier."
She considers the dogs family, and only gives the dogs to adopters if they will have a better life than the one they have at Dogland.
Between the backyard breeding in Costa Rica and the biases against strays and mutts, Wirt believes that Dogland is a better home for the dogs than some of the alternatives. "In Costa Rica, many people are illegally reproducing dogs [in order to not] have to go work or to have a good additional income," said Wirt.
While the operation is massive for one person to lead, Wirt has no delusion about how much more needs to be done for dogs across the world.
"What I am doing is just a drop in the bucket," she said Wirt. "I cannot change the world, but on the other hand, the world is changing for the dog I can help. In this sense it is worth everything."
If you believe in the work that Wirt does every day, consider donating to Dogland through her PayPal account or inquiring her about volunteer opportunities the next time you're in Costa Rica. You can find her more information on her website here.