Our Golden Rescue Champions
Although our family includes a feisty six-pound Rescue kitty, it has yet to be adorned by a Rescue dog. However, we did have the opportunity to provide an emergency foster home for a sad and hurting Golden named Penny . . . who came to be a lucky Penny after all.

Just before Christmas 1998, I had received a heartbreaking call from my pharmacist husband, telling me about an elderly person‘s Golden. She had been battling cancer, and, as a result, was unable to give her gal Penny much love or attention. Sadly, the woman died, and now Penny was alone with no one to care for her. If a home could not be found, Penny would be euthanized. So, we took Penny into our home. She was very needy due to several illnesses and much neglect. And, she had no desire to play or to remain near my side, surely grieving all that had recently transpired in her life. Penny was a quiet and sorrowful gal, both her beauty and pain revealed through gorgeous deep brown eyes.

Within days of contacting Mary Ellen Lundean exceptional Intake & Foster Home Coordinatorshe was at my door ready to transport Penny to her new foster home. Tears, which stung my eyes as I watched Mary Ellen drive off with Penny in tow, now return as the memory is revisited with this writing.

Debbie Iwanczuk provided Penny with a loving and caring foster home for the next three months, then sharing her experience in the rescue’s newsletter. And, thankfully, a caring family from West Chester, Pennsylvania responded, knowing they could provide Penny with the life she so deserved. Debbie detailed to the family Penny’s intensive medical issues (thyroid problem, ear infections, arthritis, bladder infection, recurrent hot spots and itching that required a permanently affixed Elizabethan collar), knowing that a huge commitment would be necessary. However, rather than prove discouraging, it only increased their desire to finalize the adoption.

This extraordinary family included stay-at-home mom Kate, dad Seth, two young boys, two cats, and, of course, Scholar. When Penny arrived at Seth and Kate's home, she seemed to draw strength and energy from the children, her tail wagging furiously whenever they would talk to her. The update I received a few years later on Penny’s progress was beyond my wildest hopes. Only requiring a single thyroid medication, the vet who had given Penny only six months to live now believed this 10-year-old could have another four years. Amazing what a little love can do.  Rochelle Lesser, Land of PureGold Foundation Founder

Rescue is a great and really noble way to obtain a pet. First, it allows you to give a dog a great home. And, it often allows you to avoid the pains of puppyhood by adopting an adult dog. But, it takes a special person to try and repair the bad times that rescue dogs have often experienced. For this reason, rescue adoptions are often very serious business. That is, you must prove that you have the time to make the necessary commitment. You also must show that you are a kind and caring individual who can provide intelligently for this needy guy’s or gal’s health needs.

Barb Justice, Intake, Foster Coordinator for Fort Worth Area & Member of the Board of Directors of the Golden Retriever Rescue of North Texas (GRRNT) has these wise words to share about our special Golden Rescues:

“The one idea I would like to promote about rescued dogs is that they are not recycled hand me downs. I have had the privilege to meet and even care for dogs that were so intelligent, athletic, devoted and loving that any breeder would give their eyeteeth to have them in their program. They bond with their humans as strongly, if not more so, than any puppy. And some truly seem to know that they are getting a second chance and are very, very grateful for that. The thing I love about rescue is watching a sad, broken little stalk blossom onto a gorgeous, healthy magnificent sunflower of an animal, walking proudly with tail held high. That is what it is all about. The ’before and after’ photos can be dramatic!” 

This rescue picnic photo collage was provided by Anne Visser. Click here to see a supersized version. And, click here to see a charming video detailing the fun.

YGRR, one of the premier groups to conduct this type of service, was founded in 1985. If it wasn’t for YGRR, this happy picture of Garp would never have been possible. And, this Golden guy certainly never would have been a champion! Unfortunately, his first owners could not afford the treatment for a broken front leg after a car hit him. By the time poor Garp got some help, gangrene had set in. Sadly, his leg had to be amputated. Garp was adopted by a family with children, cats and an 82-year-old grandma! And, now he stands tall next to the boy who adopted him. With his rusty coat so radiantly shining in the sun, he so proudly received a blue ribbon at a humane society pet show which was held in his new hometown.

“I found your site through a link from NORCAL. I often volunteer for them fostering Goldens. I just wanted toJoe's Beautiful Belle! say thanks for all the hard work in putting together such a great site with so many stories. You’ve done a great job. I myself got my first Golden four years ago and it changed my life. What amazes me though is how much my Golden Belle has changed my life. I spend much of my free time volunteering for the local shelter & Golden Rescue in my area.

Most of all, Belle has taught me how to love and show emotion. After many years of never crying at a movie, well it’s not the most macho thing to do, I just can’t help myself anymore.” Joe Horn 5/02

"I am the happy owner of a rescued Golden, (male, Charlie, 5½-years-old and a beautiful deep rust color). He had a very hard life before adoption, and he has made enormous strides since coming to live with my adult daughter and me, seven months ago. He used to be afraid of everything ... loud noises, sudden movements, outstretched hands, eating when anyone was in the vicinity, men, and legs and feet on humans. For three months he didn't make a sound, not even a bark. I thought his voice box had been injured while enduring his own brand of physical torture with his forRescue Golden Charliemer owners. Evidently he finally had had enough and ran away from his tormentors. He had been rescued by Golden Retriever Rescue of North Texas while wandering around in the Ft. Worth area. He was undernourished, had heartworms, and was missing half of his tail. Charlie weighed only 54 lbs when he was found wandering around in traffic, wet, alone and stunned.

Happily, the rescue group found him and took care of him. When, by chance, I emailed them to see if our sedate, all woman household would qualify for adopting a dog, we were introduced to Charlie. Of course, we already had filled out a formal application and even had to get a "good family for pets" report from our vet. Well, today Charlie is 79.2 pounds and barks if anyone rings the bell or knocks on any door. He even barks at these things when they're on TV! He will sit for a half hour just enjoying being petted. He has become my savior and protector. I am an elderly woman who is housebound by illness, and I can easily avow that Charlie has rescued ME from a lonely and boring life.

Click here to learn more & to order!Charlie never lets me out of his sight, day or night, and is my most welcome companion. He isn't afraid of anything anymore, although he does retreat to his house in my bathroom if anyone does come into my room. At other times he will position himself between me and the interloper and keep his eyes on the person all the time. He is as quiet as a mouse during this sentry duty. Months of petting him and telling him what a good boy he is have paid off for all of us. Charlie is happy, healthy and heartworm free. He is the greatest dog in the world to us. I would heartily recommend adopting an adult dog to anyone who has any reservations. Warmest personal regards, keep up the good work!" Charlotte Stewart & Charlie 6/05

Discover more tales of rescued in the book, My Rescued Golden: True Stories of Rescued Golden Retrievers & the People Who Love Them. This book is a loving celebration of the emotional bond between rescued Goldens and their humans, 46 true stories conveying the humor, devotion, fun and inevitable sorrow that exist within this special relationship. I was honored to be asked to write the book's Foreword, which can be viewed here. Total profits from the sale of this book are donated to the 501(c)(3) Rescues whose Goldens are featured in the book.

Finally Home: Lessons on Life from a Free-Spirited Dog, a 2010 book by Elizabeth Parker, is a sweet little find that may be just perfect for new adopters. And, especially so for the many rescue adoptions of those dogs with issues. The book features the true story of Golden Retriever, Buddy, an excessively mischievous dog who had been shuffled from owner to owner as no one could control his crazy behavior. He was on his way to meet his fate at the local shelter when a mere coincidence connected him with Elizabeth and her husband, Michael.

While he no longer had to switch homes, the hilarious acts he committed, from ingesting bottle caps to barging into a stranger's house, caused Elizabeth and Michael to almost reconsider their decision. Buddy was a dog that no one wanted, yet he became one of the quirkiest, friendliest, smartest and most cherished of dogs. It is hoped that the reader may learn from the unfortunate mistakes of others, thus thinking outside of the proverbial box in order to successfully overcome any related obstacle. You can read an excerpt
by clicking here.


Puppy Farm Miracles
The following story is one that demonstrates so clearly how valuable Rescue is for us all. It came to us from Greg Korycki, a special rescue pal from Austin, Texas.

Greg has been championing Golden Rescue for many years now and has been involved on the front lines, during those incredible rescues of great numbers of dogs from situations such as puppy farms.

The news story below features a very needy puppy mill girl named McKenna, who was rescued and transferred via an RV run that Greg made to Rescue A Golden of AZ.

He remembers McKenna well as she was special and little love bug on the drive to Phoenix. Sheila, who did come to adopt McKenna, had just lost her 13-year-old Golden Sandy, a sweetheart also trained as a therapy dog. Greg had spoken with her a few times about McKenna after the trip, and the rest, of course, is history, as McKenna is now her new shining Golden light.

PERFECT PARTNERSHIP Therapy dogs brighten lives
By Erin Turner with photography by Joy Slagowski, Daily News-Sun, February 18, 2008

McKenna is quite a ham, and loves spending time with 107-year-old Elva McKittrick, a resident of Royal Oaks Lifecare Community in Sun City.

Marion Kelley doesn’t talk very much. The shy Alzheimer’s patient smiles often but generally keeps to herself most days. When 3-year-old McKenna comes to visit on Saturdays it’s a different story. Kelley treats everyone in earshot with a beautiful rendition of “You Are My Sunshine.”

The song is dedicated to the graceful Golden Retriever, who has placed her head in Kelley’s lap and clearly enjoys the attention.

Kelley is one of many residents of Royal Oaks Lifecare Community in Sun City who McKenna comes to see each week with her trainer, Sheila Joyce.

Joyce has been bringing at least one of her therapy dogs by each weekend for about two and a half years. “We go in and visit and it just works miracles,” Joyce said. “They (have) steady behavior every day, they go from a constant lull and they see the animal and the rest of the day they’re all smiles,” Amber Brown, Royal Oaks’ activity assistant added. “I wish we had one in house all day.”

McKenna, who received her therapy certification Dec. 3, spends a few moments at the bedside of many residents. She is drawn to residents as they wheel down the halls. She makes sure to say hello to everyone. If sparkling eyes and a big, wet smile are any indication, McKenna has found her calling. “When I saw her in the pictures and how she loved to go to people I knew this is what she was made to do.”

Marion Kelley, seated, a resident in the Alzheimer’s unit at Royal Oaks Lifecare Community in Sun City, and Sheila Joyce sing two verses and the chorus of “You Are My Sunshine” to McKenna.


McKenna was rescued from a puppy mill about a year ago. She turns 4 in March and has made drastic strides in a very short time period — she spent the first three years of her life in a cage, forced to make puppies.

“She’s come so far,” Joyce said. “It took her the longest time to get used to the simplest things. I’d take her for a walk and she’d just sit, she wouldn’t move. Everything was brand new to her.”

McKenna has been training to become a therapy dog since June and passed her certification test in December. Joyce said the training is still ongoing and the visits with her senior friends have benefited McKenna in her adjustment to a normal life.

“It’s an amazing transformation, a complete life transformation,” Joyce said. “It’s good for her, too.”

Joyce said she first became interested in therapy dogs because of her father. “My father (was) in a nursing care facility and (I know) how much dogs meant to him,” she said. “It’s just amazing to see in action what a dog can do to change somebody’s life.”

The many compliments and changed dispositions of the residents are evidence of the positive impact of McKenna’s visits.

“It’s nice to have her in here,” said Margaret Parker, a resident. “It’s wonderful. She makes sure to say ‘hi’ to everyone.”

Normally reserved residents become avid conversationalists with McKenna around, Brown said. “Did you dye your hair that pretty color?” Glenna Fountain, a resident, asks McKenna. “What a good dog to come around and say hello to people.”

An old black-and-white photograph of a young Elva McKittrick and her sister flanking a pretty “hunting dog” hangs near her bed. McKenna’s presence brings back fond memories for McKittrick, who is 107 years old.

“My dad went hunting and if they weren’t good hunting dogs (my sister and I) got them as pets,” she said. “Fannie was (the dog’s) name. She was a good dog.”

Brown said McKenna’s visit to the Alzheimer’s wing marks the happiest time of the week for many residents. “Sometimes all they do is holler but when the dog comes around, they really change,” she said. “It’s the only time we can get some of them to smile.”


This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to provide background knowledge on areas related to canine cancer. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for educational purposes.

    Rescue Resources, Special Tales & Events    Rescue Books for Young & Old   Compassion Fatigue
  Goldens Surviving 9-11
  The Great Escape of 2004
  Poems, Stories, and Contemplation  
  The Danger of 'So-Called' Shelters
  Sunbear Squad: Transforming Animal
       Lovers into Animal Welfare Defenders
Blind Puppy Five Dollars: A Joyous
     Memoir of a Rescued Golden Retriever
Blind Puppy Excerpt (first 2 chapters)
Rusty, the Runaway Golden Retriever
Rescue Pup
In Brandi's Eyes
What is Compassion Fatigue?
Compassion Fatigue Introduction
Compassion Fatigue Self Test
Balancing Service & Self Care
:    Healing Ideas for a Whole Life
Exploring our Core Beliefs and
     Motivations to Help Animals
Difference between Coping &
     Healing: Creating an Action Plan

TaleTell: Your own Stories of  Rescue Goldens
Meet some wonderful Golden kids. And, if you have a Golden Retriever Rescue tale that you would like to share, just send it, along with photos, to:

    3 Amish Gals
Charlie & Jake
Charlie & Jake
Mostly Bob 
Mr. Valentine
Nina & Haley
Ringo Star 
Russ T
Sarasota 23
Snyder, Jenny, Bleu & Jackie


Here is one of our *new* favorite rescue tails.

Rescued dog watches over Mill Creek man's health — Dog may help alert him to oncoming seizure
By Oscar Halpert, The Daily Herald Writer, January 11, 2010

Don Hamer, 67, of Mill Creek affectionately warms  and dries his dog, Jake, after the 4-year-old golden retriever finished playing in the water at Martha Lake Park in Lynnwood on Tuesday. Jake is a lot more than a pet. Hamer, who has epilepsy, believes Jake is capable of warning him of a seizure up to 45 minutes before it happens. Dan Bates / The Herald

MILL CREEK — Don Hamer and his dog Jake are close — even inseparable. What they give each other goes well beyond friendship, however.

Hamer depends on Jake, the golden retriever he says is trained to sense when he’s about to have an epileptic seizure. A seizure, which is usually marked by temporary disorientation, can happen anytime, though Hamer says medications keep them under control.

Before Jake, Hamer says he lived in constant fear “that I would embarrass myself or lose my (driver’s) license.” Now, he doesn’t worry much. He says he hasn’t felt a seizure come on since September, the last time Jake pulled at his sleeve to alert him. “It has made my life so much less anxious. I’m not afraid to drive. I’m not afraid to be with my grandchildren,” he said. “It just took a load off me.”

Hamer and Jake are regulars at a park at Martha Lake, where Hamer volunteers part of the year cleaning up around the boat launch. “It’s a very friendly park,” he said. “There’s a pair of nesting eagles, so if you’re out there in the morning you get a chance to see the eagles and go hunting.”

Hamer, a soft-spoken, wiry 66-year-old retiree, says he adopted Jake in Albany, N.Y., Hamer’s former home, when the dog was 4 weeks old in late 2005. A friend told Hamer about a nearby adoption fair featuring dogs rescued from Gulf Coast states after Hurricane Katrina. That 2005 storm displaced thousands of people and separated pets from their owners in Louisiana and Mississippi.

Arriving at the adoption event, Hamer says he saw hundreds of malnourished and sickly dogs packed into shipping containers. He remembers seeing seven golden retriever pups and their mother. One of the pups was separated from the others. “I saw his mother had pushed him out of the litter,” he said. “She wouldn’t let him nurse.” He adopted the dog that day, nursed him to health and named him Jake.

Hamer says he’d heard about service dogs being trained to sense subtle signs of impending seizures. With connections from a dog trainer friend, he attended a six-month training with Jake in a rented room at the University of Albany-State University of New York.

Jake was 10 months old when he started the training. He proved to be a quick study. Hamer says he’s had only one seizure since adopting Jake.

There is no consensus among scientists and dog trainers about what exactly dogs are sensing. “There’s not real, 100 percent agreement among service dog training organizations about what dogs are cueing from,” said Beth Rivard, founder and director of the Prison Pet Project in Gig Harbor. “Some say it’s an aura, some say it’s a different scent.” Her organization provides service dogs for people with disabilities and trains dogs to help epileptics after they have a seizure.

Jake does what golden retrievers are famous for Tuesday in the shallows at Martha Lake Park in Lynnwood. Dan Bates / The Herald

Jeffrey Cotellessa of the Awareness Canine Foundation in Cape Cod, Mass., trains service dogs for people with epilepsy and diabetes. His wife, Marie, who founded the organization in 2004, has both conditions. He says he’s convinced dogs can detect low blood sugar and epileptic seizures because he trained the dog that helps his wife.

To ensure a good match, Cotellessa says he prefers to introduce the person to the dog and see if they get along well. Sometimes, he says, the dog just isn’t interested in being with a certain person and that can hinder the effectiveness of his training. “I can train a dog to do anything for a person if the dog picks that person,” he said.

Epilepsy is a neurological disorder of the brain in which abnormal electrical charges lead to an electrical storm in the brain, said Dr. Shahin Hakimian, a neurologist with the University of Washington’s Epilepsy Center at Harborview Medical Center. The disorder affects about 3 million Americans. Medications can help reduce the severity of seizures but don’t make them go away, Hakimian said. “A lot of people with epilepsy are disabled not by the seizure that happens but the prospect of going out in public,” he said. Risk of death following a seizure is low, he added.

Maybe it’s the runt in Jake. One thing’s for sure, though: Jake doesn’t like to be away from Hamer. Once, Hamer returned from a cross-country trip without Jake to find the dog had scraped the hair off two of of his legs and barked himself hoarse. “When I came back, he didn’t even bark,” he said.

How Jake knows it’s time to alert him by biting his shirt sleeve or licking him isn’t important, Hamer says. Somehow, Jake knows something’s not right. “He will go through a door to get to me if he smells it,” Hamer said.

Oscar Halpert: 425-339-3429; ohalpert@heraldnet.com.


This article contains copyrighted material, the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. I am making such material available in my efforts to provide background knowledge on areas related to canine cancer. I believe this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material in this article is distributed without profit for educational purposes.