Written by Arienne de Vassal of Texas
I have volunteered with a local animal rescue shelter for about five years and fostered dogs for four. Although I foster different breeds, there is a soft spot in my heart for poodles. I grew up with one and have had one or more almost my entire adult life. I went into the shelter one day with my son, who also volunteers there. We were bringing in one of my fosters who was supposed to be adopted out that morning. Much to my surprise, when I walked into the Education Room of the shelter, the long table was lined with crates of poodles!
There was a woman in Mississippi who was turned in by her sister for hoarding poodles. They have different regulations and laws in that state, so the woman, who was rumored to have about 30 poodles living in an apartment, turned over nine. A plea for help went out and Citizens for Animal Protection stepped up to the plate and made the nine hour trek there and back to pick up these poor, matted and miserable dogs.
He Didn’t Know How to Walk on a Leash
I try to limit the number of fosters I bring home, as we have several dogs of our own. I am careful to pick and choose the ones I feel will fit into our pack. This is for both the new foster and our own dogs’ sakes, since I must be able to maintain a balance in the pack. One very sweet and soft apricot poodle caught my eye as one of the staff was trying to walk him outside. He did not know how to walk on a leash and he just sat there, not knowing what to do. I had never fostered a hoarder dog, but knew that I needed to give it a try. I named him Jacques and I brought him home with me that day.
As soon as I brought him into the house, my husband proceeded to groom him. A family friend who was a grooming expert had shown my husband some tricks of the trade a few years ago and my husband is a quick learner. Jacques had the softest, buttery-est fur I had ever felt! He was anxious at first — our house is loud between dogs and kids, but he soon became my shadow.
I Couldn’t Stop Thinking About the Old Poodle Shivering in His Crate
The rest of the week, all I could think about was an even more scared and matted little guy who had come in with the same group of poodles, shivering in the back of his crate. He was older and his eyes were showing the beginning signs of cataracts. I knew from my volunteering that an older dog with cataracts would be difficult to place in a home. He reminded me of my sweet Monet, who had passed away two years before from cancer. I decided to go to the shelter and pick up this angel too. My anniversary was the next day and I told my husband this would be my gift. He could not say ‘no,’ so I picked him up, brought him home and named him Marcel.
Every day these two angels became more used to life in a home. They had their first dog toy. They had freedom to roam about the house. They would sometimes sleep in bed with us. I loved them so much! How on earth would I be able to part with them? Finally, 9 months later, I knew I must post Jacque’s information on the CAP and Petfinder sites.
A few days later, I got the nicest email from a woman who had lost her beloved poodle a few months before. She was just starting her search when she saw Jacques and had a good feeling. I brought him to her home to meet their other dog, who was also missing his old friend. They fell in love immediately!
My heart and stomach sank. How could I live without Jacques? How could he live without me? I knew that I must love him enough to give him an opportunity to be one of two loved dogs, instead of one of six. When I met the family at the shelter the next day, we both looked at each other and cried. I knew that I could not pick a better family to adopt my Jacques. We still keep in touch, she gives me updates and now calls him Jack.
I Loved Them and They Loved Me Back
Marcel would stay with me for three more months. When we were on vacation, he stopped eating and my neighbor, who was dog sitting, took him to our vet. I was able to bring him home for one day and he laid in our bed, snuggling up next to my husband all night. I took him back the next day for the awful diagnosis: Pancreatitis. I was hopeful that he could be saved, but there was nothing they could do. He passed away on a Friday evening. Our vet called us right after to give us the terrible news. My husband and I went up to his office to say our final good-byes to Marcel. We all cried. My heart was and still is broken. I did not sleep for days, asking “what ifs.” What if we didn’t go on vacation? What if he was diagnosed sooner? I will miss my sweet, dear Marcel for as long as I live. We were blessed to have him in our lives for 11 amazing months. That is what matters, I try to tell myself.
I could not bear to bury him in the cold ground, so we had him cremated and he’s in a beautiful wooden box next to our other beloved poodle. Dwell on the good times you have with the pets you love, the things you have done. I made a difference by taking a chance on two scared hoarder dogs. I was lucky to see how they experienced things in life for the first time. I loved them and they loved me back. In the end, I would do it all again.
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