Joan Fremo, PyrAngel – I Want to Quit

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Joan wrote this in 2001. We lost her in 2003

I want to quit!
I spend hours and hours emailing about dogs. There may be 500 messages when I start—and at 4 AM, when I finally shut down the computer, there are still 500 emails to be read.

I want to quit!
Gosh, I haven’t the time left to email my friends. I can’t remember the last book I read, and I gave up my subscription to my local newspaper—I used to enjoy reading it, cover to cover, but now it often ends up in the bottom of the squirrel’s cage—unread.

I want to quit!
I’ve spent days emailing what seems like everyone—trying to find a foster home, help for a dog languishing in a shelter—but his time has run out, and the shelter has had to euthanize to make room for the next sad soul.

I want to quit!
I swear, I walk away from my computer to stretch my legs—let the dogs out—and come back to find another dog in desperate need. There are times I really dread checking my email. How will I find the funds, the help, to save yet another dog?

I want to quit!
I save one dog, and two more take its place. Now an owner who doesn’t want his dog—it won’t stay in his unfenced yard. An intact male wanders… This bitch got pregnant by a stray… This 3-month-old pup killed baby chicks… The dog got too big… This person’s moving and needs to give up his pet. I ask you, friends—what town, what city,what state doesn’t allow you to
own a pet?

I want to quit!
I just received another picture, another sad soul with tormented eyes that peer out of a malnourished body. I hear whimpering in my sleep,have nightmares for days…

I want to quit!
Many of the “Breed People” don’t seem to want to hear about these dogs. Breeders either don’t realize, or just don’t care, how many dogs of their breed are dying in shelters.

I want to quit!
I just got off the phone. “Are you Pyr Rescue? We want to adopt a male to breed to our female.” How many times do I have to explain? I have tried to explain about genetics, about health and pedigrees. I explain that rescue NEUTERS! I usually end up sobbing, as I explain about the vast numbers of animals dying in shelters across the country, as I describe the condition many of these animals are found in. I wonder if they really heard me…

I want to quit!
It is not like I don’t have enough rescues of my own to worry —but others have placed dogs improperly and aren’t there to advise the new owners.

I want to quit!
There ARE some unscrupulous rescues out there—hoarders, collectors,and folks who will short change the care of the animals to make a dollar. They save them all, regardless of temperament, putting fellow rescuers and adopters at risk, but not being truthful.

I want to quit!
I have trusted the wrong people— had faith and my heart broken…

I want to quit!
AND THEN…My dog, Magnus, lays his head in my lap, he comforts me with his gentle presence—and the thought of his cousins suffering stirs my heart.

I want to quit!
AND THEN…One of those 500 emails is from an adopter. They are thanking me for the most wonderful dog on earth—they cannot imagine life without their friend—their life is changed, and they are so grateful.

I want to quit!
AND THEN…One of my adopted Rescues has visited a nursing home. A patient that has spent the last few years unable to communicate, not connecting—lifts his hand to pat the huge head in his lap, softly speaks his first words in ages— to this gentle furchild.

I want to quit!
AND THEN…A Good Samaritan has found and vetted a lost baby, “I can’t keep him,but I’ll take care of him until you find his forever home.”

I want to quit!
AND THEN…”Jamie took his first steps holding on to our Pyr.” “Joan, you should see this dog nursing this hurt kitten!” “I was so sick, Joan, and he never left my side…”

I want to quit!
AND THEN…I get an email from a fellow rescuer, “Haven’t heard from you in awhile—you OK? You know I think of you…”

I want to quit!
AND THEN…A dozen rescuers step up to help, to transport, to pull, and to offer encouragement. I have friends I have never seen, but we share tears, joys, and everything in between. I am not alone. I am blest with family of the heart, my fellow Rescuers. Just days ago it was a friend who shared her wit and wisdom, whose late night email lifted my heart. Sometimes it is friends who only have time to forward you a smile. Often, it is my friends who forward me the notices of dogs in need.There are Rescuers who see a flailing transport and do everything they can do to find folks to pull it together for you. Rescuers who’ll overnight or foster your Dog while you seek transport. There are Rescuers not used to or comfortable with your breed, but who put aside their discomfort to help. There are Rescuers whose words play the music of our hearts. Foster homes that love your Rescue, and help to make them whole again—body and spirit. Foster homes that fit your baby in, though it may not be their breed. Rescuers whose talents and determination give us tools to help us. Rescuers we call on for help in a thousand ways, who answer us, who hear our pleas. Rescuers who are our family, our strength, our comrades in battle. I know I cannot save every Pyr in need. I know my efforts are a mere drop in a sea. I know that if I take on just one more—those I have will suffer.

I want to quit!
But I won’t. When I feel overwhelmed, I’ll stroke my Magnus’s head while reading my fellow Rescuers’ emails. I’ll cry with them, I’ll laugh with them— and they will help me find the strength to go on.

I want to quit!
But not today. There’s another email, another dog needing Rescue.

 

 

http://www.heroswaggintrain.com/pyrangel.htm

January 25th, 2003

Family, friends and many furkids said a sad farewell to Joan Fremo.

Thank you Joan, for your contribution to rescue and all the grateful animals you have helped along the way.

Joan was one of the great ‘characters’ of dog rescue. She was one of the most unselfish people that walked this earth. She was the Angel that rescued Great Pyrenees, made them well, gave them love, rehabilitated them and then gave them courage to go on — on, to forever homes to live out their lives in comfort. But many stayed.

Joan didn’t quit. She kept on keeping on. Joan had the respect of many and mentored more than a few. She would want us to keep this in mind when we feel the burnout coming, the strain of long hours of worry, the many trips to the vet, and the empty wallets we have all experienced. She would want us to keep this in mind when we are wondering where the next donation will come from, or how we can possibly help “just one more” dog.

Fur therapy

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I’ve gotten back to being more hands-on with the dogs the past couple of weeks.

I hadn’t been ignoring them, but I hadn’t been as relaxed and close with them, either.

I could blame it on the cold and wearing gloves and being all bundled up while they played in the snow, but that wasn’t it. I could claim fatigue or being too busy and a half a dozen other things – none of which would be accurate.

I realized as I was brushing dogs the other day that the last time I had done that calmly and peacefully was while I was trying to convince my Pyr that it was okay for her to quit struggling to take care of me. I spent what seemed like several lifetimes gently massaging her shoulders, running my hands through her thinning fur, drinking in the smell and the feel of her coat, absorbing every moment’s memory knowing that there would be no more moments to treasure with her.

I hadn’t realized how much that tactile exercise was intertwined with my grief.

My other dogs still got hugs and scratches and belly rubs – but it was different. I was holding back, afraid of diluting the memories, or maybe of moving on.

It’s almost spring, and bits of green are starting to struggle through the dirt and dead vegetation. I guess I am ready for renewal. too. Brushing the dogs out in the yard, sending fur flying all directions, getting back in the habit of those quiet massages.

Life happens.

Optimism

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They say that planting a tree is an optimistic and unselfish act – even as you plant it, you know that it will mature 10, 20, 30 years later, whether you are around to see it or not.

There are lots of other acts of optimism. Building or buying a house, planting bulbs, having children.

Getting a dog.

While many people have some romantic notion that the puppy they buy or adopt will magically become a steadfast and loyal companion, others know that it takes a lot of work, consistency, patience, and love, to make a good dog.

It takes appropriate breeding – while it is possible to simply be lucky, responsible breeders work very hard to select for breeding the healthiest dogs and those who are best suited temperamentally to do the work for which the breed was developed. They breed for structure, for type (who wants a Saint Bernard that looks like a Whippet?), and to avoid as much as possible the health issues to which their breed is prone.

And they work hard to make the right matches of their puppies to potential owners, knowing that the relationship that begins with ooohing and aaahhhing over the cute bundles of fur will be a relationship that will last at least as long as that dog lives, and probably a lot longer.

A breeder is optimistic that the puppies will be healthy, the bitch will survive and take good care of them, the new owners will love their dogs even more than the breeder loves his or her own.  The breeder will be there to answer questions, offer guidance and support, laugh with them and, in the end, share their grief.

And in the wake of that grief, which breeders and owners alike know all too well, responsible breeders will optimistically keep trying to breed the healthiest, strongest, best dogs they can, and owners will smile at a little ball of fur and imagine the training, the late nights, the chewed shoes and cell phones, the carpet cleaning, the vet bills, the worry and the pain, and tell the breeder “I would love to take that one.”

What to do, what to do?

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What is a person to do? You want to support animals, you want to provide shelter and medicine and safe harbor. You want to prohibit the mistreatment of animals, whether they are pets or livestock, but you don’t want to do it in such a way as to threaten the existence of – or the human relationship with – those species or breeds.

Think globally, act locally.

This has been a fascinating winter and spring. The Center for Consumer Freedom decided to take on the Humane Society of the United States, then Feld Entertainment (Ringling Brothers)  decided to file a RICO suit against HSUS, and another group orchestrated a bombardment of the IRS with letters and ‘documentation’ alleging fraud perpetrated by the HSUS.

(I looked on a variety of news sites, and Googled if five different ways but couldn’t come up with an unbiased news site that had information about the suit. Agribusiness sites could barely contain themselves… but no one else seems to know it exists.)

I’m no fan of either HSUS or PETA – both are far too extreme for my tastes. But I do understand the raw emotion they have tapped into – now if only they could be more transparent regarding where the money goes every time they make pleas for donations, and if only I could believe that the welfare of the animals was the primary concern.

For the record – PETA’s kill rate of the animals it has taken to its Norfolk, VA shelter is staggeringly high, some sources suggesting 80-90 percent of all of the animals they take in are euthanized. And I don’t appreciate any organization that seems to believe that my dogs deserve better than to be part of my family.

HSUS does NOT operate your local Humane Society. They do operate a few animal sanctuaries, but they are not a local sheltering organization. They typically charge local shelters to consult on how the local shelter might be improved. A few grants go to a few shelters each year.

But to side with CCF is just as problematic. 60 Minutes ran an expose of the driving force behind CCF. The wiki entry for CCF (which reads as though Berman wrote it himself) doesn’t even (at this writing) mention the Morley Safer interview.

Additional sites discussing CCF include:

http://www.consumerdeception.com/public.asp

http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/unleashed/2010/02/new-center-for-consumer-freedom-website-targets-humane-society-of-the-united-states.html

http://www.organicconsumers.org/organic/anti_organic_consumer_group.cfm

http://abclocal.go.com/kgo/story?section=news/politics&id=4140447

http://www.sourcewatch.org/index.php?title=Rick_Berman

and  more.

Oh, and before you get too excited about anything over at activistcash.com  — read the About Us page. That’s CCF, too.

In all fairness, there are many issues that I have with the way HSUS does business. They have become top-heavy and too much of a bully, with an elephant-like my-way-or-the-highway attitude.

Not all of the funds donated in several recent disasters have been fully accounted for, at least not to the public, and too often it appears that their main focus is  publicity rather than the animals.

I wish that they would focus on the  mission of promoting the safety and welfare of animals in the United States rather than the welfare of the HSUS.

So, what to do?

Think globally, act locally.

Most communities have a local shelter. Is yours well-staffed? Do they need volunteers, food, equipment? Do they have a website, rescue contacts, pictures to post of the strays brought in? Is the shelter one with a high kill rate or does it call itself a No-Kill shelter – and what is their definition of no-kill? (Some shelters call themselves no-kill if they don’t kill any *easily* adoptable animals, but won’t work with rescues to help dogs that might have medical or behavioral problems). Other shelters call themselves no-kill and never kill any animal – even those with such severe issues that euthanasia would be a true mercy.

If you are uncomfortable with your local shelter, your county extension agent may know of some group with which you could volunteer or donate goods or time. So some kids need chaperones for a visit with their class to a farm? If your local vet does rescue, does he/she need help walking the dogs or doing behavior assessments? If there is a specific breed that you work with, your regional or national club has a rescue affiliate, they are always in need of volunteers or cash or both.

Your state animal health division may also be able to direct you to where the greatest needs are within your state or what regulations are under consideration. If legislators need to be contacted, they will be far more amenable to comments from their own constituents than to out-of-staters trying to impose their views on your state.

If your community is drafting animal regulations, ask questions. Why are they doing it, what laws already exist, are they enforceable and are they being enforced? If not, why not?

There are lots of ways to get involved on the local or state level, and there are hundreds of organizations that are deserving of your support. In creating massive national organizations, we tend to create organizations more committed to their own perpetuation than to their original cause (and I would love not to be so cynical, but would need evidence to convince me otherwise).

Heck, even the AKC better served purebred dogs when it was less worried about its own real estate and upper management.

I have no faith at all in either CCF or HSUS – but I have a local shelter and a regional rescue that will each receive my time and support. And I will continue to work within my state (and my neighbor’s, when invited) to improve the living conditions for dogs in so-called commercial kennels.

And if we’re really lucky, CCF and HSUS will expose each other for exactly what each is, rendering both as insubstantial as the straw many arguments they use.

First, educate

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Most rules and regulations are not created for the sake of being punitive, but rather to provide guidelines, minimums, basics of behavior and care. Very, very rarely are they put in place to simply to enable to seizure of assets or persecution of individuals.

As the world becomes more complicated, and our lives become more specialized, there are a lot of lessons we do not learn in childhood or at our grandparents’ knees – if we are fortunate enough to live within a few hundred miles of our grandparents. So there is a lot that might have been taken for granted as common knowledge fifty years ago that is largely lost from cultural memory today.

Hence the rules. It might not occur to some people that cages or crates or other living areas need frequent cleaning (ya think?!?), or that some animals need more room than others. Since people are not learning standards of care on the family farm, the AWA spells out bare minimums of care, required room and the like.

USDA inspectors have told me and others that they do not go on inspections looking for ways to punish breeders or dealers, but to ensure that the animals are receiving adequate care. AKC reps, representatives from law enforcement and from local humane societies have said the same thing.

If adequate care is not being provided, the FIRST thing to do, so long as the animals are not in immediate danger of severe injury or death, is to explain to the inspectee what is lacking and how it can be corrected – and why. Sometimes that’s all it takes to correct something that looked like it could have become a huge problem. Other times the ones being inspected nod and smile and ignore everything they hear.

If someone is trying to ‘do right’ by their dogs, then they should have the opportunity to learn how to do that. If the dogs are not put at risk in the process, why not leave them where they are and help provide them with better care? Dogs, cats and other animals seized and removed from the only homes they have ever know can be horribly stressed, and if the only human bond they have ever known is broken, how much harder will it be to build new bonds with people?

Those that ignore assistance, who thumb their noses at anyone else’s standards of care, who who sooner shoot the dogs than take them to the vet, well, those folks should have only limited opportunities to improve care.  Three strikes is likely too many.

These are living, sentient beings, and they deserve the best care we can give them. And if more people can be educated in how to provide that care, and they follow through, that’s a good thing.

Put rescues out of business?

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Every rescuer I know would much rather have the luxury of just taking care of their own animals without having to rescue, vet, rehab, retrain someone else’s animals.

So, how? What can we do to help keep dogs and cats and other animals safe, healthy, and in homes?

How do we educate the public on how to train and maintain their own animals, and how to keep them if they have to move, if they lose their job, get a divorce, etc. etc?

Please, leave comments with your ideas. Somewhere between 2 and 4 million dogs and cats are killed by shelters each year, perhaps not all of those animals can be rehomed, but shelters should be a place of last resort anyway. There have to be other options!

Education? Regulation? Incentives?

Be creative! Be realistic! Be cynical, if you must, but offer some sort of solution. After all, if you’re not part of the solution…

Expectations of shelters

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I’ve seen a lot of grousing about local animal shelters the past year or so, and it’s getting on my nerves. Mostly because most of the grousing comes from the people most resistant to actually funding the shelters at a manageable level and/or making use of user fees to help with that funding.

First, let’s define what the shelters are there for – to provide a safe holding space for stray animals and/or sick or vicious animals until such time as either they can be returned home, found a new home, made healthy, or humanely euthanized. Shelters are in place to protect the public health and safety.

They are NOT intended as a convenient place to dump a pet you really should have thought about more *before* you got it. They are not intended as the place you go to get your pet treated for free, or, failing that, turning over the responsibility you should never have had in the first place.

So where do all of these stray or unwanted animals come from?

Some of them have simply wandered from a loving home when someone left a door or gate unlatched. Some got bored and wandered away, in spite of the owner being convinced that their dog would *never* leave the yard. Some of them may have spotted a deer or a rabbit or squirrel, gave chase and got lost. For those, the shelter can be a single place for owners to hopefully find their healthy pet instead of having to search the whole county. Presumably, the shelter will provide some education regarding responsible stewardship (and good fences) when the owner happily reunites with the animal.

Ah, but then there are the rest of the animals. The ones who are dumped for so many sad reasons.

I can’t housebreak him.

I didn’t know he would get so big.

She just won’t get along with the rest of the dogs.

She can’t tolerate the toddlers grabbing her ears and she nipped at one of them.

She keeps chasing my livestock.

I can’t afford the vaccinations.

I didn’t know they shed so much.

They keep bringing mud in the house.

They bark at everyone walking by.

He hates my boyfriend.

I refuse to pay for a $5 license, take the dog.

She just won’t obey me.

He keeps chewing the furniture.

She doesn’t go with the decor.

The claws are scratching the floor.

My new apartment won’t take pets.

She’s getting big and I don’t know whether she’s fat or pregnant.

I thought I would get over my alergies if I got a dog.

Well, you get the idea.

Some would say that those weren’t homeless pets. They might have been better off if they had been.

To expect shelters to clean up after our idiocy while operating on a shoestring is ridiculous. And people wonder why animal control officers and shelter workers get cynical or burn out.

I haven’t even mentioned the breeders (so-to-speak) who sold or wholesaled those animals in the first place with little concern for whether they were going to good homes – as long as the check cleared. Where is their responsibility to the shelters?

I doubt that I’m changing any minds here, but it does help to vent. At least I know I can stop by my local shelter, drop off some supplies or some cash, and know that it is clean, well-managed, and even many of the local breeders recognize that they have an obligation to fund the place. And to help find homes for the dogs who have been abandoned for what is really no good reason other than an irresponsible seller and an irresponsible buyer.

Please, please, support your local shelter. If you don’t like the way it looks, help paint some weekend, or fix walls, or buy some light bulbs or some bleach. If you’re supposed to be licensing your dogs, do it. The shelter often depends on licensing fees for its operating fund.

Instead of griping what a horrible place it is, give an hour or two a month and help make it a better place. Help socialize shy dogs, bathe them or feed them or walk them. Whether you like the dog catcher or not, maybe you can at least come to understand each other better.

This isn’t a perfect world and shelters are not an ideal place for any animal to end up. Often they are scared, confused, abandoned, sometimes even injured. A shelter can be a waystation, a bridge between abandonment and home. Help make that shelter a good place rather than a place you just keep kicking while you keep it from being properly funded.

Are you part of the problem, or part of the solution?