Some people pass on, having made their world no better. Some, having made their world a little better. And fewer, having made their world much better. Joey Fineran, the recently deceased founder and long-time leader of Airedale Rescue and Adoption of the Delaware Valley, belongs in the last group. The world she made much better is the Airedale world, comprised of those wonderful dogs and their appreciative owners and adopters.
Joey died March 4, 2015, one week short of her seventy-fifth birthday, at Jefferson Hospital in Philadelphia, after an almost two year struggle with cancer and related medical problems.
Miguel de Unamuno, a renowned Spanish philosopher, once wrote that “All of us, each one of us, can and ought to give as much of himself as he possibly can –no, to give more than he can, to exceed himself, to go beyond himself, to make himself irreplaceable.” To those involved in Airedale rescue, these words certainly apply to Joey.
Like her name–she was born Sally–Joey’s life underwent a big change when, in 1960, at the age of twenty, she saw her first Airedale.
Fittingly, this was Bengal Sabu, a legendary champion. Joey had answered an ad for kennel help in Dog World magazine and was working in Connecticut for Thomas M. Gately, one of the top terrier handlers at that time. She received $55 monthly plus room and board.
Not even knowing what a dog show was, Joey was unaware of how fortunate she was to be working with Sabu, who was a frequent Best in Show winner.
Joey claimed that the Airedale that made her fall in love with the breed was a son of Sabu. Though a bit of a grump, this son became very close to Joey. And when he returned to his Illinois home, owned by Harold Florsheim of the shoe business, it almost broke her heart.
Eventually, Joey moved on to work in other kennels and obtained her first Airedale from Barbara Strebeigh and Adele Abe of Birchrun Kennels, in southeastern Pennsylvania. Barbara and Adele taught Joey much about Airedales.
She married her husband Bill in 1965, and their family included one Airedale and seven schnauzers. She had her first Airedale litter in 1967, by Champion Bengal Sabu!
During the next twenty-eight years, sixteen champions came from her fifteen litters, under the kennel name “Schaire.” She continued to benefit from Barbara and Adele’s assistance and encouragement.
In the late sixties, Joey and Bill had rescued an Airedale advertised in the newspaper. More followed.
In 1971, she co-founded the Airedale Terrier Club of Greater Philadelphia in the basement of their home. In 1990, Joey was instrumental in the founding of the Airedale Terrier Club of America Rescue and Adoption Committee. Faced with Joey’s persistence, the club agree to establish this committee only if Joey would chair it.Then, in 1995, Joey made a most fateful decision: to give up breeding to devote herself full-time to Airedale Rescue.
From then on, as head of Airedale Rescue and Adoption of the Delaware Valley, Joey was instrumental in rescuing and placing many hundreds of Airedales.She also served as a director and publication editor for the national Airedale Terrier Rescue and Adoption organization.
Joey’s life darkened in 2005, when she lost her beloved husband Bill to a heart attack. Since then, the needs of her own dogs (and cats, geese, swans, guinea hens, and a blind opossum) and a seemingly unending line of rescued Airedales, and even a few non-Airedales, gave her life meaning and purpose. During that time, the last of her “Schaire Airedales” passed away. Then, in the early summer of 2013, she was diagnosed with cancer. She fought it bravely, with an Airedale’s heart, for a year and a half, while still working for the breed as much as she could. Those of us in the world of Airedale rescue got to know Joey under different circumstances and to various degrees. Some adopters may have conversed with her only via telephone and during a home visit. Others may have also had contact with her at an AireFaire or other event. Many wrote her thank you notes and updates to which she responded and subsequently published in STARTING OVER. Some contacted her for advice concerning problems with their adopted Airedales. Some corresponded regularly with Joey concerning their dogs, for which she was always very grateful. The volunteers in ARADV got to know Joey more intimately.
What did all of us discover in Joey? Her depth of knowledge about the breed and her willingness to share it, especially with owners having dog problems. Her outstanding grooming ability, which she used on new rescues, in her words, “to find the Airedale beneath the mess which has imprisoned him for possibly a lifetime.” Her uncanny ability to evaluate rescues and to place the right rescue with the right owner, ensuring future happiness for both. Her stubbornness (another of her Airedale traits)–especially when dogs’ welfare was at stake. Her tenacity–displayed, for example, in her fighting to have the Airedale Terrier Club of America sponsor rescue groups. Her big heart, for she often kept difficult-to-place, disabled and troubled rescues, Airedale and non-Airedale, in her home, caring for them just as she would a champion. And, most of all, her passion for Airedales and her selflessness and dedication in working for Airedale welfare. Joey did what she felt had to be done, ignoring time and inconvenience.
Flaws? Joey had them, just as any human being does. But her positive qualities overshadowed them. Joey left a very significant legacy, impossible to capture in words. For many of us, her legacy resides in our memories and stories about her. Here are two of my own favorite Joey stories. Early in my involvement with Rescue, I told Joey that one of our Airedales was misbehaving but my wife Serafina and I were working on it. To my surprise, she firmly corrected me, saying that Airedales don’t misbehave, they merely show “character.” As we adopted more rescues, we learned that Airedales have lots of character. In 2004, I called Joey to inform her that we were ready to adopt another rescue, to be a companion for our Airedale Duffy. She happily told me that she had “the perfect dog” for us, a very neglected and abused eighteen-month-old named Toby. Several days later, as she prepared to leave our house after dropping off Toby, we noticed she had tears in her eyes. Then and throughout his lifetime, gentle Toby had a very special place in Joey’s heart. And he did prove to be the perfect dog for us.
When Toby passed away, he was irreplaceable.
Just like Joey.
–written by Mike Lurski
If anyone wants to honor Joey’s memory, her wishes were for donations to Airedale Rescue and Adoption of the Delaware Valley. They can be mailed to ARADV, c/o Dewey Yesner, treasurer, 115 Locksley Road, Glen Mills, PA 19342. Or donations can be made through PayPal on our donations page.