Pamela Weiner, president of Dachshund Rescue South Florida, makes it clear her last name is merely a coincidence.
“It’s Weiner,” she says unbothered, as if she’s had to clarify this fact a hundred times already and she’s ready to do it a hundred more times. “It’s kind of funny 'cause it looks like "wiener" — wiener dogs, yeah.”
She’s getting ready for Wienerfest 2019, her organization's annual gathering of dachshunds in South Florida. The event will feature local vendors selling doggy merchandise, as well as food trucks. There will also be dachshund races, although other small breeds are welcome to compete.
“Obviously, we wouldn’t let a great dane be in the race against a Chihuahua,” Weiner says. “But it opens it up a little bit so there are options for people that don’t have purebred dachshunds.”
Wienerfest is sponsored by Dachshund Rescue South Florida, which operates about 60 foster homes for dachshunds from West Palm Beach to Miami. The focus on dachshunds, or small breeds in general, points to an issue affecting South Florida.
“Small dogs get bred a lot,” Weiner says. “It can be good money, and there’s not a lot of regulation, so people overbreed these dogs.”
Unfortunately, the dogs don’t always turn a profit for breeders, so many of the pups end up either in shelters or on the streets.
“We’re at 14 dogs already ten days into 2019,” Weiner says. “We’re already at more than one dog a day for 2019.”
The event will give DRSF a chance to find homes for some of these unlucky dogs, but the organization’s adoption process is more complex than those of other rescues.
“It’s not like other adoption events where you show up and there’s a bunch of dogs in a kennel; you go, ‘Oh my God, I love that one’; and then you take it home,” says Jennifer S. Hessley, treasurer of DRSF. “People put in their application, and they go into the screening process.”
During DRSF’s screening process, volunteers serve as matchmakers to pair families with dogs. Think of it like child services but with dachshunds. The screening process helps matchmakers decide whether someone is the right match for a dog in need. For a number of reasons, someone might not be the best match for a dog.
“A lot of times, people look at the website and be like, ‘Oh my God, look at that puppy. We totally want the puppy,’” Hessley says. “Then we talk to them a little bit, and they’re like, ‘Oh, yeah, no, we’re gone for 12 hours a day and we have a 2-year-old.’”
DRSF doesn’t want attendees to expect to leave Wienerfest with a new, furry friend — but attending the event could lead to it.
“Some people fill out applications after they meet a dog at an event because obviously it’s easier to fall in love with a dog in person than it is from a picture on a website,” Weiner says of their lengthy adoption process. “I feel once they’re a dachshund-rescued [DRSF] dog that it’s my responsibility to make sure these dogs don’t go through something like this again.”
In addition to finding homes for some of the dogs as well as raising money for the organization, DRSF wants Wienerfest to be a learning experience for all who attend.
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“People have an idea that rescue dogs are broken dogs,” Weiner says. “When people get to see them, they then understand that rescue dogs are just dogs that have been dealt a bad hand.”
Finally, the organization welcomes all breeds of dogs to attend Wienerfest.
“It’s an event to celebrate dachshunds, but it’s [also] an event to celebrate rescue,” Hessley says. “Anything with four legs and a tail is good in our book.”
Weinerfest 2019. 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, January 26, at T.Y. Park, 3300 N. Park Rd., Hollywood; dachshundrescuesouthflorida.com. Admission to Weinerfest is free; park entry costs $1.50 per person.