At times, Karin Winegar’s new book, “Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform,” is nearly unbearable. Anyone with a tender heart for animals is going to find these 28 stories about animals that have been abused, starved, abandoned or slated for certain death more than a little wrenching. The book (Da Capo Press, $25.95) is also absolutely riveting, but I wasn’t about to crack this one without knowing, going in, that each of these tales has a happy ending.
Winegar, whose byline you’ll remember from her 1978-1998 tenure at the Star Tribune, spent five years meeting with “animal nuts,” as she calls them (and herself) and recording their extraordinary stories. “I can talk to anyone about animals. People who care about animals come from every economic class, every race, political leaning, religious background. We might have nothing else in common, but if we both love animals, then we can talk,” she said.
Winegar will make three local appearances this weekend. (See below).
With photographer Judy Olausen, Winegar visited prisons, hospitals, rescue centers, animal shelters and homes. She heard stories about animals rescued, and about animals who rescued back. There’s the classic story of the family saved from a house fire by their dog here, and numerous emotional rescues: People who soothed broken hearts and bodies by spending time with animals.
“You might think that rescuing animals goes one way, but the truth is, they rescue us. So many people suffer from depression, loneliness, seriousness, lack of joy. But living with a pet, or working with animals, can heal so much of what is hurt and broken in our society,” she says.
Animals work wonders for inmates
It’s well known that humans who abuse animals are exponentially more likely to become violent criminals. But Winegar reverses that equation in a profile of an amazing prison that gives inmates the opportunity to care for animals. Recidivism rates there plummeted. Another chapter is devoted to a man who braved flooded New Orleans to rescue his dog.
Winegar visits two white Great Pyrenees dogs in a Rochester, Minn., nursing home and hospice. They were rescued from a ditch they’d been thrown into after extensive abuse. Now they heal the sick. In another, a man who lost his son to a heroin overdose carries on with the help of horses. Winegar has six horses (as well as a dog and cats) herself, and a number of these tales follow hoofed heroes. They are among the hardest to read.
“It is absolutely shocking the way that some humans treat animals. We are far from humane in so many ways, and I heard many, many terrible stories,” she said. “I just cried. And took notes.”
Winegar hopes her book will help alleviate animal suffering; she’s especially worried about how animals will fare in the hungry months ahead. “I saw people living in their cars outside of the Humane Society, begging us to take care of their animals,” she said. “People can barely feed themselves, and yet it tears them apart to have to give up their animals. For some people, that’s when they have nothing left.”
Saturday, Dec. 20:
11 a.m. Barnes & Noble, 2100 N. Snelling, Roseville
3 p.m.-4 p.m. Lake County Booksellers, 4766 Washington Square, White Bear Lake
Sunday, Dec. 21
1 p.m., The Bookcase, 607 Lake St. E., Wayzata.