Meet Cheri Fults, vice president of Recycled Pomeranians and Schipperkes Rescue based in Garland and DeSoto. Since 1996, Fults has seen the pom rescue grow from a small but loyal group into a well-oiled organization with more than 60 volunteers dedicated to saving the tiny breed through rescue, foster and placement in permanent homes. Last year, hundreds of pomeranians and schipperkes found adoptive families.
Fults, an engineering firm office manager works full-time, but spends 4-5 hours a day caring for foster dogs in her home — investing not only time, but her own money to rescue the dogs she has loved since childhood. We wanted to know more and she was kind enough to answer a few questions about herself, RP & SR and the communities it serves.
Dawn Tongish: Please begin by telling us about Recycled Pomeranians & Schipperkes Rescue?
Cheri Fults: Recycled Pomeranians & Schipperkes began its incredible journey in January of 1996. Our goal then, as it is now, was to be one of the finest rescue organizations in the DFW area, helping to end the plight of homeless Pomeranians & Schipperkes killed in local shelters. Melissa Bitting started this rescue alone with only the help of her husband, Bill. By 2007, Cheri Fults combined her pom rescue organization with Recycled Poms and we grew to 27 dedicated volunteers. That year, 198 dogs found new hope and new homes because of our rescue efforts. We are all so proud of our work, but we understood that our successes were relatively small to the number of dogs that needed our help. Still, we had made a difference — and that felt good.
We are still growing! Lisa Schrader joined us in the year 2008, and because of her tenacity, our volunteer base grew to nearly 60 dedicated pom lovers! Lisa took the rescue a step further and began hosting adoption events nearly every weekend throughout the year — rain or shine! In 2010, we had rescued 300 Poms and Schips! Last year (2013) we had rescued nearly 350 fur balls!
A major milestone as an organization came in October 2009 when we gained 501-(c) (3) non-profit status. By becoming a non-profit, we could expand our program to include many more shelters throughout Texas and surrounding states — and help more needy dogs. Also as a non-profit, all donations became tax deductible for our donors, and that gave them even more incentive to donate. Now that was exciting!
DT: What are your duties at RP & SR?
CF: As VP, I am responsible for maintaining the number of dogs that are accepted into our organization and following up with them until they are adopted. I assign tasks to our core volunteers, provide financial assistance to the rescue as needed, as well as care for all incoming dogs until they are prepared for a foster home or adoption.
DT: How did you become involved with RP & SR, and why are you so passionate about the work being done at the organization?
CF: I bought my first dog (as a young adult) from a puppy mill. The things I saw there made me sick to my very core. I had never heard of the word “puppy mill” before I purchased my dog from one. I took actions to shut that puppy mill down and was successful after a very long six months. Unfortunately, many poms on that property died one winter after being left outside in the cold with no shelter whatsoever. Their deaths provided me with much needed photographs that were taken by the side of the road. (I could not take pictures ON the property.) Ultimately, those pictures shut the place down. Later, I met Melissa Bitting at a pom event and introduced myself to her. We immediately bonded and began a quest to save as many Pom and Schippy lives as we could.
DT: Why do you work in the non-profit sector?
CF: I have no desire for financial gain for myself. I just want to see all puppy mills shut down, breeding restricted and spay/neuter programs enforced.
DT: It can be difficult for any non-profit to pay the bills. How do you stay afloat?
CF: Unfortunately, I have to spend a huge amount of my own money to keep the rescue afloat. We do obtain grants, donations and have regular sponsors, but it’s never enough. Last year, I paid $27,000 of my own money to the rescue and I have high hopes of not having to keep up that same pace this year. (Melissa coughs up half her paycheck as well!) We have even more dedicated volunteers this year that work very hard to bring in the cash and get the fur kids adopted into really good homes.
DT: How can the people of Dallas County and beyond help meet your needs for 2014? What are your biggest needs?
CF: We are always in need of foster homes, but I think a long term goal would be our own facility close to my home.
We always want to give our dogs an in-home experience but the overflow of dogs cannot be contained in one home so it means saying no to poms in shelters that need us. Even if we had a facility to keep the majority of the fur kids in, we would still rotate them weekly into foster homes to get one-on-one love and attention. We would like this facility to host a maximum of 50 small dogs at one time.
Our smaller needs (but still as important) is as follows:
- Bleach (we use three jugs a week cleaning and washing)
- Spray cleaners (pet-friendly is preferred but not necessary)
- Dawn dishwashing liquid (we use it for everything!)
- A vacuum for pet hair
- Good, solid crates
- 8” to 12” collars
- Leashes (no flexi leashes)
- Flea and tick sprays (natural or holistic)
- Lavender spray or scents to ease tension for the dogs
- Large towels (used is fine)
- Gas cards for transport
- Poop bags
- Poop shovels
- A patio cover for the summer because the cement gets hot in my back yard.
DT: What is the most memorable moment in your experiences at RP & SR?
CF: Sadly, the countless horror stories are the first things that come to mind. But one story was kind of funny. Marcy Oliver (volunteer) and I went to Oklahoma to retrieve some puppy mill poms. We pulled 28 poms out filthy feces-laden cages. When we were done loading up the poms in my SUV, we looked at ourselves and we were covered in dog do-do. We look like we had taken a mud bath…only it was runny poop. Pretty gross. There was no running water on the property. We drove a while (gagging all the way) and saw someone’s yard hose. We snuck onto the property and hosed ourselves down. The owners of the property did not appear to be home — thank God! We used all the spray cleaner we had to clean ourselves and the SUV but it still didn’t kill the smell, and then we had an SUV load of poopy poms. So Marcy pulled out of her purse some disposable toothbrushes that already had tooth paste on the brush. We stuck the tooth brushes up our nose and went on our merry way. All I could smell was cinnamon — hooray! We looked like two grown adults playing "walrus." Very ridiculous! After a while, the toothpaste began to melt and burn our nostrils, but even after we took them out, we could still smell heavy cinnamon at least.
DT: What is the first thing you do when you walk into work?
CF: I work a full time job in addition to running the pom rescue at home. At home, the first thing we do when we all wake up is feed the screaming and barking poms demanding their breakfast! At work, the first thing I do is sigh a deep breath and start my day. I have to focus on my real job when I’m at work and not let the rescue distract me too much. My bosses are amazing and flexible with me so I never want to take advantage of their generosity. They are all dog lovers and support my cause. I love my job and I love our rescue and never want to take either for granted.