Loss of a guardian

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MincoStandI had to say goodbye to Minco yesterday. The tumor on his ankle had become too painful to manage, and his other rear leg could not have supported his weight for much longer.

He was not quite 12 1/2 – so I suppose I should count myself lucky for having had so much time with him, and having learned so much from him. He taught me a lot about ear infections and how to avoid poultry and flaxseed, how to manage resource guarding and an independent thinker.

I had given up trying to teach him to sit, he was simply not interested. But he was watching as I worked with my English Shepherd, and he saw that she was getting REWARDED for sitting down! He kept coming over to try to get in on the treats (without doing the work) and in exasperation I told him to “plant that butt!” And he did. And he got his reward. And he had a perfect sit from then on, the only problem was that I had to repeat that original instruction. We did finally winnow it down to just “plant.”
Minco overcame the loss of vision in one eye, a multitude of urinary crystals, a tumor in his spleen and then Babesiosis a couple of years later. His back end never completely regained strength after the Babesiosis, and he stopped jumping onto the bed about 8 months ago. But he never tired of letting me know if I was moving a half-step slow when it was time to eat. I have never heard a dog scold as effectively as he did. But he also stopped putting his from paws on my shoulders to look me square in the eye to tell me really important stuff.

He was always looking out for me – if I was outside too long he would come get me, or he would watch from the doorway to make sure I didn’t get in trouble. He would always elicit gasps when we walked into the vet’s office, with people exclaiming not over his size, but telling each other, and me, what a beautiful dog he was.
Although he wasn’t a National Anatolian Shepherd Rescue Network dog, Carleen and the group provided a lot of support and patience once I figured out his likely heritage. Thank you for the knowledge you shared. I hope that I have helped pass some of that knowledge along to others who have found themselves in possession of these marvelous dogs.
RIP sweet Minco. I will see your beautiful cheetah run in my dreams.

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.

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?

What’s in a name?

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This is getting ridiculous.

There’s one group of people claiming to be animal welfare advocates and calling anyone who advocates for better regulation of ‘high-volume breeders’ animal rights wackos or terrorists.

They are so paranoid that all they can see is a threat to their property rights – without any concept of the fact that that ‘property’ is living, breathing, and aware.

There is a reason that companion animals are considered different from livestock. But those reactionaries seem to feel that any animal on this earth is for us to do with as we see fit, with no interference or care on the part of society.

Unfortunately, that hasn’t worked out so well for the animals. Or there wouldn’t *be* any sub-standard kennels or puppy mills or animal abuse. Because mankind, in our infinite wisdom, has failed to ensure the well-being of the animals, it has been necessary to create laws and regulations to set minimums – and yet even those are often not met.

They rail for the enforcement of existing laws rather than the creation of new laws, yet when the existing laws are enforced, they are the first (and loudest) to cry foul. They want absolute privacy and absolute property rights, and sales taxes be damned when they want to sell their property.

Nor do they seem to recognize the health concerns for the population at large. They want no consequences should their intact animal get loose (it has to have been an accident, of course, no negligence on their part) but if someone else’s animal gets loose they complain that the animal control officers (which they consider Nazis) don’t respond quickly enough. Not that they want the Animal Control Officers to be funded by any sort of user fees or taxes….

They seem to think it is no one else’s business whether their animals are vaccinated or ill, or whether those animals are moved. Apparently only rescue animals ever contract brucellosis (which can be transmitted to humans) and it’s always someone else’s fault (and financial responsibility) if there is an outbreak of rabies or distemper or parvo. They don’t want to fund the shelters which were intended to hold strays, but then criticize those same shelters when there are outbreaks of disease.

To those people – and I’m sure you don’t know who you are, I couldn’t *possibly* be writing about you! – you are NOT animal welfarists, you are selfish and silly and the more you attempt to demonize those who think differently from yourselves, the sillier you look.

Using CCF as your source material kills your credibility the moment anyone sees it, and hitching your wagon to the Sportsmans Alliance (Yates, et al) and the NRA only moves you further from the mainstream.

Yes, there are a lot of problems in this country right now that are just as important as the way we treat our animals – but that does not mean that we can turn a blind eye to abuse and to the rantings of those who defend the likes of Cindy Bemis, Karen Bauck and Linda Kapsa.

If these views make me an animal rights wacko, a terrorist, whatever, so be it. I will advocate for the humane treatment of all animals and for enforcement of laws to ensure humane treatment, as long as there is breath in my body.

And I don’t have to call anyone names to do it – y’all are doing a fine job of that yourselves.

Positive, please

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If your child had an accident, whether in bed or whatever, would you rub his nose in it? Wait hours and then bop him with a newspaper? No?
Why do that to a dog? The dog will have even less understanding of what message you are trying to convey than the child does!

Given half a chance, dogs want to be clean (we’re not talking about mud here, THAT is an accessory rather than a mess) and they want to please. So help them shape their behavior to accomplish both!

When a dog makes appropriate use of the great outdoors, praise and treat. If they make a mess inside, clean it up, remove them from the mess, and make sure that any associated odor is also removed (or they’ll use that same spot again). Vinegar works well, and there are other cleaners that will also freshen floors or carpets or crates.

Praise the good behavior and ignore or remove yourself or the dog from the bad behavior. Redirect the dog’s energy to what YOU want, whether with treats or a happy voice or whatever POSITIVE reinforcement works. Don’t coddle, don’t reward the unwanted behavior (oh, poor baby, it’s okay….) or you’re just going to get more of it!

Dog jumps on you when you get home? Turn away or leave the dog crated until he is ready to calm down. After a few minutes, if he is still bouncing around (keep in mind he may need to really really really go outside) tell him to sit, or put four-on-the-floor (feet, that is), or wait, or whatever command your dog is learning to respond to with attention and relative calm (and I use the word advisedly – I have a puppy at home, after all). As SOON as you get the desired response (or something reasonably close to it, we’re not looking for perfection, but improvement) REWARD! In this case, calmer rewards rather than excited ones, but you get the idea.

Not all dogs respond the same way to the same stimulus, so it is important that you know what your dog values and what your dog reacts to. And use those to SHAPE the dog’s behavior. Positively, constructively. It’s fun. And your dog will love you for it.
Even puppymill survivors respond well to calm and patient shaping. I found that being as matter-of-fact and as blase as possible about things made it easier for those mill dogs to figure out that whatever it was they were scared of really wasn’t a threat. It doesn’t happen overnight, but it does happen.
One of the most rewarding experiences I ever had with a mill survivor involved a dog afraid of his own shadow, of any movement or noise. He came to me with his head down and his tail between his legs. A couple of weeks later I looked across the yard to see him with head and tail up, alert and happy and curious about the world around him. I managed to get a (blurry) picture right before he spotted me, and I treasure that photo. He never turned into a bubbly excited dog, but he learned to play and to accept commands and interruptions without cowering, and he is in a wonderful home where he is appreciated for the dog he is.
I love happy endings.

Puppy growth

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Hagar is doing beautifully! He has learned not to antagonize the big dogs more than they will tolerate, and most (okay, half) of the time he will come when called. That may be because he views me as his personal treat dispenser.

At 11-12 weeks, he is just over 25 pounds and today he has moved from his puppy crate to the mid-sized (for my house, at least) crate that would be about the right size for an adult border collie. He still looks so small comapred with my other dogs, though I know that won’t last long.

He is getting better about remembering that when I leave a room I *will* come back, he just isn’t crazy about me being out of his sight unless he’s outside chewing on sticks. Then he’s oblivious to anything else going on around him.

It’s going to be hard to leave him here when I head off to the Specialty, but I know my vet’s office staff will dote on him — they’ve already told me that everyone there who hasn’t met him yet is anxious to get to play with him, and the people who have met him are jockeying for more face time with him.

He is reminding me a lot of the challenges when Sophia was a puppy, but the lessons she taught me are serving him well. I know she is whispering in my ear now and then to remind me about some of the things that did – and didn’t – work with her.

I am grateful to the Bernese Auction Rescue Coalition, Inc for trusting me with him. He captured my heart in a matter of moments, and he is now busy weaving himself into my soul.