We have, in the dog world, the Rottweiler world, and the rescue world, lost what one of her friends described as “…whatever comes after a living legend – Joan was like Elvis and Mother Teresa rolled into one amazing person”.
Joan Sweeney will be remembered as a Rottweiler Super Hero.
She started out rescuing Am Staffs and Pit Bulls more than 25 years ago. Recognizing the need for a breed-specific organization to save the increasingly popular Rottweiler, Joan founded WRR in 1994.
Over the years Joan was incredibly successful at owning, breeding, and showing for conformation and agility the breed of dogs she loved so dearly. She was an expert quoted in fancier magazines, by news organizations, and in a number of books about Rottweilers. Joan was a member of the Medallion and American Rottweiler Clubs for decades, and the ARC honored her with their “Friend of the Rottweiler” award in 2013.
Joan dedicated her life to a breed of dog that is misunderstood, unfairly maligned, and often dumped into shelters when their initial owners; through ignorance, vice, or simply life’s sometimes unfortunate circumstances, decided they could no longer care for their dogs. Joan knew that those dogs needed a second chance, and she provided just that… and then some.
Wisconsin Rottweiler Rescue was likely the largest single-location, breed specific sanctuary of its kind, housing upwards of 30 rescue dogs at a time. Over the years, Joan fielded more than 15 thousand applications, and she re-homed more than five thousand dogs… five thousand Rottweilers that, given their second-chance in life; went on to influence the hearts and opinions of just about everyone they came into contact with, becoming service dogs in therapy and search and rescue, agility and carting competitors, Canine Good Citizens, as well as all-around breed ambassadors to the public, and loving companions to the families they were placed with.
The human count in lives that Joan
touched through her Rottweiler rescue efforts is truly immeasurable.
Joan's memory was impeccable. She was routinely able to recall the details of adoptions from the distant past, what the particulars of the dog’s personality were, and which family the dog went to. Her recall was uncanny. Like any good super hero, Joan had a super sidekick and an entourage. Her partner in rescue, Rachel Aldworth, spent decades caring for Joan’s animals on-site. The rest of her volunteer crew were bound together by our love of the breed, and the strength of Joan’s personality… that of the Rottweiler matriarch, alpha of the pack. Joan was the glue that held us together, and there was no mistaking who was in charge.
For those who have volunteered for Joan or any other rescue organization, our love for each rescue animal is always tinged with sadness. Our very purpose is to love and then let go of those we care about the most. The sadness of seeing a favorite leave is always mitigated by the knowledge that those we send on are going on to a better place, and we positively celebrate the fulfillment of that goal.
We now celebrate the life of Joan Sweeney. We loved her, and we are deeply saddened by the fact that we have had to let her go.
Joan, you enriched our lives in countless ways, and we will miss you dearly. Thank you for your contribution to the animals you loved so much, and your contribution towards humanity. Godspeed on your way to your “forever home”.
-WRR Volunteer Staff
Joan's obituary can be found here.