So Sweet Saturday: Having “Standards”

With 5, you get love!

With 5, you get love!

It’s our 75th blog post, and we’re celebrating by adding Saturdays to our blog schedule.

And although we’re focused on vocabulary, grammar, reading and inspiring words Monday through Friday, Mom Karen and I put our heads together and decided that we wanted to celebrate our love of dogs.

On Saturdays, we will recognize the love of dogs and the people who love them. We want you to be as inspired as we are by the amazing stories that exist between people and their canines.

We’re starting our Saturday series with a special story of Mary Winburn, whose sweet story of dog rescue has many twists and turns. Mary has five Standard Poodles, but has loved many more over the years. Her heartwarming story is our inaugural feature, and the first of what we hope will be many more.

April is “Prevent Cruelty to Animals Month,” and Mom Karen and I are devoting our blog for Monday, April 15, through Saturday, April 20, to words and stories that illustrate the miraculous bond that exists between people and their animals.

And share your stories, too: Please send a photo and story, about 500 words, to

Let us know about you and your “so sweet love”!

Much Love to All, Lady Louise

Mary Winburn has “Standards” when it comes to dog rescue.

And she can count to five – and quite a few more — to prove it. Currently, Mary is the Poodle Mom to  Clancy Winburn, Murphy Winburn, Ricky Winburn, Molly Moofette Winburn and the delightful Rosie Winburn, who has a crush on a certain red Standard Poodle named Ricky Salzillo from Staten Island. But that’s another story.

The Daytona Beach Mom has been involved in dog rescue since the late 1980s, though she’ll be the first to admit that it was quite by accident. More than two decades ago, she entered rescue work by looking for a Standard Poodle to be a companion to the female “Spoo” that her husband had given her for Christmas three years earlier. She found a local breeder who was advertising Standard Poodle puppies and made arrangements to buy a darling black puppy.

But fate intervened, and she was greeted at the door by the breeder and a lovely, happy, bouncy Spoo named Fancy Pants. The breeder, amused by the poodle’s antics with Mary, asked if she would be interested in an older dog.

Mary didn’t dare ask if Fancy Pants was for sale. “How could she be? She was just so awesome!” Mary remembers thinking.

Fancy Pants’ story hardly fit her name. The breeder had sold Fancy Pants as a puppy to someone who abused and abandoned her when she was four. Fortunately, she landed in the care of a vet, who found her microchip, and contacted the breeder, who had been looking for the perfect home for the poodle. For six months, Fancy Pants had been with the breeder but had rarely interacted with other humans. And little wonder! She had had a broken leg and tail that had not been treated.

But Mary only saw the beauty of Fancy Pants. “Both had healed crooked. To me she looked perfect! I knew nothing about raising a dog with a less than perfect past,” Mary says. “Having only raised puppies from breeders, I decided to give it a shot. I’d like to say it was easy but it wasn’t.”

Fancy Pants was terrified by Mary’s husband and teen-age son. She didn’t want to come back into the house once she was outside She loved to eat cloth hair scrunchies, the sponges from the sink, and stuffed animals. Skin cream was her favorite. She loved to chase lizards on the patio and destroyed several screen doors getting to them. She hated crates and did not like to be contained in any way, “making sleeping at night very interesting at first.”

But as time went on, Fancy Pants emerged as a joyous, obedient girl immerged. “My son became her favorite person, and she could be seen sleeping on his bed at night.”

In the mid-1990s, Mary became affiliated with a Missouri rescue group when her son joined the U.S. Marine Corps. She became a part of an internet chat group for Marine moms and met the director of a Missouri poodle rescue group whose son was stationed at the same base as Mary’s son. One day the friend sought Mary’s help. Could she transport several poodles given to her from a raid on a puppy mill in Mississippi? Several were coming back to her and an 8- month-old puppy was going to a town in Florida several hours south of Mary.

Mary was to meet others in Alabama and help do a part of the journey for the poodles. She was to take the puppy to my home for a week or so until the new owner from south Florida could come get him. The dogs were matted, filthy and smelled horrible!

“I wasn’t even sure what color the puppy was. But the dogs traveled well with the windows down in my van in 50-degree weather! When we dropped the other poodles for the next leg of the journey, the puppy was lonely by himself and my preteen daughter went and sat with him in the back of the van for the remainder of the trip back to our home.”

And then Mary heard her daughter saying softly to the puppy, “You’re going to be mine and sleep in my room.”

It was hard for Mary to remind her daughter that the puppy was only staying for a few weeks! Fate intervened again, however, and the puppy, who was found to be white under all the dirt, was in need of a home when the adoption fell through. Mary gladly paid the adoption fee.  “That puppy was going nowhere!”

Mary’s first attempt at rescue transport and foster mom had resulted in “failure” – a major problem in the rescue world!

Throughout the first two rescue efforts, Mary realized how important having a supportive family and good stable poodle with no bad past history could be. Mary’s husband taught many fosters than men can be gentle and loving, and her “Christmas present“ poodle taught rescues that humans weren’t so bad.

For several years after rescuing the puppy, demands of Mary’s career, three poodles, and her family led her away from rescue. But it always remained in the back of her mind. Her education nd careers were in social work, child abuse, and special education, and Mary always had a fondness for the worst cases. As time went on, Mary’s “Christmas present” poodle and Fancy Pants (renamed Laci) went to the “Rainbow Bridge.” With only one poodle, Mary knew she wanted more, but she was too busy and stressed helping people. “I didn’t have it in me to rescue poodles too, so over a period of several years I bought three Standards and had two given to me by a breeder friend. Two of those have also gone to the Rainbow Bridge.”

Still in the back of her mind was the need to rescue. Ultimately, she found Carolina Poodle Rescue in South Carolina. A native of the Palmetto State, Mary felt drawn to the rescue organization. She became an adoption counselor and helped other people find their rescue dogs. All of her work was done on the phone and Internet.

“It was fulfilling but not enough. I wanted more direct contact with the dogs, but the group was nine hours away, and there were no Standards at the time that needed fostering.”

Then, in 2009, Mary was asked to pick up a 3-month-old Standard Poodle puppy just over the Georgia border. Her elderly owners had purchased her and found a puppy was too much to handle. Mary’s assignment was to foster the puppy and then take her to the CPR farm. “She was sassy, active, obstinate, and the most loving little red girl I had ever seen. Needless to say, she never made it to the farm, and I had my second transport and foster failure under my belt,” Mary says.

In 2010, Mary was contacted by a Florida poodle rescue to help transport and foster a 12-year-old Standard with Addison’s disease, found sick and almost starved to death after his elderly owner died.

“This was my first medical challenge. Larry was a sweet, old soul who wanted nothing but food, a soft bed, some love and occasionally the warm sun on his back,” Mary says.

She was prepared to keep him until a head-on collision put Mary in the hospital and rehabilitation for six months. Larry found his way to a home with a great family. Undaunted by a few broken bones, Mary jumped back into fostering as soon as she was physically able.

Since then, she has fostered five more Standards and has had only a 50 percent success rate at sending them on to other families. Two Standards, Melinda and Emmy Lou, found their way to homes where they have thrived with awesome families. Black Jack, a senior Standard with Cushings, was designated to go to another foster home, and Mary was just a stopover on his journey.

Erica, age 2, was one of Mary’s recent failures. “But I knew from the beginning she would be. She had been found almost starved to death and chained outside in another state. She was very, very sick with several autoimmune diseases and a condition called megaesophagus,” says Mary. “No one would ever adopt her, and she could not survive living in a kennel situation. I agreed to do what I could.”

Mary finds it hard to talk about Erica. “Such a sweet, humble girl. I wanted to give her all the happiness and love she so deserved and help her get healthy and well. It was not meant to be.”

Erica died six months later. Members of the Carolina Poodle Rescue family followed Erica’s story via Facebook. Tears were shed nationwide for the beautiful red poodle with a loving charm that showed through in her photographs.

To date, Ricky is Mary’s most recent foster failure. Mary saw him at Carolina Poodle Rescue when she went to get Melinda to foster. He had just come into the rescue and was too scared of humans for her to even consider trying to foster, along with Melinda. As soon as Melinda went to her new home, Mary went back for him. At first he wouldn’t come near Mary. The first night they were together he ran from her in the motel room when she would walk by. When she first got him home, he was great with the other poodles but scared to death of Mary’s husband.

“Any time either of us would walk by his dog bed, he would get up and run.” He has been with the Winburns for several months after living in several other homes and being mistreated by those entrusted with his care. He is slowly learning to trust humansain Mary reports that he will lie in the middle of the floor and refuse to move. He’ll even come up for kisses! “He will sometimes ask my husband for love, and other times growl or bark at him,” Mary says.

“His rehabilitation process will be the longest. I figured by the time it’s complete that we will be so bonded that it will be detrimental to both of us for him to move on. So, I’ve already admitted ‘foster failure’ and made him one of my own,” Mary says.

“People ask why I do what I do? Isn’t it sad to see all the broken animals? Isn’t it hard to let them go?

“My answer is this: Those loving, majestic creatures of God never asked to be put in the situations they were in. They didn’t deserve to be there. Yes, it’s sad, and sometimes I get very very angry at the people who hurt them, but that doesn’t solve the problem.

“They need to feel loved and secure and be well taken care of, and if I can help them have this then I will. I can’t save them all, but I do what I can. The love and joy I get back from each of them in return is worth more that pots of gold!

“Never mind the free entertainment watching them be happy and play. Is it hard? You bet! But the rewards well outweigh it all. Would I ever purchase another dog? Knowing what I know now, I would have to say that’s a resounding NO!”

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