December 20, 2004
Miss August breaks from her photo shoot to chew ice and wrestle a cocker spaniel. Miss June adores the media, licking the reporter’s hand as he writes. Miss January loves the lens so much that she pokes it constantly with her pink, wet nose.
They aren’t your normal calendar girls. But they didn’t pose for a normal calendar. The Arizona Golden Retriever Connection has unveiled its Sharing Golden Lifestyles 2005 calendar. Instead of preening supermodels, the photos feature two dozen swinging tails, rescued from the jaws of adversity — and they hope their sunny faces will raise the funds to save a whole lot more.
AN ACTIVE AUGUST
"The people who come to us almost unanimously say: ‘Why would golden retrievers need a rescue? They’re such a popular breed,’ " says Linda Arters, founder and past president of Arizona Golden Retriever Connection. The American Kennel Club lists "goldens" as the second-most popular breed in the United States, but many of the dogs wind up victims of neglect or abuse. "In 2003, we rescued 136 goldens," she says. "This year, our numbers were down a little, to 95. But there are two golden retriever rescues serving this area, and we’re the smaller one."
"We’re such a throwaway society," laments Dana White, as 2- year-old Lucy dodges a flying cocker spaniel at her Paradise Valley home. White and her husband, Jack, have five dogs — the other four are cocker spaniels. Statuesque and chestnut-colored, Miss August runs the floor like the center on a dog basketball team. "Her first owners had a child who’d ‘aggressively pet’ the dog," Jack White says. "To this day, she’s afraid of children." But Lucy took to the Whites, and the cockers, immediately. "She was a little nervous her first few weeks," he recalls. "We’d take her to the vet and she’d be afraid she was changing homes again."
Lucy’s is a common rescue profile: Neglected by her first family, she was discovered running loose, adopted by a second family and neglected again before being given up. Like many rescues, AzGRC uses a rigorous process to make sure a rescued dog’s next home is its last. "We filled out an eight-page application, we had a house visit, we took her for a day to see how everyone got along," Dana says. The entire adoption process, including spaying and neutering, can cost between $200 and $300 and run four to six weeks. "It does take longer than just walking into to a pet store," Arters says. "But we want to place a healthy dog that’s a good fit for each family."
MELLOW JANUARY AND JUNE
Once she determines visitors are friendly, Meisha’s a sucker for affection. She is 13, with a white face and deep brown eyes. As ‘turn-ons’ go, being Miss January ranks a distant second to ear rubs. Meisha’s previous owner gave her up to "de-stress" her life. Now with a 15-year-old golden named Holly, she guards the home of Jane Emerich, 89.
"Animals give you responsibility," says Emerich, scratching the blissed-out dog’s head. "You’ve got to feed ’em and take care of ’em. And that responsibility keeps you young."
Retrievers are vigorous and energetic by nature. But AzGRC found the sweet and retiring Meisha a perfect match for Emerich, whose other golden retriever, Bogart, had recently died. The acclimation process "took about two or three seconds," Emerich says with a chuckle. "Meisha came in. Sniffed Holly. Holly sniffed Meisha. Meisha took a drink out of Bogart’s bowl. That was it."
Golden retrievers are especially cute as puppies — which, unfortunately, can make them an impulse buy.
"Young families often buy them ‘for the baby to grow up with,’ " Arters says. But the dog quickly outgrows the child, "and you get a young mother with a second child — a 50-pound adolescent that’s too much to handle." Goldens frequently find themselves exiled to the back yard, where the separation eats at them.
"These are family dogs," she says. "They want to be part of your family."
The details of Angel’s life might be sketchy, because the chestnut 2-year-old keeps putting her snout on the reporter’s note pad. "She’s up to 65 pounds now," says owner Lori Willard of Gilbert proudly, "but she’s had a rough road." A year ago, a blocked intestine had Angel vomiting and in serious pain. Her previous owners took her to Gilbert Veterinary Hospital, but balked at the cost of lifesaving surgery.
"Vicki, the vettech there, was a real hero," Willard says. "She got them to turn her over to the rescue." AzGRC approved the surgery, which removed 10 inches of intestine, and matched her with Willard during recovery. "At first, she followed me everywhere," she says. "She couldn’t sleep unless some part of me was touching her. But after two months, when she realized she wasn’t going anywhere, she got a lot more confident."
Since 2000, Rescue a Golden of Arizona and AzGRC have aided approximately 400 dogs. The calendar will raise funds to support AzGRC’s continuing efforts. Arters also hopes it will give a face to the many dogs and cats, of all breeds, languishing in local shelters for want of someone to love. "If you give these animals a second chance at life, they are so loving and appreciative," she says. The delight each calendar girl takes in her new home seems to confirm her claim.
"They know they’ve been rescued, and now they’re home," Jack White says as he watches Lucy sprint after a tennis ball. "They just know." For more information
The calendars, which cost $5, are available by writing AzGRC, 9920 S. Rural Road, No. 108, PMB 23, Tempe, AZ 85284. For further retail locations, to order the calendar online, or for more information on Arizona Golden Retriever Connection and its services, visit www.azgrc.org. Calendars are also available at the following East Valley locations:
Animal Clinic del Rancho
11445 E. Via Linda, Suite 10 (480) 860-9545
20789 N. Pima Road, Suite 150 (480) 473-0052
In the Raw
8329 N. Hayden Road (480) 443-4113
El Pedregal Shopping Center Scottsdale Road and Carefree Highway (480) 488-4300
Wild Bird Center
10701 N. Scottsdale Road, Suite 103 (480) 922-4910
Bone Appetit Bakery 4810 E. Ray Road, Phoenix (480) 785-9499
Mail and More
9920 S. Rural Road, Suite 108 (480) 961-2100
Pecan Grove Veterinary Hospital
655 W. Warner Road, Suite 111 (480) 598-3669
Gilbert Veterinary Hospital
1655 S. Gilbert Road (480) 963-1815