The Goldens Rule: Rescue A Golden of Arizona
Story by Claire Sheridan | Photo courtesy Scottie McGowan & RAG-AZ
“Goldens have such a spiritual essence that it makes me think they are angels sent down to teach us unconditional love and how not to take life so seriously.” -Scottie McGowan
Every dog is special, and, as dog people, Tucson Dog readers undoubtedly have a special love for everything canine. However, it is no secret that many dog-humans have a favorite. How we chose our breed—or it chose us— we may never know, but, fortunately for many dogs, once a breed has made its way into the hearts of humans, there is no greater champion than a breed rescue volunteer. We humans can even become rabid with enthusiasm.
It would be difficult to find someone who doesn’t like Golden Retrievers. Depicted in many a media outlet, from television and movies to advertisements, the Golden Retriever casts a well-known visage. American Kennel Club’s 2015 and 2016 third most popular U.S. dog breed, Golden Retrievers are known for being intelligent, friendly, and devoted to humans.
This year marks the 19th Anniversary of the group Rescue-A-Golden (RAG). For RAG Director Scottie McGowan, her breed of choice came down to information gleaned from a dog breed book. Returned stateside from Germany after serving in the Air Force, McGowan and her husband, both veterans, wanted a dog. “He wanted a Westie, I wanted a Golden–I won,” says McGowan. Their first Golden, whom they had from cradle to grave, was their gateway dog. When that dog was 5 years old, they adopted a playmate through Rescue A Golden. That was in 2008; it’s been a love affair with the rescue organization ever since.
With her background in nursing and as a former service member, McGowan knows a thing or two about running organizations. She initially became involved in RAG for her love of Goldens, but has stayed involved, and taken on a leadership role, because of the organization’s wonderful integration. With a network of volunteers statewide, from Apache Junction to Douglas and all points in between, RAG’s dogs come from all over Arizona. RAG functions like a well-oiled machine. The goal is to transition dogs from the surrendering home directly to a pre-approved home. They maintain a pool of potential adopters, about whom RAG learns many details; in order to make the list, families must undergo a home inspection and provide information about their lifestyle. Although each rescue is different, every RAG rescue receives the Gold Standard of care, including: spay/neuter, microchipping, vaccinations, Valley Fever titer, and any specialty veterinary care the animal needs.
RAG recently expanded their reach globally, taking in Goldens from Korea, China, and Guadalajara, Mexico. Two dogs were rescued from the Korean meat industry; they were fortunate to be unusable as food because they were heartworm-positive. Both were successfully treated, and now live in loving homes here in Arizona. Guadalajara dogs come from a rescue organization there, with which RAG maintains a constant link; thus far they have brought in 10 Guadalajara Goldens.
The group works hard to get community exposure for their dogs. Some Tucson-area events they’ve attended this year include: 16th Annual Farmers and Artisans Chili Roast at the Farmers Market on Old Spanish Trail; Pima County Home & Garden Show, and a Meet & Greet Fundraiser at Bookman’s on Ina. On Sunday November 12, 2017 you can see the dogs and humans of RAG at Bark in the Park from 10:30 AM to 3 PM at Reid Park. The Tucson Dog magazine will be a part of this great event and sponsor of the Best Trick contest. The winner will receive a prize and have their picture and story in the Jan/Feb issue of The Tucson Dog magazine. On November 24, 25 & 26, the group will be at the Artisan Craft Fair, also at Reid Park, from 9 AM to 4 PM.
At the Chili Roast, a 5 year-old boy named Drew, couldn’t get enough of the RAG booth. In his short life, Drew has already lost two Goldens, one dog succumbed to cancer at only 2 years old. After two traumatic losses, the family is not ready for another dog, but Drew visits the RAG dogs at events, where he gets so much loving. According to McGowan, “Goldens are so intuitive, which is why they make such wonderful therapy dogs.” RAG also taps into the silly fun-loving side of Goldens at their events. At Bark in the Park, the group has a peanut butter licking contest; first and second place dogs each win $10 gift cards to Pet Smart.
The work is bittersweet; RAG volunteers cry along with very sad humans who surrender their dogs, and they witness and partake of the joy of those receiving their new family members. “We all cry when a dog dies. Only one or two of us may have met the dog, but we all cry when we lose one of ours.” The volunteers keep doing it because they are, “paid in woofs, tail wags, and sloppy kisses.” Although the transitions are challenging, McGowan takes heart in knowing that, “Goldens bloom where they’re planted, as long as there is love.”
For more information, check out the group’s website at: www.golden-retriever.org or call their Woof Line at: 602-404-WOOF(9663)