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Carolina Poodle Rescue specializes in senior and special needs canine care

Just like aging humans, senior canines have different care requirements than young ones. And at Carolina Poodle Rescue in Pacolet SC, caring for senior and special needs dogs is a specialty.

Located on 50 acres known as Dreamweaver Farms in Cherokee County, Carolina Poodle Rescue is home to 150 animals, about 50 of which are “seniors and specials,” says Founder and Director Donna Ezzell.

Opened in 2000 and incorporated as a 501c3 charitable organization in 2005, the private animal sanctuary has a mission to rescue and rehabilitate, and when the time is right, to find homes for the animals in its care.

“Less than three percent of our dogs (that are adopted) come back to us,” Ezzell says. “That’s because we’re so careful up front.”

Providing care for older dogs and those with disabilities like Valerie, a gray poodle, has become a specialty at Carolina Poodle Rescue.

“In traditional sheltering, a senior dog is defined as one that is over eight years old,” Ezzell explains. “But Valerie was five when she came to the shelter as a quadriplegic, with no ability to function from the neck down, not even the ability to bark.”

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Valerie’s owners brought her to the animal sanctuary when they became concerned that the creeping paralysis would affect Valerie’s lungs and eventually kill her.

“Valerie wasn’t eight years old, but she was definitely special, and the Save our Seniors and Specials (SOS) program took her in,” Ezzell said. “We believe that all life has value and we want to provide a place where dogs with epilepsy or other conditions can get what they need.”

Fortunately, Valerie’s paralysis arrested, and she now has a hoarse bark and the use of her front legs.

Creating a home-like environment

Ezzell said she recognized early on the advantages of animals being in a home-like environment. So, she patterned her animal sanctuary after the best – Best Friends Animal Sanctuary in Kanab, Utah, the oldest no-kill sanctuary in the United States.

Best Friends uses a cottage concept where individual buildings house 2 to 15 dogs as a family group. The idea is to place animals in a space that looks like a normal home so staff can get a feel for how they will adjust in an adopter’s home.

Each cottage has a yard where the family can play together, and an assigned caregiver.

“Animals have to have human contact,” Ezzell said. “We have two shifts, so our dogs have a human with them for 12 hours each day.”

Carolina Poodle Rescue presently has 11 cottages and is kicking off a fundraiser to cover costs for two more. The animal sanctuary also is adding a senior center especially for older, special needs animals.

For more information on Carolina Poodle Rescue and its SOS program for senior and special needs dogs, visit CarolinaPoodleRescue.org.

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