Our Story

How It All Started

Joan Fremo
 In the early days of Pyr rescue no one was thinking about doing rescue any further than their own state line. It was unusual for dogs to be moved long distances, even though the rescue in the Northeast associated with the national breed club (which focuses on purebred show dogs) had long lists of people waiting to adopt Pyrs. It was exactly the reverse in the South, where rescuers were faced with dogs dying cruel deaths in kill shelters because no one wanted them. A woman in Florida named Joan Fremo (right) started the Pyr Angel Rescue Network and made it her mission to tell people about the sick and neglected Southern Pyrs that no one  cared about. Shelter workers couldn’t understand why anyone would want these large farm dogs who they thought didn’t belong in homes. Joan fought an uphill battle, much of it by herself. In 2001 she wrote a poem, “I Want to Quit,” expressing her frustration in a way that rescuers still relate to today. Joan died in 2003 while at her computer trying to save forgotten Pyrs, but her inspiration to rescuers lives on in this poem.

Back then the idea of breed rescue was still new and no one fully understood the potential of the internet. Although Petfinder was started in 1996, the idea of posting dogs’ pictures online for adoption had yet to really take hold. Some rescues started websites to publicize their dogs but the major issue—moving dogs to places where they were wanted from places where they would die—had not been addressed. There were volunteer transports but not enough to move the large volume of dogs who needed relocation. PETS Transport, which started as a volunteer effort, began their weekly paid transports moving dogs from Tennessee to New England in 2004.

Things Fall Into Place

Andee Anderson and Jean Harrison started pulling Great Pyrenees and Pyr Mixes from shelters in the Nashville area, in part inspired by the work of the Pyr Angel. Andee later became Mid-South Great Pyrenees Rescue and Jean, Big Fluffy Dog Rescue. With Pyr rescuers pulling shelter dogs and a transport system in place to move them, the final piece of the puzzle, establishing a connection with foster homes and adopters in the Northeast, was needed.  At the same time, the limitations of breed club rescue in the Northeast became painfully obvious. The existing quid pro quo with certain breeders who provided kennel space to rescue dogs in exchange for rescuers placing the breeders’ retired or returned show dogs wasn’t working. In addition, Northeast breed club rescues were adamantly opposed to saving dogs from Southern shelters because of the potential that the dogs could harbor disease.

Clearly a solution that could accommodate the needs of the many Pyrs needing rescue in the South was required. Disillusionment with breed club rescue practices and the need to help dogs dying in the South motivated a breakaway group to form in the Northeast at the end of 2006. The name of the new group, “National Great Pyrenees Rescue,” came from a Yahoo chat group started by Texas rescuer Laila Folk. The group’s purpose was to bring together rescuers in different states so they could contact each other about dogs in shelters and coordinate their rescue. The new rescue took this to the next logical step, creating an organization and infrastructure that could support the relocation of hundreds of dogs from the South to the North. Barbara Mattson, Tom Pletcher, Suzanne Phillips, Elise Able, Sandy and Bruce Clary and Mercy DeCerb were some of the people who jumped ship in the Northeast to start the new rescue.

Ready to Roll

Raphael From Big Fluffy Dogs Meets Marv in 2007

At the end of 2006 a Petfinder account was established in the name of the new group and the first dogs came from Tennessee early in 2007. Later that year, a new Texas rescue, Great Pyrenees Rescue Society, started by Malise Saucier, began listing dogs on the National Pyr Petfinder site and moving them to the Northeast. Indy Great Pyrenees Rescue, led by Jane Rose, started listing dogs from Indiana and Ohio. Another new group, Bear Creek Rescue under Caroline Jordan, joined up to place dogs coming from breeders and puppy mills in Missouri. Chris Holmes, an NGPR board member and medical and behavioral specialist, became the sustaining angel behind the Missouri rescue. With no one to help the Pyrs in Georgia and Alabama, Mary Nelson and Shari Drube started pulling and fostering dogs for NGPR, putting them on transports headed north.

NGPR got involved in our first large cruelty seizure in Kentucky in 2008, coordinating the rescue of 13 dogs with Indy Great Pyr Rescue, Mid-South Great Pyrenees Rescue and Great Pyrenees Rescue of Michigan.  We received our first grant from American Humane to cover some of the costs. By 2009, just two years after the first NGPR dogs arrived in the Northeast, close to 400 dogs a year were being transported and adopted under the umbrella of National Pyr Rescue.