Poodle Club of America Rescue Foundation Puts the Heart in Rescue Work

After a package of more than 50 small firecrackers was tied around a Toy Poodle and set on fire, the tiny dog ran away frightened by the noise and stinging from the pain. With blisters covering more than half his small body, “Crackers,” as he was later named, was left lying alone, suffering for no one knows how long until a caring woman scooped him up and took him to a nearby veterinary clinic in Oklahoma City.

With third degree burns and at least two broken ribs, Crackers was not likely to make a full recovery. The veterinarian knew it would take much longer for the dog to overcome the mental trauma than for his scorched body to heal.

Crackers spent two months at the clinic, snarling and snapping at his caregivers as they administered antibiotics and covered his burns with salve. Sally Poindexter, of Broken Arrow, Okla., a breeder of Standard Poodles, heard his story. Her heart melted. She made plans to get the wounded dog from the veterinarian who had been caring for him 90 miles away and place him in a foster home where she could continue to oversee his progress both physically and mentally.

Crackers was the catalyst for Poindexter to start Oklahoma Orphaned Poodle Services, also called O.O.P.S. Rescue. Having been active in the Poodle Club of America (PCA) for years, she had talked about forming an independent poodle rescue group but hadn’t had a reason to put her words into action. If there ever was a member of her beloved breed in need of rescue, it was Crackers.

A Nationwide Rescue Network

Poindexter went beyond helping poodles in her home state of Oklahoma. She took her rescue work nationwide as the founding president of the Poodle Club of America Rescue Foundation Inc. (PCARF). Established in 1932 and one of the oldest parent breed clubs in the country, PCA has always rescued poodles through its affiliate clubs. In 2006, those rescue efforts became a separate entity, with the establishment of PCARF as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit corporation.

The Foundation helps to coordinate and fund rescue efforts by working with about 40 clubs and rescue groups. “My goal was always to build a network of poodle rescue groups throughout the country to save dogs and transport them from one place to another when other groups could not handle huge intakes of dogs,” Poindexter says. “Now, in 2014, that has come to fruition.

I couldn't be happier. We have a huge network and can move dogs all over the country at any given time.”

The nine members of the PCARF board of directors are actively involved in poodle rescue in their home states. The Foundation, funded solely through donations, began with a $500 gift from Poindexter’s husband, Charlie. Generous donations and annual fund­raisers help to support the mission of helping poodles in need. The largest fundraiser is held each April at the PCA National Specialty. Silent auctions, T-shirt sales and online donations are some of the fundraising events that have been held. 

The funding supports requests from the affiliated clubs and rescues to help individual and even groups of dogs. It is used to cover costs for transportation, veterinary care and boarding on a case-by-case basis. “We have never turned down anyone who has asked for help,” Poindexter says.

When Poindexter learned about a breeder near Tulsa, Okla., who was surrendering more than 30 Standard Poodles, she was thankful for the support of PCARF. “What I saw was unimaginable,” she says. “These dogs had flea-infested, matted coats. We have never worked so hard in our lives, but I am pleased to say that all the dogs are now living happy lives in loving homes.” 

About half the dogs initially turned over to O.O.P.S. Rescue were taken in by Carolina Poodle Rescue in Greer, S.C., with the Foundation helping to cover transportation, veterinary examinations, vaccinations and flea treatments. Several bitches were pregnant, and every poodle was treated for Rocky Mountain spotted fever. Others had various types of infections or dental problems requiring veterinary care.

Poodles that are rescued through PCARF receive a thorough veterinary evaluation that includes updated immunizations, if necessary, and spay or neuter surgery. Rescue volunteers screen them for temperament issues, and then they are placed in foster homes where volunteers can observe their health and temperament to eventually place them in homes best-suited to their individual needs.

A Hands-On Approach

“Rescue has to be hands on,” says Cindy Crawley of Baltimore, president of PCARF, who is currently fostering two rescue poodles, a Miniature and a Standard. “You have to put your hands on that dog every day, play with him, take him for a walk and groom him, so when he goes to his new home, he will hopefully adapt easily. You also need to be able to tell the adoptive owners as much information as possible about their new dog.”

Breeding Standard Poodles under the prefix Beauciel, Crawley was inspired by Poindexter’s work to join PCARF. In addition to her work on the national level, Crawley, volunteers with Mid-Atlantic Poodle Rescue, a network of breed enthusiasts from Maryland, Pennsylvania and Virginia.

Large-scale rescues, like the one described by Poindexter, are what makes the news, but they are not the most common way poodles come to rescue groups. Most often, dogs are surrendered when their owners can no longer care for them or no longer want them. 

“Dogs and children can be a wonderful thing, but some parents don’t realize what they’re getting into,” Crawley says. “A lot of times, especially with the Toys and Miniatures, we see older dogs that belonged to someone’s grandmother who has passed away and now no one wants the responsibility of taking care of the dog.”

Miss Missile, a black Miniature Poodle, was surrendered to O.O.P.S Rescue at age 2, after her owner was diagnosed with terminal cancer. When Julie Yeabower of Tulsa, Okla., saw the dog two days later, she describes it as love at first sight.

“I loved her the moment I saw her sad, confused eyes. She needed me, and I came to know, that it was me who truly needed her,” Yeabower says, 10 years after adopting the dog who got her name from the way she shot across the room like a rocket. It was an adjustment at first, Yeabower says, but as she earned Miss Missle’s trust and devotion, the poodle quickly settled into her new home. 

Now, Miss Missile has a sister, Little Orphan Annie, a Poodle/Cocker Spaniel mix Yeabower brought home after finding her on an expressway ramp. “’Miss’ is getting a bit slow and blind in one eye, so ‘Annie’ helps with directions and companionship. They are a perfect pair, one solid black, the other snow white,” Yeabower says.

Smaller Varieties Outnumber Standards  

Toy and Miniature Poodles taken in by rescues outnumber Standards three to one, Poindexter says. It often takes longer for smaller varieties to get adopted. They may arrive at the rescue with injuries or diseases that require veterinary care, but these conditions can usually be treated and often PCARF assists with the costs. “We have had to euthanize a few that were so unhealthy they never had a chance, and those are the ones that haunt us the most,” Poindexter says.

Occasionally poodles come to rescues with temperament issues, but these can usually be corrected with training while the dog is in a foster home. “We are lucky in working with poodles that the breed as a whole has a stable temperament, so with time and patience they usually can move forward,” Poindexter says. In her 28 years in poodle rescue, she’s only worked with one Miniature Poodle that had to be euthanized due to temperament concerns. 

Educating breeders that they should be responsible for every dog they produce is part of the PCARF mission. “We want to let breeders know that we’re here to help,” says Crawley. “The message we send to them is that they should take care of their dogs, and if they cannot, we want them to let us know.” 

In the future, Crawley and Poin­dexter hope to expand their network of rescue groups to include those that focus on helping poodle designer breeds. “We want to grow and keep helping rescue groups as much as we can. We want to continue to add to our network as there are a few holes in the U.S. without poodle rescue groups,” Poindexter says. “We also want to expand our fundraising to enable us to finance more rescue and breeder education efforts.”

After spending two years in a foster home, Crackers is now a certified therapy dog who assists his adoptive owner Christie Green in Tulsa, Okla. “Rescue work can be very hard and very emotional, but the good stories, like Crackers’ story, are what keep me coming back,” Poindexter says. 

Purina appreciates the support of the Poodle Club of America and particularly Elly Holowaychuk, D.V.M., and Leslie Newing, editor of The Poodle Papers, in helping to identify topics for the Purina Pro Club Poodle Update newsletter.

How to Help With Poodle Rescue

The Poodle Club of America Rescue Foundation Inc. (PCARF) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2006 that encourages poodle enthusiasts to get involved in breed rescue. Made up of volunteers, PCARF consists of about 40 poodle clubs and rescue groups across the country that share a mission to help poodles in need.

“Poodle rescue work is extremely rewarding,” says founder Sally Poindexter of Broken Arrow, Okla. “Opportunities to get involved include being a foster parent, transporting dogs and helping to fundraise.”

Every donation to PCARF helps to ensure that rescued poodles receive the care that is needed. Funding covers veterinary costs, including spay or neuter surgery, and assists with transporting rescued dogs to foster care or new homes. Tax-deductible contributions can be made online via this link: poodleclubofamerica.org/pca-the-club/pca-rescue-foundation. For information on getting involved with PCARF, please contact Cindy Crawley at 410-963-0079.

PCA Encourages Responsible Breeding

The Poodle Club of America (PCA) stresses the importance of breeders being accountable for puppies produced from litters they have bred. The PCA’s Code of Ethics states:

The Breeder is responsible for any and all poodles that he/she has bred for the life of each poodle. If at any time the owner cannot keep the poodle, the breeder will take the dog back and decide what is best for the poodle in question, including placing or euthanizing the dog. It is the breeder's place to take this responsibility.

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