Bree Norton, a wonderful lady from Australia, spent as volunteer in October 2009 some time with the dogs and she is now one of my best friends. You can contact her for any questions in case you want to volunteer or want to help us with the website or want to help us to get more donations or are interested in our Sponsorship program. We really need this help.
Please take also a look at our page Sponsorship
We want to start a program to help people to get healthy again with the help of a dog. A dog makes us happy and heals our soul. Our body will be healthy with a healthy soul! Please ask for more information. We have guestrooms in our house. Our environment is peace and you will come to a family.
Bree Norton wrote an article about my work:
“In Costa Rica you will be hard pressed to find a person more generous and caring than Helene Wirt. Helene has lived in the small town of Piedades Sur de San Ramon, approximately 65kms west of the capital, for the better part of 18 years. A large portion of that time has been dedicated to caring for Costa Rica’s canine inhabitants. At the time of writing Helene was caring for 90 dogs. That is not a typographical error although it would be easy to assume as much. Helene takes dogs off the streets or off owners that can no longer care for them or are neglecting them and gives them love, care, attention and also importantly food, shelter, vaccinations and any medical attention that is required. The dogs are spread between her two properties which are only half a mile down the road from each other. The dogs are separated into spacious pens, each with play equipment and a shelter where every dog has its very own bed. There are between 25 and 30 dogs that live with Helene in and around her house, a lucky 10 or so that are allowed the run of the house and an even luckier few that share her bed of a night.
Helene and her husband moved to Costa Rica from Austria in 1991 to retire and live a quieter, simpler life in the lovely Costa Rican climate. A few years later Helene and her husband divorced and a friend gave Helene an abandoned dog, her first ever, for comfort and companionship. Helene became so enamored with the dog she named Baldwin, and now dogs all over Costa Rica are reaping the rewards. Not only does Helene (now 63 but with the exuberance and energy of someone decades younger) provide a loving home for the dogs on her property, she is also known amongst locals as the ‘go-to’ person for all dog related matters. She is called upon to taxi other people’s pets to and from the vet, particularly for spaying and neutering which Helene subsidizes and is a big advocate of. Others might call upon her to nurse their dog back to health from an ailment or to help them find a home for their or a friends now unwanted dog. Helene’s huge heart means she can rarely say no and is constantly looking for ways to improve and expand her properties to accommodate more of the dogs she loves so much.
Caring for 95 dogs creates more work than one person can cope with. So as well as taking on volunteers, Helene also has some paid, dog loving staff. I came into contact with Helene through a house sitting website. She had placed an advertisement for someone to come and live with her, free of charge, in exchange for helping her with the dogs and the general chores that consume all of her time and her energy. Helene takes genuine pleasure in the work she does and when a dog is suffering Helene also feels their pain. The dogs are also where she gets her energy and zest for life and they love her equally in return. Helene recognizes a different personality and endearing qualities in each of her dogs and knows them all by name. In the three weeks I spent with Helene I was so overcome by her generosity and her fierce love for these animals that I have been moved to help her in any way that I can.
Helene has been entirely self funded since setting up and has recently undergone the administrative necessities to become an official and registered not for profit organization, called ‘Association Elena –Dogs They Found Me. An adoption program exists and Helene has adopted out dozens of dogs to owners and homes that meet her rigorous screening criteria. Another arm of the organization that is only now getting off the ground is Helene’s dog sponsorship program. This program will allow Helene to keep her dogs in the manner to which they have become accustom while affording others the opportunity to ‘own’ a dog without all the day to day chores of actually owing one. For between US$10 – $20 per month, sponsors will be provided with photos and updates of their dog and of course are welcome in Costa Rica at any time to meet their pooch. Sponsorship is perfect for dog lovers whose circumstance or living arrangements make it impossible for them to own a dog or for anyone wanting to support a fantastic woman doing a self less and thank less job.
My hope for Helene is that people will jump aboard her sponsorship program and she will receive the financial assistance needed to keep her operation running. Helene lives in a stunning part of the world, from her balcony you can look across mountains and valleys and see the Pacific Ocean in the distance. At times clouds roll in across the valley and envelope the house. When they clear the greens and browns of the mountains and the blue of the sky feel therapeutic just to look at. My other hope for Helene is that she receives enough support to be able to take some time to enjoy these beautiful surroundings herself.”
You see from the letter of Bree that I had in 2009 90 dogs, now in 2013 we have more than 210 dogs!
LETTERS FROM 2013
“I am writing on behalf of a special person, Helene Wirt of Dogland (Asociación Elena – perros que me encontraron) in San Ramon de Alajuela, Costa Rica. By now you have heard her background from Helene and others. I will begin with February 2011 when I discovered Helene and Dogland on the Internet while looking for a meaningful place to volunteer in support of animal welfare. Helene and I corresponded for several months before my first visit in January 2012. Wow!!! Within minutes, I knew that I had met one of those rare people who dedicates her life and heart to her passion, regardless of the obstacles. I was most impressed by Helene’s unflagging energy 24/7 in helping the dogs of Costa Rica. She primarily aids the dogs in the San Ramon area, but also responds to SOS calls from as far away as the Pacific Coast and the border with Nicaragua. Animal welfare in the USA is in a sickeningly sad state, while Costa Rica has those same problems and more. Even the Costa Rican dogs who have homes are treated poorly. Many small dogs (under 15 pounds) spend their lives chained to front gate with no shelter, no water, and only a few scraps of food to keep the “watchdog” alive. Sadly, the dogs without homes know only the most terrible of conditions. Helene helps them as best that she can with her limited resources.
Although Helene is widely-known for her willingness to provide shelter, food, and medical care for homeless dogs, she is also the person who the residents call when a dog is injured or found nearly starved to death. The veterinary fees come from her purse without hesitation. I saw the miracle of her strength with a sick puppy who was hours from death with parvovirus. Many might have chosen to euthanize thereby sparing the expense and energy of trying to save a “hopeless puppy” – one of many thousands so why bother. Not Helene!!! Within two days, the puppy was eating, walking, and smiling again; he grew into a beautiful, happy dog only because Helene did not give up when there was any hope. Sadly, not all the “tails” end as happily and Helene understands when the most humane treatment is a final trip to the veterinarian.
Helene’s tireless support of spay/neuter is the most powerful and far-reaching effect that she has on Costa Rican dog welfare. She is persistent, but polite, when convincing the local dog owners to spay/neuter their dogs. She will transport to and from the vet, paying for the procedure if necessary. If the dog owners cannot properly care for the dogs during their recovery, Helene takes the dogs to her house for supervised care until they are ready to return to their owners. No More Puppies!
Helene has many friends with the common goal of helping the dogs (and cats!). None gives more of themselves and their resources than Helene. She could have retired comfortably, gracefully, and elegantly to her lovely property in Costs Rica. Instead she devotes her every minute, every spare colon, every thought to her dogs and the ones to come, as they certainly will. When I first learned of Helene in early 2011, the Dogland population was 143 dogs. Now she has over 200 dogs to care for; most will remain with her for the remainder of their lives because good homes are few and far between! She does adopt the dogs to new owners when possible, but only after intense scrutiny and follow up visits.
Helene also can tell you not only the name but the detailed story of each of the dogs at Dogland! She may not know their birthdate, but she can tell you everything from when she first encountered the dog. The dogs at the larger facility (“The Land”) live happily in huge fenced pens in “family groups” – usually about six dogs per family, but ranging from 2 to 8, depending on how many need to be housed and their ability to co-exist. Each family group has a small house in which they take shelter. In the house, each dog has a bed for sleeping. These family houses (about the size of a roomy garden shed) were built over several years as the Dogland population increased. Many of the family houses are in need of renovation, although they are always safe and secure for the dogs. Helene also has about 40 dogs in the fenced yards surrounding her house with a dozen VERY lucky dogs running in and out of her house!
My apologies for the long letter. I intended to write a BRIEF endorsement of Helene Wirt and Dogland, but Helene’s good works and accomplishments cannot be summarized easily. She carries a large burden on her shoulders and in her heart. I have never met a person like Helene. She gives her love equally to the 200+ dogs in her care, and still able to make room for another one, and another, and then yet another. She is a gem and is the best friend that a dog could ever hope to have!!!”
Coco Strayer Apex, North Carolina
“My dear friend, Helene Wirt lives in Costa Rica and has over 200 dogs she has saved from certain death. Her love and compassion for animals has grown, over the years, to heal and find homes for many, many fortunate dogs. Those she cannot house, for she has a limit, she assists with neutering/spaying, mange and other treatments at the vets. Some owners are unable to afford the vet services, Helene so generously has paid for their care.With the non-profit foundation, Queridos Perros AsoElena, translation, Elena associated beloved dogs, she is now able to receive donations from friends and other concerned donors. If you could see it possibly, to help her with a donation, it would be so appreciated. As I am sure you know, there is always more work to do with maintaining the facilities at the Dogland. She has such a beautiful setting, with large pins, lots of running space, clean and well taken care of areas for the dogs. The houses where the dogs sleep at night are in need of rebuilding because they are aging rapidly in the tropical climate.
Helene will be 70 years old, soon, and is needing to hire another worker, so she can cut back on some of her work hours. Workers are easy to find and do not cost a lot in Costa Rica. So, the donations go farther and do more in this country. Thank you for your consideration.”
Mae Worth, USA
A proud donor and dog owner.
“I would like to tell you about my dear friend Helene Wirt who runs a dog rescue operation in Costa Rica called Asociación Elena – Perros que me encontraron (dogs who found me).
Helene is one of the hardest working and most unselfish people I have ever met.
I volunteered to help her in any way I could while living in Costa Rica and I have seen her in action; caring for every single dog she encounters with every last piece of her heart and soul. I have also seen her talk to people in order to help them through educating them, as well as help them by taking action. She helped me bring back my three dogs, which I found in Costa Rica and also took in a dog, which I rescued from the streets and was later adopted by a wonderful family.
Helene never wants to turn anyone or dog away but unfortunately, her financial situation is strained and she is in desperate need of some extra man/woman power. She has been working so hard for so long and fears what may come of the amazing sanctuary that she has created for these beautiful, deserving creatures should she not be able to continue on as she has been.
I invite you to look at her website and see for yourself what amazing things she has done in the face of adversity. I have always said Helene is fighting a one woman battle against many and I wish nothing more than for her to be able to continue on her journey and gain strength through numbers and the creation of programs to help educate the people of Costa Rica.
Thank you so much for your time and please feel free to contact me with any questions you may have about Helene or her association.”
Alexandra Whittey, USA
Kronenzeitung in Österreich:
THE DODO, UNITED STATES 2016