Albert Lea native pens book on animals, lives they change

Published 9:07 am Saturday, March 14, 2009

An Albert Lea native has captured the love, meaning, consolation, humor and joy people receive from their animals in the form of a book.

Karin Winegar, now of St. Paul, is the author of “Saved: Rescued Animals and the Lives They Transform.” She will be signing copies of her book starting at 11 a.m. Saturday, March 21, at Book World in Northbridge Mall.

Winegar said she and photographer Judy Olausen, a fellow animal lover, wanted to document that reciprocal relationship some people have with their animals.

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“I also am saddened at suffering caused by the lack of compassion and the irresponsibility that some Americans display toward animals. So I wanted to write about people who are inspiring examples of taking responsibility and doing the right thing whether for one animal or for dozens or even thousands,” Winegar said. “And we found them abundantly from coast to coast.”

The process was a lengthy one. “It took five years from concept to publication, not because the writing takes that long or the photography but because the photographer and I would go to a location, do the work on two or three stories from that area and then go back to our jobs for awhile,” she said. “We did this book at our own expense, taking the risk that love of animals is a universal thing and that our subject was worth it.”

Winegar said what really took longest was finding the right literary agent — they went through several — who then found the right publisher (Da Capo Press of Cambridge, Mass.).

While they waited for a contract, Winegar used the time to contact other writers and notable people to contribute “blurbs” and among those are Brigitte Bardot, Matthew Scully (presidential speech writer) and novelist Jim Harrison.

“I also used that time to send the manuscript and samples of the photos to Dr. Jane Goodall and Dr. Temple Grandin, who both graciously agreed to write the foreword and the preface,” she said.

The stories in “Saved” reveal how rescued pets manage to do a bit of “rescuing” themselves. For some of the humans in these stories, their animals seem to understand them in a way no person could, like Chance and Hope, three-legged Great Pyrenees who comfort the residents of a nursing home in Rochester. For others, the rescued animals give life a sense of meaning — such as Phil, who was down on his luck when he found an orphaned fawn and took him in, nursing him with a bottle and naming him Li’l Buck. Today, when Phil goes out to the woods and calls Li’l Buck, he comes running to take walks with him, a press release stated.

Winegar said growing up in Albert Lea when she did allowed her to enjoy the animals she craved. “My family had dachshunds, tropical fish, hamsters and parakeets. We were on the edge of town and it was very inexpensive then to keep a pony and a horse or two just a mile away at Bob Peterson’s barn in the winter and Palma and Peter Olsons’ pasture in summer (both were opposite where Brookside School is now),” she said.

Winegar was in 4-H and showed horses at the Freeborn County Fairgrounds. She rode her horses to Shoreland Heights beach and rode in the Sunset Saddle Club parade on July 4. In winter, she hitched her great-grandmother’s sleigh to her horse and drove through the snowy streets of Shoreland Heights and over the Country Club golf course.

She said there were a lot of little girls with ponies and horses hanging around barns then. “We rode bareback and free everywhere from the gravel pit to the little store and swam them in the channel, and made harnesses for our ponies out of baling twine and towed ourselves around on toboggans or used a lariat tied to a Flying Saucer and wrapped around the horn of a saddle. It was heaven for an animal-loving child,” Winegar recalled.

She said she has always been happiest with animals and find they have all the virtues of humans and none of the vices.

“My paternal grandfather, an Iowa farmer, was a horseman and loved and raised all kinds of animals. And some of my mother’s family really dote on cats and dogs,” Winegar said.

She now has six horses, two cats and a large mixed-breed dog. The dog lives with the horses at a friend’s home near Hugo, north of St. Paul.

“I ride them, drive a wagonette in summer and a bobsled in winter with my team, and am a member of the Long Lake Hounds, a drag hunt — no foxes, no killing, just beauty, tradition, excitement and unbelievable exercise,” she said.

Winegar said feedback on her book has been very positive.

“There are nothing but heartfelt raves for the book from everyone,” she said.

“‘Saved’ is a very emotionally uplifting and moving book. As Jane Goodall and others have said, it makes you laugh and it makes you cry. It’s also a good read; one mother told me she and her 12-year-old son take turns reading the stories aloud to each other,” Winegar said.

“A Minneapolis reader named Becky wrote to me: ‘I am not typically a sentimental person about animals. I am privately quite emotional about them, but am concerned often about people who project things that aren’t there onto animals for their own neediness. I often avoid animal writing because it can be cloyingly sentimental.

“‘Your book is hitting exactly the right note for me. Clearly passionate and emotional but not maudlin — loving the animals for exactly who and what they are. That is so rare, I am very impressed.’”

She is very happy with the way things turned out. “It was totally unplanned that we would get to share stories from such a range of good people — not just from coast to coast but people of every education level and political persuasion, rich and poor, black and white, gay and straight, famous and obscure, old and young. But what unites them all is that care for animals and the understanding of how rescuing animals also rescues us!” Winegar said.

She added that Judy Olausen’s photos are stunning. My only wish is that they had even better, bigger display in ‘Saved,’” she said.

The book is available at Book World, at and Barnes & Noble stores, at independent booksellers and at the SweatShop workout studio (her sister Gayle’s business) on Snelling Avenue in St. Paul.

Winegar said this will not be her last book; she previously wrote a family history.

Winegar is an award-winning journalist who has written for many magazines and newspapers, including the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

Olausen is a renowned photographer whose New York Times bestselling book, “Mother,” was featured on “Oprah,” National Public Radio “The Today Show” and in People and Harper’s magazines.