Story by Rebecca West Photos by Scottie McGowan
It was recently announced that Scottie McGowan, tireless animal welfare activist, was selected by the Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) and the National Rescue Committee (NRC) as this year’s Starfish Award winner! This is the highest honor within the NRC, and McGowan was selected among a competitive field of exceptional nominees.
For those of you who don’t know Scottie McGowan, she has been a key volunteer for many years and currently holds the position of Director of Golden Rescue. She has been the driver of the international rescue program and is responsible for saving many Goldens from certain death in places like South Korea, China, Turkey, and Mexico.
Active in rescue since 2003, McGowan has served on the Executive Board since 2011, allowing her to have an impact on the local, state, and national level. At the same time, she’s also had a profound effect on the canines that she helps rescue. From authoring manuals to establishing relationships with breeders and fellow rescue groups, McGowan is truly all about the dogs. Her mantra is: “hunger, illness, and despair know no language, no culture, and no boundary.”
Considered the quintessential Director of Golden Rescue, she expertly oversees the Woof Line, Home Visit, Intake, Transport Coordinator/Transport, Shelter, and International Teams comprised of 81 volunteers, which is the lion’s share of the organization. Throughout, her focus stays on what’s best for the dogs.
To standardize statewide operations, she developed six comprehensive team training manuals with quick reference guides and created and/or modified official forms, vastly improving the collection of crucial information on incoming canines.
At one point, the unforeseen split of Southern volunteers from the organization caused a screeching halt to all Southern operations. Instinctively, McGowan took control and started from square one to rebuild Southern resources and preserve the organization’s statewide designation.
Hooked on rescue since her first adoption in 2003, she set the standard of process improvement as she rose to an appointment to the Executive Board of Directors in 2011 as the Director of Southern Rescue, and later to Director of Golden Rescue.
In 2017, amidst considerable board and membership resistance, McGowan convinced the organization that “hunger, illness, and despair know no language, no culture, and no boundary.” Rescue a Golden of Arizona’s (RAGofAZ) reach became global.
A champion of tyrannized Goldens, McGowan established RAGofAZ’s international rescue program with promising results. To date, 86 dogs collectively have been saved from China, South Korea, Turkey, and Mexico.
Seizing an opportunity to save money, she quickly sought out flight volunteers traveling between Mexico and Arizona through social media. Since then, the organization has saved $2,700 in airfare and will continue to cut costs by about $400 per trip!
Via those same platforms, she recruited local and long-distance transporters for the 1,000-mile overnight trip to LAX. Thinking outside the box, she set up group training that got the new transporters on the road in record time. And to ease the transition of families and international dogs, she authored a “Welcome” letter containing instructions on the animals’ care and feeding.
McGowan’s total involvement touched the lives of more than 1,040 dogs. RAGofAZ rehomes 65 dogs per year, and that will increase with the regular arrival of dogs from China in the near future.
Once, a breeder cautiously contacted her to inquire about surrendering Goldens that could no longer breed, and she established a rapport resulting in a continuous rescue of 15 medically needy dogs, saving them from a possibly tragic end.
Scottie McGowan has also developed a relationship with the Golden Retriever Rescue of El Paso. When the west Texas group becomes overwhelmed by an abundance of dogs or those with significant medical needs, she brings them to Arizona.
On another occasion the Desert Labrador Retriever Rescue needed assistance transporting a South Korean dog from LAX to Arizona. McGowan brought him back with Golden Rescue dogs, saving them a long, exhaustive trip.
The Bone Voyage Rescue in Mexico has few volunteers and difficulty acquiring crates. Not only has she flown there several times to assist with processing and escorting Golden Rescue incoming dogs, but due to an abundance of crates from other countries, she arranges crate transport to Mexico via flight volunteers.
To add to the laundry list of her efforts, three pending adoptable dogs from Turkey were grounded when COVID-19 flights were initially suspended. McGowan once again turned to social media to raise $1,080 for Turkish workers to care for them until the travel ban is lifted. She’s also used social media to raise more than $1,000 to support China’s dogs delayed by COVID-19.
Once you know Scottie McGowan’s story it’s easy to see why she was chosen for the prestigious Starfish Award, and she couldn’t be more honored.
The Starfish Story
One day a man was walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, “What are you doing?” The youth replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die.” “Son,” the man said, “don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference!” After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish, and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said… “I made a difference for that one.” Author, Loren Eisley