Human: Wendy Knox, Minneapolis, Minnesota U.S.A.
Golden retrievers began to enjoy great popularity in Turkey since 2005. However, as new dog owners realized how much exercise they needed, how big they got, how much they ate, and how much they shed, their moment in the sun began to fade. Tourists who were coming to visit the seaside could buy a purebred Golden puppy on the street corner for $25; the puppy would have a home with them at their beach cottage for a week or two, and then, when the tourists left, they would simply leave the dog at the beach. Many Goldens were simply turned out into the street as the owners became less interested in their care, and these dogs joined the enormous numbers of stray dogs on the street and in the forests that circle Istanbul. Dogs on the streets are often cared for by shopkeepers or other neighbors. Dogs in the forest have a rougher time, and Goldens do not do well there, as they are not “fighters,” so their survival becomes more dubious.
In 2015, Golden Retriever rescue groups in the US became aware of the great number of Goldens in need in Turkey, where there is little adoption and few shelters for the dogs. They also realized that the number of purebred Goldens that were entering rescue here in the US was falling, yet the demand by people who wanted to adopt purebreds continued to rise. Several of these rescue groups, including RAGOM (Retrieve A Golden of the Midwest), the group for which I have fostered for nearly two decades, began to partner with those who were rescuing dogs in Turkey and found ways to bring these dogs to the US where they have been adopted into their new forever homes.
Dodger was found on the streets of Eskisehir, about 200 miles from Istanbul, in 2016. He was brought over with the second group of Goldens rescued by RAGOM, and I fostered him when he arrived. He was a 3 year old, gorgeous, cream-colored, big boy. He had terrible ear infections—the vet said it was one of the worst ear infections she had seen, and it took nearly 8 months to clear up. He had no leash training, and when he didn’t want to go somewhere, he simply dropped to the ground and I was left to figure how to deal with 8 lbs. of dead weight! He was also wild, and didn’t seem to have any “house manners” when he arrived. He jumped on the chair, then the couch, then another chair, until, just like Goldilocks, he found the one that was just right. When he climbed OVER the coffee table instead of walking around it, I knew he would be a project! Yet he seemed to be a really happy, social dog, who did well with the two resident dogs, with whom he loved to play and wrestle all day long. And he was handsome! Within a few weeks, it was clear to me that I was failing as a foster and he wasn’t going anywhere.
Dodger went through the first level of obedience, and within a few months, he was a changed dog. He settled into his new home beautifully, continued to get along with the resident (and other foster) dogs, and calmed down significantly. He’s been here almost two years now, and has become, as the neighbor says, a total “mama’s boy.” He has the typical personality traits of a golden—he’s social, affectionate, loves toys, loves pets, and just wants to please.
Last year, I had the opportunity to meet the Turkish rescue person who works with RAGOM at a meet-and-greet with an incoming group of dogs. I went up and introduced myself, and thanked her for her work with the dogs, and introduced her to Dodger. She looked puzzled when I told her his name, and she said, “But his name is not Dodger—his
name is Bora.” I asked her what that meant in Turkish. She said it translated to “gale, or strong wind,” and they had named him that because he was so strong.
And super-sweet. And adorable. And gentle. And an excellent example of what rescue can do for dogs. And for failed fosters.