Just curious...did you respond to the owner and tell them about the surgery? It sounds as if they are really trying to help him, and are heartbroken over his problem. Maybe they just need some hope, if you are knowledgeable about a surgery they could have?
Update from someone who talked to the owner directly. It sounds like with correct maintenance that this boy could be gotten back on track. I don't believe that the owners correctly changed his diet and I don't believe that the vets correctly medicated his ear problem. Sounds like a project, but could be well worth someone's time.
Heres what we know now:
Okay, so I spoke to the owner, and this is a real mess. This guy is in big trouble.
He is 5 years old, not 4, and she has had him for 4 years. She bought him from an ad in the paper for $150 from the "breeder". She had no idea at all that poodles are high-maintenance and the "breeder" didn't give her any clues on proper care. He has never had proper ear care (or much else) from the beginning. He is UTD on rabies only, no other vaccinations or preventatives since January 2009. He has never had heartworm preventative, has never been tested for heartworm. He is intact. He hasn't seen a vet for many months, she is not sure when. There are only two vets in her small town and neither has been any help...one did not even culture the ear before prescribing antibiotics, the other cultured once in 4 years. Neither told her about regular cleaning, hair removal, etc. He cries when you touch his ears and the smell is unbearable from several feet away. He is very sweet and very attached to her, follows her around everywhere, glued to her side. He is also very shy and has been shy & frightened of strangers from the day they got him. She wants to do right by him and knows he will be devastated to lose his home.
Her husband was recently deployed. He was the primary caregiver for the dog. She has three adopted children, one under a year old, and in one of those little tricks God likes to play, shortly after adopting the third one this past year, she finally became pregnant. High risk pregnancy, gestational diabetes. Would like to get him to a decent vet but cannot drive that far alone. Somebody needs to know the true extent of what is wrong and what has to be done for him.