Hi, I am Ellen Lindenfeld, and I am very involved as a volunteer for EGRR. I have owned Goldens for 23 years, but my life as a volunteer in Golden Retriever Rescue began approximately 10 years ago when I met someone from the local Golden Retriever breed club. I was introduced to the breed club at the time when Rescue and breed club were one and the same. I owned an 8 month old goofy male golden, and a female golden that was 10 years old. I had always loved my Goldens, but had no idea when I started in rescue what that love would turn out to mean to me in the coming years.
Growing up, we lived in the country, with about 12-20 outdoor cats at any given time, and always had a dog that lived inside but was allowed to roam outside throughout the day, wherever and whenever. My parents did not spend money going to the vet, or on dog food; the cats and our dogs shared table scraps outside at the end of the house. I lost my first beloved dog when she was 16, and I was fourteen, and I did not speak to my mother for days after she had Fancy put down. Thus, growing up with our pets was a far cry from the way my dogs are treated (especially the vet bills!!); however, it seemed that our animals all those years ago had a happy life, living in the country, and not confined nearly as much as my dogs are now in suburbia.
I was raised in Ohio, but moved to Florida in 1976, with my husband. After having 2 children, we decided to get our first golden retriever when our children were 6 and 4. Kairo, a male puppy, was quite the entertainer, eating items like sofas, eyeglasses, and a pin cushion full of quilting pins. To this day I entertain my friends at work with stories of Kairo’s antics. He lived to be 12, but when he was two, we got our second golden, a little female named Rusty. After Kairo died, we got a male pup named Griffey, who was almost more devilish than Kairo, if that was possible and ten years ago, we adopted our first rescue dog, a small little blonde named Hannah. We also adopted a stray kitten 12 years ago that we found in our front yard; he has learned to adjust to a lot of Goldens over the years!
I took in my first foster dog, an 8-10 year old male who had been dropped off in the overnight drop off pen in Alachua County Animal Control, on the 4th of July, thus he was named Ben Franklin. I had never been involved in any semblance of a “dog fight” prior to this, and boy, did things change quickly. The next morning, I was in the midst of my first dog fight, trying to separate 2 males vying for my attention.
As it worked out, all 3 of my dogs became friends, and we ended up adding another 7 year old female rescue named Shelbie to our household. I am totally fond of the seniors, and if I could have a household full of them, I would.
After losing our first foster dog, Ben, (whom I adopted), we fostered a 13 year old Golden named Fudge. He was a very sweet male from England. Unfortunately we only had 11 months with him before he passed away. (I ended up adopting him too!) By that time, we had 2 females and a male, and all was pretty stable. We had 3 certified therapy dogs, 2 of whom visited a local nursing home on a regular basis. I spent 8 years going to the nursing home every Sunday with one of the 3, and made so many good friends there.
Somewhere in this time period I fostered a dog named Sandy, who was about 5 years old. My best memory of her was that she did not want to get into our pool, but she loved the hose, so hours were spent spraying her with a hose, and giving her a baby wading pool to play in. She was a love, but although I cried when she left, I was ready for her to go to her new forever home. She was the only one of the dogs I have fostered that I have given up. (Perhaps that is why I very rarely foster!!)
Last July, we lost our Hannah, just nine years old, very unexpectedly. She was the dog I took to a nursing home for 8 years, and we had a very strong bond. I was closer to her than I have been to any of my others, and I have thought at times that perhaps she was my “once in a lifetime dog.” My heart was broken, and it has taken me months to recover from her loss. There has been nothing more rewarding than to walk into a nursing home and have a family member tell you that the patient has not responded to anyone or anything prior to responding to your dog. I cannot begin to tell you what that feeling is like. In October of 2007, I adopted a new rescue dog named Rhett, whom I hope to develop into a therapy dog. He is like having a pup again, and we adore him.
The good things about rescue work are that every time you do a home visit, or place a dog, or transport one of these special Goldens, you feel you have made a difference in the life of one of them that need your help. The hardest decision in rescue is to have to vote to put a golden down, due to medical conditions that show no hope for improvement, or because the dog is aggressive. I have learned to hate the phone calls asking me for a vote to euthanize an aggressive or sick dog that has no hope for recovery or rehabilitation.
As a board member of EGRR, it is my responsibility to take care of all of the paperwork (i.e., time consuming), and I do not currently foster, due to dog and cat personalities in my household. I do home visits and transport, and am responsible for all of the get well cards, sympathy cards, etc., that go out to our members. Since I am a Regional Library Manager (I used to be a librarian before I became a manager), I do book reviews about dogs for our newsletter. I can only say that the last ten years of my life spent doing this work for Golden Retriever Rescue has given me a cause in my life, and there is nothing I have ever spent my time on that has brought so much fulfillment to me, with the exception of therapy dog work. When my children left to go out of state to college, I sincerely think I would not have survived without my dogs and my EGRR work. I only regret that I can’t take in every dog that needs a foster home, especially when that dog is a senior, with no place to go.
I currently have a 14 ½ year old female, an 11 year old male, and a 4-5 year old male Golden, in addition to a 12 year old cat. I know I will not have them forever, which makes me sad, but for as long as I am in good health, I will continue to both take in Goldens who need a home, and work as a volunteer to find good homes for all of those Goldens who are given up, and that we must take care of. I cannot imagine any work being more rewarding than this.
I look forward to the day when I can spend all of my time working as a volunteer for Everglades Golden Retriever Rescue, but while I still must do my full time job (that pays me a salary), I will do my best to save as many of these wonderful Goldens that I can save. It is worth every minute of my time, when I hear that one of them goes to his/her forever home, and that perhaps I had a part in. I only wish I could do more as a volunteer for our group, and I encourage new members to get involved in this work which is so rewarding. I could never have done the rescue work that I have done without the love and support of my husband Glen, of 33 years. He has helped me to realize how much I can take on, and when to let go.