Tom Freeman is the author of the poems against AB 1634–Assemblyman Lloyd Levine’s spay-neuter bill–that have been circulating around the Capitol. He’s a retired teacher living with his wife in Goleta, CA.
How did you come to write these poems?
I find it easier to express myself in a poem than through a letter. I believe this bill infringes on my personal rights. Jason, my golden retriever, is my dog and I am responsible for him and want to make the decisions as to what is best for him.
I recently bought a box of 500 envelopes and it’s now empty. I’d never written a letter to a Senator or Assembly Member before. A member of the Channel City Kennel Club, Diane Jones, alerted me. I started about two months ago. I put the poems on specialized stationery–decorated with dogs of different breeds–because I thought they would look better. I sent the poems to all legislative people in both the Senate and Assembly.
The eighth poem will go out shortly. I’ve been keeping some of the same first and last verses but changing the body of each poem. With Mr. Levine continually adjusting the wording of the bill, my poems lose some of their exactness. But the real fact of the matter is that the bill is flawed from the start and my poetry definitely attempts to point this out. I always include my name, address, and phone number on every copy I send.
Tell me about the dog training you do.
I’ve been enjoying dogs for 40 years. I’m an American Kennel Club obedience judge, but haven’t been judging for at least 10 years. I’m in no manner representing the AKC. I’ve trained my golden retriever, Jason, in agility and he achieved the MACH (Master Agility Champion) title.
I would never allow my dog to run loose, except in protected acceptable locations. Individuals who allow their dogs to freely roam will not be influenced by AB 1634 because they really don’t care. On one occasion, my dog, Jason and I encountered two pit bulls that had no collars for identification. They were obviously two loose dogs in that neighborhood. We escaped the situation, but that’s a whole other story.
My wife brought home a Belgian Tervuren and since we didn’t want mixed breed puppies, I decided to have Jason neutered. We’ve had our own children in our lives but they grow up and eventually say good-bye. We stay in contact, of course, but the dogs we will always be with us to enjoy as long as they remain alive.
Have you come to the Capitol to talk to legislators about this bill?
No, but I was at the Capitol when AB 1634 passed the Appropriations Committee. There were a lot of people there and it was about ten-to-one people against. You’d think that would have an impact. I’ve only attempted to contact the legislative people through my poems.
What do you do when you’re not training dogs?
Since I’m retired from teaching after 25 years, I’ve been composing poetry, mainly about dogs. I taught grades K-7. As an elementary school teacher, I taught all the subjects because that was expected. When I changed schools and taught at the middle school level, I taught mainly math, science and 7th grade world history.
I’m presently coordinator of a group called Canine Ambassadors We go to schools, libraries, and any place where there are youth groups. We’re a group of handlers with dogs from the Channel City Kennel Club that go through a 45 minute program teaches basic, care, respect, love, and appreciation for the dog. At each program presentation I always ask how many of them have dogs at home. Every time, at least 70% to 80% of the children raise their hands. I’m concerned where the new dogs will come from if AB 1634 passes. With the hobby breeders gone, the new dogs are liable to be diseased, unhealthy, or with bad temperament, since these dogs will more than likely come from illegal sources.
I’ve also written a book of poetry called The Dog, in which 68 poems on doggie love, obedience, and agility are featured. An individual who loves his dog will easily understand the meaning of the poems and be moved by them mainly because the love for their own dog is expressed through the poetic verses.