Joan Fremo, PyrAngel – I Want to Quit


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.

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.

What to do, what to do?


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:

and  more.

Oh, and before you get too excited about anything over at  — 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


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.

“right” to play for pay?


I doubt this will come to many as any kind of shock. but it really ticks me off that ANY NFL team would be willing to pay Michael Vick to serve as an entertainer for them. Make no mistake, Pro football *is* entertainment.

And now the Phillie Eagles have signed Vick to a five-year deal, paying him to entertain the fans at a salary rate probably five times higher than most of those fans earn at honest labor.

Things must have gotten seriously out of whack in this country. Rather than take the profit motive out of health insurance, the companies seem to be inciting behavior just this side of brawls when politicians try to answer questions and explain what is (and is not) in the bill.

Rather than focus on the ethical treatment of animals. PETA and HSUS try to figure out how to capitalize on the suffering of animals. And AKC wrings its hands alternating between fighting against humane legislation and fighting for the inclusion of mill dogs in the registry. It;s getting hard to see the forest for all the dollar signs in everyone’s eyes.

But back to Vick. Some would say he has paid the price and has the right to earn a living. Sure he does. Would have been even better if he had learned a trade while in prison. Neither I nor anyone I’ve heard from has any interest in watching him earn well above the national median while he ‘entertains’ with athletic skills. He lost the right to stand up in front of us earning that kind of money the first time he was complicit in putting dogs into a fighting ring. He forever rendered that *right* null and void when he tortured, electricuted, shot, and drowned dogs.

Yes, he has the right to earn a living. He does *not* have the right to earn that living in the NFL any more than a lawyer has the right to be a Supreme Court Justice or a senior partner in a firm. It is a privilege and a responsibility that must be earned and nurtured. It is not something that is constitutionally protected.

However, my right, as well as the Eagles owners right and even Michael Vick’s right to free speech and expressing our opinions IS protected.

And it is my opinion that people need to let the NFL, the television/cable/satellite networks, and the advertisers both national and local know that we will not support those who financially support the decision to sign Vick as an entertainer. If a company wants our business but is stupid enough to sponsor/advertise on a Philadelphia Eagles game or in the stadium or program, they have just done themselves the same kind of damage Michael Vick and his buddies did to those dogs.

I have the right not to buy what they’re selling, and if they sponsor Eagles games, part of what they are selling is the image of Michael Vick.

I ain’t buying.



A woman is found guilty of animal cruelty for the third time, is given a suspended sentence, and is allowed to keep her horses.

And she was fined $500. She had given the dog away.

Sure, anger management classes and training on the appropriate treatment of domestic animals sound good – if someone can be educated to treat other living things more kindly, that’s great! For some reason I can’t help but be skeptical in this case.

This woman has crossed the line from ‘discipline’ to abuse three times. Having essentially gotten away with it with animals, since no one has drawn the line there, will she next take out her anger on people who can’t defend themselves?

Preying upon the weak and defenseless is the cowardly act of the bully.  And the so-called justice system has given this woman carte blanche to bully again. Justice for the animals has not been served, and society is poorer for it.

So terribly sad for all.

What’s in a name?


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.

Tired of Extremism…


… In all forms.

Anyone who is convinced they are always right and that anyone who disagrees is stupid, ill-informed or evil has some serious ego issues.

There are few real absolutes in this world beyond the need for us to try to understand one another and be generous in our compassion. Too simple, I know, but wouldn’t it be wonderful?

Of late I have been dreaming of an ideal community. At the foundation would be Berner owners and their loved ones – these are people who already know how to defend the well-being of an endangered population, the greatest flaw of that group being the very passion for the breed that makes it a remarkable and wonderful community. Sometimes patience and compassion are not all that they could/should be — we strive to be as wonderful as our dogs expect us to be but we have a ways to go yet in terms of how we treat each other.

We do need to fix a lot in the way we, as a nation, treat our animals, whether they are companion animals, working stock, or livestock. There’s a *lot* of room for improvement.

But that does not mean that we need to throw out the baby with the bath water.

We need to call upon our local and state law enforcement and animal health officials to enforce the laws that exist, and if those laws don’t address changes to technology (can you say Internet puppy sales?) and modern culture, then amend those laws to include what is missing.

We don’t need to over-regulate how we care for our animals, or we may find that USDA regulations for commercial kennels (which are MINIMUM standards, by the way, you’re allowed to treat your animals MUCH better than that) become the only legal way for animals to be housed, fed and exercised. Do we want the minimum standards of care to become the only standard?

Of course, there are those organizations that would just as soon make animal ownership – or guardianship or stewardship or any other relationship – next to impossible. They seem to think we have no right to bring our animals into our homes and farms and lives. They want to make it as hard as possible.

Well, animal ownership *isn’t* a right. It is a responsibility and a privilege — one of the greatest honors and blessings we have in this life. There are some who abuse that privilege, and I feel awful for those people and for their animals.

The other extreme regarding animal ownership are those who consider their animals as their private property that they can do with as they wish, with no interference from anyone else.

I strongly disagree.

If animals are considered property, it must be as a special class of property, for these are living, sentient beings. They are not toasters or t-shirts that we can use up and throw away or stuff into a drawer to get them out of the way. They are alive, and they are dependent upon us to keep them fed and healthy and socialized – as part of our team, part of our family.

They are not simply a product.

I don’t know why that’s so hard for the Commercial Kennel/property rights extremists to understand. You have to be licensed to carry a gun or drive a car or conduct a business in many states (especially if your business can have an impact on human health) – but commercial breeders (yes, puppy mills) seem to think that licensing them is singling them out unfairly.

But we’ll get back to the ‘puppy mill’ definition debate later. Yes, Virginia, and Walter, and Karen, there really is such a thing as a puppy mill and there have been courts that have even ruled on a definition.

Instead of arguing about who is imposing what rules on whom and whether it’s fair or not, why not do what is in the best interest of the animals?

Even if we can’t agree on what the best *best* is, certainly we can agree that each and every one of us could do better – in terms of nutrition, health and training, and what jobs we have to offer our working breeds, and giving them the opportunity to spend more time with us and/or more time at play.

Regulated kennels don’t have to be the Taj Mahal, but adequate light and ventilation and cleanliness and comfort are either possible or there are too many dogs.

Consider the situation of someone with 200 dogs – if we estimate that the kennel owner sleeps 6 hours a night, they have 18 hours to care for the dogs.  Eighteen hours is 1,080 minutes. If there are 200 dogs, there are, presumably, at least 100 kennels, cages, enclosures of some kind. If the dogs have not had the opportunity to find somewhere else to relieve themselves, each of those kennels needs to be cleaned at least once a day (geez, wouldn’t it be a lot easier – and more pleasant – to just have 40-50 dogs and give them space to exercise and relieve themselves away from the kennel structure? But I digress. Sort of.)

Okay, so 100 kennels, even at two minutes per kennel, 200 minutes to clean all of the kennels. Another minute per dog to feed each dog, so another 200 minutes taken from that 1,080-minute, 18-hour day. So we’re down to 680 minutes. That’s 3.4 minutes PER DOG to socialize, groom (ever bathed a dog in 3 minutes? Only place I’ve ever seen that done was at a dog auction. Even the auctioneer was stunned by the stupidity), check health and well-being, and decide which dogs are appropriate for breeding.

Oops. What about getting dogs to the vet, or assisting with whelping, or bottle feeding puppies or…. yes, all of that cuts in to that three-point-four minutes per dog per day.

What about kennel help? Sometimes there may be other family members available, if they aren’t in school or doing chores around the house or farm, or out working elsewhere. Some kennels do hire kennel assistants, minimum wage workers who might be there 10-20 hours a week. Even if there is someone hired 40 hours per seek, 8 hours per day is 480 minutes. An extra 2.4 minutes per dog if there are 200 dogs, but is someone is going to hire kennel help then they have to breed more dogs to pay for that help so 200 dogs won’t be enough to make a living. After all, each dog is getting a whopping 5.8 minutes a day of attention now! (Minus meals for the kennel owner, and their potty breaks and phone calls and paperwork.)

The most common definition of puppy mill is that of a puppy factory – more concerned with profit and cutting costs than with the health and well being of the animals. With two minutes to clean kennels, little or no time to keep records or spend with the vet or get to know the individual strengths and weaknesses – let alone temperament – of the dogs, a puppy mill simply grinds out puppies for sale, and small wonder so many raids find inadequate shelter, ventilation, water or cleanliness. Yet a flour mill is far more tightly regulated – and our expectations of the cleanliness are much higher in the flour mill than the puppy mill, in spite of the fact that animals need and deserve more time and care and can have just as dramatic an impact on health, both positively and negatively.

I know there are those who would consider this analysis unfair. I might, too, had I not seen puppy-manufacturing facilities too many times.

Dogs and other animals are not corn or potatoes or something you can plant, water a few times, harvest and sell. They need more, and they deserve more. And we deserve better than what the extremists on both side of the issue are offering us.

Posturing and polarizing hurts all of us. Worse, it hurts the animals. And it just drives the opposite side further and further away, with an increasingly hardened view.

The puppy buyers lose. Our society loses. And the dogs suffer.