Yorkies, Inc. Helps Pets Find Forever Homes
Photo by Margo Ann Sullivan
Special placement service matches small breed dogs with loving families.
Taunton, Mass. — He’s Wyatt Twerp from the Rescue Rodeo; and when he
showed off his dash recently by tearing across the living room rug, at Cathie Cyr’s Taunton, Mass. home, he kicked and pumped with all four legs, just like a healthy puppy testing the speedometer.
No one who saw the little dog’s prance would guess only a few weeks earlier, he couldn’t walk at all.
Yet according to Cyr, executive director of Yorkies, Inc., Wyatt, who’s almost six months old, is battling a serious condition called Atlantoaxial instability, and that black and gold “sweater” wrapped around his spine is, in reality, a body cast helping to fuse his bones.
In a few months, depending on his progress, she’ll try to find the right home for him.
Cyr may be a Yorkshire terrier’s best friend in the Northeast. She founded the specialized placement service to find new homes for Yorkshire terriers, Yorkie mixes and whenever possible, other small breeds in need. This year, she expects to relocate about 75 dogs.
Saving the difficult, pathetic cases – along with the young and healthy -- is the Yorkies, Inc. mission, Cyr said. She is deliberately keeping the non-profit small so she can work according to her principles. Previously, she had connected with a national organization but broke off when she saw signs they cut corners.
“They weren’t doing dentals,” she said. “They weren’t doing older dogs. Some of the more pathetic cases were being left.”
Cyr has help from husband John and her associate, Kerrianne Karlberg of Weymouth, Mass., the organization vice-president.
She also relies on financial backing from loyal supporters; many adopted their own dogs from Yorkies Inc.; and when they hear another dog’s in trouble, they open their homes or their wallets to help, she said.
Wyatt’s treatment, for instance, has proved neither easy nor inexpensive. Cyr over the past month has made several emergency visits to Boston’s Angell Memorial to see a veterinary specialist for respiratory problems and to adjust the cast when Wyatt wasn’t doing well. But she has faith he will make it. Wyatt’s shown spunk, she said, and Cyr’s traveled down the AIA road before with another rescue dog, Posey.
Posey was her “miracle dog,” Cyr said.
A veterinarian had advised Cyr to euthanize Posey, but Cyr kept doing the research until she found a specialist who fitted the dog with a neck brace. Posey ultimately went to a new home. Last month, Posey and her owner came back to visit Cyr at the annual Yorkies Inc. reunion.
“She still wears her neck brace 24/7,” Cyr said. It looks like a regular collar. Most people who see her are unaware she’s in a brace, but she needs it to “run and play without” risking injury.
Wyatt arrived at Cyr’s house after his breeder surrendered him, Cyr said. She maintains connections with dog breeders, so she can intercept Yorkshire Terriers that would otherwise have been euthanized due to birth defects, age or other medical conditions.
“Wyatt is one of these,” she said. His breeder could not afford to pay for his medical care, Cyr said, and she added that’s a typical story.
“They can’t put $2,000 or $3,000 into a puppy no one’s going to want,” she said.
Cyr also takes purebred Yorkshire terriers too old to be bred or shown, Yorkie mixes and, whenever possible, other small breed dogs in need of a “second chance.”
Her efforts also chip away at profits for the multimillion dollar puppy mill industry, Cyr said, because every dog she places in a new home means one less dog bought in a pet shop.
Every dog she accepts goes to the veterinarian for a blood panel and, if the dog is up to surgery, a dental cleaning and sterilization are scheduled. Most times, Cyr has a stack of applications from people waiting to adopt, and prospective owners also go through a vetting, starting with veterinary references. If those are good, she asks for three personal references and then an in-home visit. Cyr wants to see if there are children or other pets at home and assess whether or not the dog will work in that household. Then she may leave the dog for a one or 2-week trial.
Cyr also asks new owners to sign a contract and agree to give the dog back to Yorkies, Inc. if they can’t keep it, and not to hand the dog off or send it to a shelter.
“We back that up,” she said whether the dog’s been in the home two months or 10 years.
The contract’s meant to avert any possibility this animal could wind up back in a shelter or worse, be put down.
“Sometimes we get the dog working for our situation,” but the animal doesn’t adapt well to the new home or the owner’s situation changes. For example, she said, someone who telecommuted to a job now has to leave the dog for 8 to10 hours a day.
That’s too long for small dogs, she said. And then, she has dogs like Wyatt who need owners willing to support a special needs dog.
For now, the body cast allows Wyatt to run and play as if he were a normal pup, she said.
“He’s adapted to it very well,” she said. “He couldn’t walk. To him, the cast is freedom.”
Wyatt, despite his condition, has a purebred dog’s demeanor and looks. He was bred for show, Cyr said.
“But he’s not just a cute little face,” she said. Wyatt will need an owner who understands he’ll always be a frail, fragile special needs puppy.”
Wyatt must wear the body cast for several more months, she said. After that, when he’s well enough, he’ll be neutered, and may need surgery for another genetic problem with his sternum.
Wyatt Twerp was named after frontier lawman Wyatt Earp. The cowboy theme came from this year’s reunion, the Rescue Rodeo, Cyr said, and added he doesn’t take offense about comments on his size.
“I think he kind of likes it,” Cyr said. “His specialist loves to call him ‘the little twerp’ or Mister Twerp.”
Although Wyatt will not be ready to leave Cyr’s home for several months, when the time comes, it will be painful to give him up, she said.
“Posey and Wyatt bring a lot of tears,” she said. “It’s like losing one of your own dogs.” She acknowledged she does not always make the break. Cyr promised her husband no dogs when they built their new home. (He had suffered as a youngster losing the family pet, she said, and didn’t want to experience that sorrow again.)
But one thing led to another. Cyr now has nine dogs, including Davey, a Pomeranian with black skin disease. He sat in her lap during her interview and listened intently while she told her stories.
“He knows we’re talking about him,” she said. “People think we’re crazy,” she said, but helping these animals brings her and her husband happiness.
“They give us more than we give them,” she said.
For one example, she cited the case of Sir Peanut and five other Yorkies rescued from a Maine puppy farm.
Peanut was discovered in a shed huddled in freezing temperatures alongside “six or seven other” Yorkies, all puppy mill dogs, Cyr said. Karlberg heard about the seizure and made arrangements with a breeder to transport them from Maine as far as Fitchburg, Mass.
Cyr agreed to drive to Fitchburg to pick up the two males, Peanut and Rudy (named after Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer) but at the last minute, the people who offered to foster the other four dogs backed out on bad news about the dogs’ medical condition.
What to do? Cyr’s sunroom was already full of foster dogs from other rescues. This was all happening “right before Christmas,” she said.
She and her husband set up pens in their finished basement and made room for all six puppy mill dogs. Then she drove to Fitchburg expecting the worst.
It turned out she was in for a pleasant surprise.
The dogs all had been shaved down, but despite the un-Yorkie hairstyles, “each one was more adorable than the next,” she said. “They just wanted to be loved.”
Cyr said the dogs arrived in Taunton and “cuddled right into their beds; they got warm beds with their own snuggly,” she said, plus individual trays for food and water. She remembers looking at the scene and asking her husband, “Can you imagine these dogs living in a shed?”
All six found new homes in a couple of weeks, she said. Sir Peanut went to live with Rich Rosenstein and Jody Abrams of Boston. They knew about Yorkies Inc. because they had adopted another dog from Cyr, she said.
Last summer, Sir Peanut spent one memorable Saturday morning rubbing elbows with the elite at the Newport Hyatt Regency Hotel. The little dog enjoyed a front row seat on his mother’s lap while famous Yorkshire terrier, Schmitty the Weather Dog, her sidekick Pudge, and ABC meteorologist Ron Trotta presented the weather show in the hotel lobby. Later, Sir Peanut and Abrams posed for a photo with Schmitty.
“He landed in the lap of luxury,” Cyr said.
How to Help: For information about donating to Yorkies, Inc. or about adoption, go to www.yorkiesinc.com.
Pictured: Cathie Cyr, founder of Yorkie Rescue, Inc., holds Wyatt Twerp, named after the western sheriff, Wyatt Earp, during this year's Rescue Rodeo. (Photo by Margo Ann Sullivan)
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