Wulf Beleites holds a copy of 'Kot&Köter,' which translates to 'Poop & Pooches,' a magazine for dog-haters.dpa/Associated Press
HAMBURG—In 1992, four journalists sat at a local pub and played a drunken game: What's the most absurd magazine title you can come up with?
After several rounds of Guinness, they agreed that in dog-crazy Germany a magazine devoted to dog haters would be pretty pointless. They even dreamed up a name: "Kot & Köter" in German, which translates to "Poop & Pooches."
For two decades, the magazine remained a joke—but one that got a lot of attention. One of the journalists, Wulf Beleites, trademarked the name—also a joke—and unexpectedly became a minor celebrity when the fictional title was reported in the German press. Between 1992 and 1998, he appeared as editor in chief of Kot & Köter on 18 local TV talk shows, despite the fact that the magazine didn't exist.
But suddenly today, Kot & Köter has become reality. Mr. Beleites, struggling to stay afloat in the wounded media business, decided to launch Kot & Köter for real—and it was a hit. The first issue, of 1,000 copies, sold out in days, and a further 1,750 copies were quickly printed. The second issue, published this month, contains a further 48 pages crammed with anti-dog material.
Wulf Beleites
The lead story is a satirical look at how to "Pimp Up Your Pooch." Another article is about kitschy dog cemeteries. A serialized novel features the case of a dog murderer who prowls the streets of Hamburg. Three poems, sent in by subscribers, lament the state of Germany's dog-soiled parks and beaches. A reviewer recommends a (fictional) restaurant that serves only dog-based dishes.
"There are two types of people in Germany," says Mr. Beleites, one of the original pub-goers and now full-time editor of Kot & Köter, "One type loves dogs. Another type doesn't. These are my readers."
Germany has 80 million people, five million dogs and at least a dozen magazines about canines, including Modern Dog, City Dog, Dog Avenue, Woof and SitzPlatzFuss, or SitStayHeel. The readership is devoted. When Dogs magazine once printed a "dog horoscope," there was an immediate outcry.
"Our readers hated it," says Thomas Niederste-Werbeck, editor of Dogs, which sells 50,000 copies bimonthly. "They want their dog to be taken seriously." The horoscope was scrapped.
Mr. Beleites, 67 years old and a writer for satirical magazines, was never a pooch person. When he was five, his grandfather's Spitz gave him a nip and he has disliked dogs ever since.
That dislike sparked an unexpected side career in 1992. One of Mr. Beleites's friends publishes a newsletter that lists trademarked and copyrighted names that others can purchase. For one issue, there was a blank space that needed to be filled. Mr. Beleites says the friend asked if he could use "Kot & Köter." Mr. Beleites said yes.
A newspaper reporter spotted the unusual magazine title and published an article about it. The same week, Mr. Beleites was interviewed on the radio. Soon, local TV shows picked up the story: Mr. Beleites became a minor celebrity, gamely prattling on about how awful dogs were—how they bark, bite, soil, smell and shed. He was paid for many shows. He was often booed.
"The TV shows are just casting agents," says Mr. Beleites, a wiry chain-smoker who wears his hair in a long ponytail. "They're just looking to pit a good guy against a bad guy."
After six years of pretending to be an avid dog hater, the TV shows petered out and Mr. Beleites got bored. Kot & Köter vanished into history.
Now it is back. In July 2013, when Mr. Beleites and several colleagues were bemoaning the financial challenges faced by freelance journalists, he had a brain wave: Why not crowdfund an actual edition of Kot & Köter and see if it flies?
To promote the magazine, he made a short video. To prepare, Mr. Beleites didn't wash his hair for a week and dressed up as a homeless man. In the film, he is shown collecting bottles and cans from rubbish bins.
The tongue-in-cheek effort to win sympathy—and funding—worked. Within a month, Mr. Beleites raised €7,000 (about $9,060) from a crowdfunding website. Having raised the money, he was obliged to publish the magazine. He got to work and within a few weeks had produced the debut issue. The print version cost €7.8 apiece. It could also be read online for €4.
One of the main articles was about Hitler and his dog, Blondi. Another debated the ease of electronic burglar alarms over the hassle of owning a German Shepherd. A third, illustrated with the picture of a lavishly pruned poodle, analyzed "The phenomenology of slutty poodles: the role of dogs in the sex trade."
After the first 1,000 paper copies sold out, Mr. Beleites printed 1,750 more. He recruited several friends and family members to handle the flood of orders. "Our dining room looked like a postal center," says his wife, Heidi.
Doggie satire isn't for everyone. Mr. Beleites says he has been the target of hate mail, angry phone calls and occasional tongue lashings from what he calls the "German dog lobby."
"You can slap your child in Germany but you better not slap your dog," says Philip Alsen, a dog journalist, canine trainer and owner of five pooches. "I don't think this magazine has a future."
Mr. Beleites recently popped into Koko von Knebel, a ritzy dog store in downtown Hamburg. Displayed on one wall were a dozen handcrafted and bejeweled collars that cost up to €400 each. "Limited edition" doggie bowls were priced at up to €800 apiece. There was a special stroller for dogs.
"It's not a joke," the store manager, Brigitte de Jong, assured Mr. Beleites. "If your dog is old or sick, you can wheel it around in that buggy."
But when Mr. Beleites presented Ms. de Jong with a copy of Kot & Köter and suggested she sell it, her hackles rose. "I don't like it," she said, pushing away the magazine and shooing Mr. Beleites from the store.
Later, Mr. Beleites sat down for a glass of wine at an outdoor restaurant. Within minutes, a large, salivating dog came bounding up. Mr. Beleites squirmed in his chair.
"That's the funny thing," his wife said. "The dogs always go to him."
Write to Gautam Naik at gautam.naik@wsj.com