2016-05-18 / Columnists

Pets, Pets, Pets

“Harper Lee, Willa Cather, John Cheever, Louisa May Alcott…” The list sounds like an American lit class, but instead these names are a partial passenger list of “Turkish Golden Retriever Airlift Rescue – Take 3”. Last Friday morning, 18 more abandoned Golden Retrievers flying from Istanbul Airport landed at JFK to start their bright new lives in the US. Turkish Goldens landed in NYC in September and November 2015 too, making the grand total 54.

The latest dogs were supposed to arrive at a JFK cargo hangar late Thursday night. Turkish Customs says there was a computer glitch. Instead, Customs there, not grasping America’s love affair with the breed, held up departure, because agents were puzzled about why anyone would want so many similar dogs. The Golden crew got Customs clearance too late and missed their scheduled plane by 15 minutes.

The dogs spent an extra night in their crates at the Istanbul Airport. We heard volunteers carefully walked them. Meanwhile, it took hours before the four breed rescues from LI, NJ, PA and MA, poised to converge upon JFK, learned their precious canine cargo was not on board their flight. “Judy Blume, Dean Koontz and Danielle Steele” – the trio coming to Long Island Golden Rescue(LIGRR)–were going to make a 1 a.m. stop at Babylon Shelter for a quick bath before bedding down at a foster home after their long journey. Plan B sent the weary travelers to Aldrich Animal Hospital in West Babylon where they would be staying and get “Welcome to America” grooming.


LIGRR president Melanie Mayo welcomes “Dean Koontz” to America. LIGRR president Melanie Mayo welcomes “Dean Koontz” to America. We waited for Customs at JFK too. While the agents were checking their paperwork and health passports, we are permitted to give the dogs water and treats through their crates, but no one could walk them until US Customs cleared their paperwork. The Goldens greet their rescuers wearing Turkish evil eye protector beads lovingly placed around their necks by two amazing Turkish ladies who cared for them and gave them the Golden ticket to the good life. The pups are so patient. When we get the OK from Customs, they burst out of their crates with joy and run down the ramp. Many of the dogs happily frolic together.


“Dean Koontz” arrives at JFK in his crate. “Dean Koontz” arrives at JFK in his crate. LIGRR (www.ligrr.org) joins with Golden Re-Triever Rescue in NJ, Autumn Valley in PA and Yankee Golden Retriever Rescue in MA to make the Turkish airlifts financially feasible. For security reasons, the rescues are advised not to announce the time/place of these flights until the dogs are in the air. Americans first learned of the stray Golden Retriever problem in Turkey early in 2015 when tourists looked out their hotel windows and saw the familiar dogs clustered in the streets. They notified Adopt a Golden in Atlanta where there is a large facility, and the Golden airlifts began. Atlanta remains Turkish Golden Central.


Turkish Goldens wear evil eye protector necklaces and “carry” health passports. Turkish Goldens wear evil eye protector necklaces and “carry” health passports. The current group, all named after American authors, range in age from “Steinbeck,” a six-month-old pup, to matronly “Margaret Mitchell,” about five. Some groups have their dogs spoken for before they arrive, while Melanie Mayo, LIGRR president, prefers to meet the dogs first. “I want to match their temperament with the applicants’ lifestyles and dog skills,” Melanie said.

Why so many stray Goldens in Turkey? In Istanbul, close to 50,000 homeless dogs are roaming the streets or crowded together while living out their lives in the city’s 32 shelters. It’s believed over 1,000 Golden Retrievers belong to Turkey’s huge pack of forgotten dogs. At one time, Goldens were considered a status symbol in Turkey. Purebred pups were imported from Germany and England, and sold in Turkish pet stores. Then Goldens became too popular and plentiful. As the fad faded, these dogs were discarded. They were left struggling to survive among numerous dog packs, scrounging for food in garbage cans and dumpsters. Known for their gentle temperament, Goldens don’t fare well when faced with dog fights. Many of the seniors succumb to the elements or squabbles with feral dogs. Most Golden survivors are five years old or younger. Their puppies are scavenging on the streets and in forests too.

Life on Turkish streets is harsh. “Whitman,” in the latest airlift, has a jagged scar from an attack on his nose. “Davey Crockett,” from the September group, had human predators. Eileen McFadden, from Golden Re-Triever Rescue in NJ, is NE coordinator for Turkish Golden rescues. She said, “Davey was beat up on the side of the road. His swollen eye was damaged, his teeth were kicked out. He has no teeth left on one side. Despite mistreatment by people, Davey retains his sunny Golden temperament.” Eileen adopted Davey who has adjusted well, yet still flinches at hand signals as if someone is about to strike him.

Golden Retriever rescues are not neglecting their breed at home. LIGRR never turns down a local Golden due to age or health concerns. They spare no expense addressing rehab or veterinary care. In fact, LIGRR accepted three LI Goldens last week – a puppy whose owner is undergoing chemo, a stray male from Hempstead Shelter and a teen Golden who needs a more experienced family. The three Turkish immigrants already mesh with the domestic Goldens. For the most part, Golden Retrievers have a glowing, universal temperament which is why Turkish Goldens are so deserving of our help. If interested, call LIGRR at 516-578-3803.

Two free rabies vaccine clinics this weekend – no appointment needed; paper proof of most recent rabies shot may allow for a three-year (rather than one-year) rabies certificate. • Sat., May 21 from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at Babylon Town Hall, 200 East Sunrise Hwy., Lindenhurst, for Suffolk residents only. Hosted by Babylon Shelter. Rabies shots for dogs, cats, ferrets are free; canine and feline distemper combo shots plus bordetella are $15 each. Microchips with registration are $25 each. For info., call 631- 643-9270. • Sun., May 22 from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Last Hope, 3300 Beltagh Ave., Wantagh, for all Nassau and Suffolk pet owners. Rabies shots for dogs and cats are free; canine and feline distemper combo plus canine bordetella are $12 each. For info, call 631-671-2588.

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