By Marci Narum | Submitted Photos

denise

Denise Ziegler

As a Realtor®, Denise Ziegler finds homes for families in the Bismarck-Mandan area. As an animal lover, she does the same for homeless animals. It started four years ago, with a sick little dachshund named Lucky.

“My friend, Brenda Smith called and said, ‘I need your help. There’s a dachshund at the pound. She’s not eating, she’s not drinking, and no one is claiming her. Can you go get her?’

“Lucky was a black and tan,” Denise explains. “Filthy and matted, but she was a little lover.”

Denise rescued Lucky, took her to the vet for a checkup and vaccinations, and found her a new home within one week. Since then, Denise has rescued several dogs, including three other little wiener dogs, two of which were going to be euthanized.

“I love all dogs, but dachshunds just steal your heart. They are tenacious and stubborn and cute, and fun to play with. But there are a lot of them in rescue. If you don’t train them, they can become a problem.”

Denise knows, because dachshunds have been part of her life for a long time.  Her most recent is Roxee, whom she adopted through North Dakota Animals in Need (NDAIN). And that was even after Roxee bit her when they first met. Denise still has a tiny scar on her left hand.

“I couldn’t get her out of the crate, so I said, ‘can I take the crate too?’” Denise laughs. “I brought her home, and she’s come a long way in two-and-a-half years.”

Denise went on to foster dogs for NDAIN. She also made room in her home for Gypsy, a Border collie-golden retriever cross she rescued from abuse and neglect, plus many rescued cats that now live in her barn with her four horses. The vet bills over the years have added up, but Denise has no idea what she has spent rescuing and re-homing animals over the years; she has never kept track. That was never the point.

“There is no sense in adding more unwanted dogs into the world. I can’t have human children so this was maybe God’s plan, for me to help out the four-legged ones when I can.”

The downside: Denise has said goodbye to many dogs that have found a home after finding a place in her heart.

“It’s hard letting them go. But I can’t keep them all. And if I do, there’s not room to rescue another one.

“For me, it’s all about them getting a forever home, Denise says. “I just want to get them to be the best little dog they can be so they can find the best home, where they’ll be forever.”