Reflections on Rescue

A local writer contacted me recently to ask if I could share some thoughts on rescue, as she is featuring two of our DVGRR rescued Goldens in a book she’s compiling of uplifting dog stories. We chatted on the phone about our respective dog experiences (could have gone on for hours, but we kept our conversation reasonable in length!) and later I sent her some written comments on a few subjects we touched on. I thought I would share those comments here as well. Read on…

Having been involved with Golden Retriever rescue, specifically with Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue (DVGRR) since 1994, I’ve often said that “rescue gets in your blood.” There is something very magical and – for lack of a better word – addictive, about knowing you have been a part of helping a displaced dog find a loving new home.  And, the benefits reaped are not only on the part of the dog, but also on the part of the humans – who now have a treasured new four-legged family member to bring them incredible joy and happiness.

Through the years, I’ve known and worked with literally hundreds of Goldens who’ve gone through our program. In the early years, I fostered some twenty or so in my home until they were matched with their new families. After I became Adoption Manager and held that position from 2007 to 2012, I was among those helping to connect each dog with the right individual or family to meet their needs.  And of course, I’ve had adopted Goldens in my own life for many years – my current Golden marks the fifth one I’ve adopted personally from DVGRR.

Alli in serious mode

Alli often flashes a great Golden smile, but this is her “don’t mess with me” look (which cracks me up every time). Our Intake Manager Fay took this picture a few months ago and captioned it: “Give me the treat and no one gets hurt….”

My interaction with so many of these amazing Goldens has taught me that while they are all the same breed, all carrying related genetic material, in reality they are all incredibly individual. My Alli, adopted in January 2011 at age eleven, is on the small side, with a rather pointy snout, delicate little paws, a thick, medium gold coat, a few too many pounds around the middle (to my embarrassment) and a personality that announces with no room for misunderstanding: “I’m a full-fledged princess and I call the shots in my life, thank you very much!”

Outside in one of our exercise yards this morning, I played with Duke, a sleek, muscular, dark red young male, who raced around like a silly puppy, daring me to try and catch him in our brief game of keep-away.  Taking a walk with our Kennel Manager was Monty, a tall, strong six-year-old with a big broad head, a tongue hanging down happily from his mouth,  no leash manners to speak of (yet!), and a penchant for blustering his way exuberantly and boisterously through life.  Monty’s walking companion was Candy, a very light colored female with a sweet but somewhat reserved nature, who observes the world around her carefully before deciding if she wants to get involved.  Her overall demeanor could best be described as “ladylike.”

Of the other Golden Retrievers in our program (from the past, present, and surely in the future), variations abound with respect to age, size, color, energy level, personality, etc. All Goldens, yes…all generic, no!


Variations in color are of course among the most obvious in the Golden breed. Duke epitomizes the deep red or coppery color that is often characterized by a very straight, sleek, coat. I personally am very drawn to what I call the “redheads,” though of course I love them all!

Those wonderful variations are what make the process of matching dogs with new owners such a fascinating one – I’ve often called it both an art and a science.  As we note on DVGRR’s website, the “science”, or objective, element involves looking at each dog’s specific needs and comparing them to the adopter’s lifestyle, work schedule, family structure, etc. The subjective, or “art”, part of the process centers on the emotional connection made between the dog and human(s) upon meeting each other. There’s an “intangible spark”, or proverbial “gut feeling” that may or may not always occur. Both the objective and subjective elements come into play when finding that perfect match!


Candy’s coat color is hard to describe, though for sure she’s not red. Her pretty fur ranges from light gold to almost white in places. She came from a puppy mill where good nutrition was almost certainly absent. Once she is on high quality food for a few months, her coat may even out in color and be less “two tone.”

From the adopter’s standpoint, the unique attributes of each Golden open the door to many possibilities – that can be perceived as a challenge or an opportunity, depending on your perspective!

While certainly each of us is drawn to a particular look or disposition (often based on our past experiences), we strongly encourage our adopters to stay flexible and consider all options in order to maximize the chances of a successful adoption – successful not only for the adopter, but certainly for the dog. And that includes bringing home a dog that may not have all the “ideal qualities” thought of for a Golden Retriever, but who very much needs a home and is very much eager to share his or her love and loyalty with a new family.

I’m speaking of the senior dogs, the scraggly-looking dogs, the ones with a challenging health issue or two, the ones needing to lose a ton of weight, the ones with an aversion to other canines, the ones who’ve been scarred in some way by their original lives and need a big chunk of extra TLC to come around, or the ones with maybe just some funny-looking ears or a crooked tail. The thing is, what you see today is not necessarily what you’ll have in a few months or a few years!

One of my favorite phrases was coined by a DVGRR staff member recently, and it embodies our firm commitment that all Goldens, no matter their age, size, color, or quirky nature, deserve a second chance at happiness. (In fact, we’ve started calling those “harder-to-place” Goldens our Rescue Soulmates.)  “Be realistic,” we tell our prospective adopters (we certainly don’t want people to take on more than they can handle or be comfortable with), “but be compassionate and stay open-minded. Look inside yourself and ask, ‘How deep is your rescue soul?’

You just may find a forever friend who fills up your soul with more joy than you could ever imagine.