Last month, the oldest Golden Retriever rescue in the Dallas area announced that it is closing. The Board of Directors of Dallas Fort Worth Golden Retriever Rescue (DFWMGRR) told its members, volunteers,supporters and adopters that they will cease operations and let other, newer Dallas rescue groups step up to help Goldens in North Texas.
The closing of DFWMGRR is another story of the struggle of Dog rescues who do amazing work with not enough volunteers or resources. Rescue work takes its toll on volunteers. Sometimes, a rescue group seems to survive on the sheer will alone of a small, core group of dedicated volunteers. Running a rescue means handling the constant flow of the rescues, intakes, medical care, fostering and often sending a foster dog a volunteer has nurtured and loved on to a new forever home..
Rescuers are resilient, like the rescued dogs they serve. So the good work continues.
DFWMGRR is special to me, so this loss is personal .
In 1996 and 2007, Dallas Fort Worth Golden Retriever Rescue helped Max and Junior, my two precious Goldens, find their way to me. Each of these dogs brought me a lesson in resilience that I needed at a difficult time.
So this post is not just about the loss of a great rescue organization.
It’s a love story.
Some Daily Junior readers have heard this story . It is our favorite tale here at The Daily Junior.
We love to tell it.
We need to tell it.
It’s the story of Junior’s rescue, at least it’s the story I will remember.
But more than a memory, it is really the story of how I learned about resilience from the dog who, like me, didn’t seem to fit anywhere , but then found his way. In the process, Junior taught me how to be resilient at a stage of my life when I needed to see I still had my own power to move forward.
It’s a story about love,hope and resilience.
A skinny red dog spends his days alone.
He looks out of a dark, cold, iron crate with black, dusty bars. He lives in the animal shelter. He is not a puppy, but he is young, eleven months old.
He has no collar, no name, no home, and no hope.
His big. red tail droops and collects dirt from the shelter floor, and his ears lay tight against his head as he listens to the other dogs bark and sometimes cry. Families with nice, friendly, smiling kids and adults come to see him. Some frown and look him over, but they do not say the magic, wonderful words, “Yes, we want to adopt him.”
No one wants a small, red, rowdy Golden Retriever. Most visitors to this shelter think that Golden Retrievers are blonde and big. This little Golden Retriever is red, not gold. and has a big splotch of white on his chest.
He is different.
He didn’t fit in his first home. He was too big, too rough. He doesn’t fit anywhere.
One day, a volunteer from DFW Metro Golden Retriever rescue organization comes to his crate, looks at the red dog and takes him from the shelter. The dog goes to live with a nice foster family and waits to see what comes next. He gets treated for fleas and an ear infection and a gets a nice bath and a shampoo. His red coat shines.
About the time the red dog is getting used to his foster home, in the middle of a hot Texas summer, George, my husband, and I are at home . We are not smiling.
Our Golden Retriever Max has died. We miss Max. Max was our boy for 15 years and we loved him very much. Sometimes we think in we hear an echo in our big old house when we talk, it feels so empty. Max’s dishes and toys are still on his bed where we kept them so he could reach them without hurting his sore hips. On our kitchen wall are rows of photographs of Max at every age.
George always says if you count the photos on our kitchen wall, you will find twice as many of Max as of George. My husband notices things like that.
George says, “I am never going to have a dog again. Never again. It hurts too much. No more dogs.”
But I know I need and want another dog. Soon.
“Let’s foster a Golden.”
“No way,” George says.
“Just to have a dog in the house again,” I say, crossing my fingers and toes and already thinking of where I can put the new dog’s photo.
“No, that dog will never leave,” George says with a sigh.
I volunteer most Saturdays with Dallas Fort Worth Golden Retriever Rescue where we find homes for homeless Goldens, and it is hard for me to see homeless dogs and not take one home . Lately, I notice that I use almost a whole box of tissues on my drive home so my tears do not get the seat of my Volkswagen convertible wet.
The next Saturday afternoon, my volunteer shift is over at the Dallas Golden Retriever Rescue, and I am getting ready to get in my car to leave for the day. I have been working on adoption day. I can’t wait to take off my shirt that is soaked from the heat. My black slacks glitter with golden dog hair and I can’t wait to wash my sticky hands that now smell like golden retriever slobber. I just want to get home and wash away the smell and memory of dogs.
I am just about to get in my car and blast the air conditioner on high when I see a skinny, red golden retriever. He is the last dog of the day, and he has just arrived at the shelter in the rescue van.
It is an important moment. He is being interviewed for adoption.
I watch the skinny red Golden jump up, sloppy kiss the prospective adopter and almost knock her down. He barks every time someone tries to speak, and he lunges so hard on the leash he almost knocks me over. I try to untangle the flustered adopter from the leash, which the red dog wrapped around both her feet .
I can get a good look at the prospective adopter now. She wears a crisp white shirt and perfectly pressed hot pink shorts, and I am sure her eyelashes came off the shelf at the drug store. She has on rhinestone sandals and her painted toenails are bright turquoise. Red mud mixed with golden retriever hair and my sweat now covers her perfect toes.
She raises her eyebrows until I think they are going to sprout wings and fly right off her sweaty, dirty forehead, and she adjusts her crisp white blouse, which now has paw prints in strategic spots on her chest. She stares down at the red-dog dynamo with a look that reminds me of my old math teacher on final exam day.
“No, he’s too red and too wild. Are you sure he is even a real golden? He is so red he looks like an Irish setter, and what’s with that white spot on his chest?”
I see that tiny beads of sweat are now beginning to form and flow down her face, and her carefully applied age-defying makeup is turning into muddy brown spots under her eyes and nose. Her perfectly bobbed, blonde hair is beginning to wilt in the Texas heat.
She quickly turns her attention to a large, sweet, blonde, female Golden who is on the fresh green grass under a big shady tree. The light blonde golden retriever is politely munching a carrot stick treat and looks like she might have been meditating. The blonde Golden Retriever looks up and calmly wags a golden tail that looks to me like it has been cream rinsed with something herbal.
I wipe more sweat off my glasses, look around, and the next thing I see is two blonde heads, one human, one dog, driving off together in the front seat of their air-conditioned Lexus. In front of me, a red golden retriever just smiles at me, puts both paws on my shoulder, licks the pouring sweat off my face, looks me directly in the eyes as if we have met before, and flashes the now famous golden retriever grin.
I say to myself, “This boy may be rejected, but he’s not discouraged. He’s resilient”
“Okay, I will foster him until he finds a home.”
The foster coordinator, the person in charge of adoptions, looks at both of us, grins, and hands me the leash.
I push my new charge’s bouncing red Golden Retriever rear end towards my car and load him into my VW beetle. The dog and I both land securely in the back seat and again smile at each other. I notice one of us has their tail caught in the door. I am sure it is not my tail. I work on tail safety for both of us and then I finally get us into the front seat. I say to new canine companion, “How am I going to explain you to George when we get home?”
The Golden does not answer because he is too busy putting his nose completely over the air conditioning vent and sneezing on me. I am so hot by now that the dog’s nasal spray feels good.
Now it’s one week later.
George places a new water bowl and dog food bowl in the special place right near George’s chair in the kitchen. I buy a Martha Stewart fashion-forward red leash and harness, hang it on a hook that says “Let’s go for a walk,” and drag a huge corduroy cozy dog bed and place it next to my side of the bed in our bedroom.
Someone with four feet and a white splotch on his chest is home to stay.
We name our boy Junior. I have a friend make Junior a red fleece blanket that has a big dog paw and the name JUNIOR written across it in big letters. So now, Junior has a name, a bowl, a bed, a blanket, and a place in our hearts.
I say to George, “It isn’t going to be boring.”
You see, I need Junior.
Shortly before adopting Junior, I retired from my demanding but satisfying career in health care, proud of many accomplishments. However, I missed the social connections and sense of purpose my work provided. I love dogs and I love dog stories. In search of a new sense of purpose and a retirement pursuit, Junior and I decide to become a registered therapy dog and Reading Education Assistance Dog (R.E.A.D.) team. We will visit an read with kids and adults in libraries, shelters, and schools.
Before he passes his therapy dog test, Junior has skills to learn and had to study hard. On his first attempt, he does not pass his therapy dog test. I realize I have to learn more about how to help him.
Neither of us give up. On being a therapy dog team. On ourselves. On our dream. On each other.
Junior goes on to serve as a registered therapy dog and even helps other new rescue dogs and their humans become therapy dogs. Junior and I share with new students how Junior needed a second chance . He got that from a Rescue group that saw who he was and who he could be.
We tell dogs and people, “Never give up.” Find who you are, what you are good at, and then go for it. Everyone has a place. It’s true even if you are a rowdy,red Golden Retriever with a white patch.
That’s Junior’s story. Junior is now retired from therapy work, but he has been at the other end of my leash and in my heart ever since. We are partners and friends and help each other. We learn how to work and love as we teach and learn from each other. We learn to be resilient and find new joy in the world we have, not the past and not the future.
And I was right. It is never boring.
Love, Lessons and The Rescue Legacy
What are the lessons I learned from my rescued dog? Rescued dogs embrace the now. They go on to create their new reality of kindness and safety, even when their past was lonely and filled with abuse or neglect. Sometimes we humans must also do this in the face of loss and change.
I look to my rescue dog for an example on how to accept that an aspect of my old life is gone and I must embrace the new road I travel. Often that means saying goodbye to people or groups that were once part of my life.
In one of my favorite books, Resilience, by Elizabeth Edwards, she wrote about great losses in her life. She wrote, when loss happens, ” Our old lives no longer exist, and “the more we cling to the hope that these old lives might come back, the more we set ourselves up for unending discontent.”
I believe rescued dogs know this.
There are undoubtedly other countless stories of Golden Retrievers rescued by DFWMGRR and lives inspired by a resilient rescued dog.Most of us who have been lucky enough to live with a formerly homeless rescued dog, know that the loyalty expressed by a rescued canine tells us they do not forget the past, but they are grateful and optimistic about the future. They work at creating their new future. In the storms of life, they adjust their sail. They go on to learn news tools and new behavior that helps secure their place in their new family and home.
Rescue work is hard. It can be heartbreaking work that requires dedicated, caring and hardy volunteers.
It’s worth it.
However long the life of a rescue group of a rescue group, it is a blessing to all of us. The DFWMGRR enduring legacy the love and resilience is in the lives, memories, and hearts touched forever by the families that welcomed DFWMGRR Golden Retrievers .
The DFWMGRR story doesn’t end here. It is a love story. And love stories last forever.