Golden retriever rescue welcoming 100th dog from Puerto Rico

4:54 p.m Wednesday, Jan. 10, 2018 Local
Andy, a golden retriever rescued from Puerto Rico, and his new mom snuggle after he arrived at Miami International Airport. Photo courtesy of Golden Rescue South Florida

Even lovable, loyal golden retrievers face a bleak plight in Puerto Rico, and it’s been that way long before two hurricanes battered the island and left behind catastrophic living conditions.

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Golden Rescue South Florida has been flying the dogs to new homes here since 2016, volunteer Lisa Hodgson, of Palm Beach Gardens, said.

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The 100th rescue will arrive Saturday at Miami International Airport, said Denise Libby, the group’s Puerto Rico coordinator.

Since the hurricane, two to five golden retrievers are being surrendered each day, she said.

“If people can’t take care of their goldens, whether it’s for lack of money or whatever, they will either call a rescue and say, ‘Here’s my dog,’ or they’ll open the front door, let the dogs out and say goodbye,” Libby said.

A place on the southeast coast of the island is known as “Dead Dog Beach.” Before the hurricanes, people who couldn’t care for pets because of a financial meltdown were letting their dogs go or taking them to overcrowded shelters where they’d be euthanized.

Often, people who leave the island are unable to bring their dog or find someone there to adopt it.

In August 2016, a rescuer in Puerto Rico sent a Facebook message to Libby, which turned into a phone conversation and an eventual collaboration with Golden Retriever Rescue of Puerto Rico.

The Puerto Rico rescue takes the dogs to the vet for a checkup and starts them on any medical treatments they need. The goldens go to foster homes on the island, where their temporary families observe how they get along with other dogs, children, cats and farm animals.

Golden Rescue South Florida then matches the dogs with heavily screened potential owners here.

After they’re medically cleared to fly, they arrive the San Juan Airport the night before the flight, where they’re processed by Amerijet. Two five dogs will fly in separate crates on the same air-conditioned flight so they’re not alone.

Three or four dogs will arrive in Miami on Saturday, including No. 100: 4-year-old Maya, whose big brown eyes, reddish coat and loving demeanor don’t reflect the hardship she’s endured. Her family’s home in a flooded area was wiped out by a hurricane.

Brad, a 2-year-old with light hair and a light heart, will join her.

A Golden Rescue South Florida volunteer visits the homes of people wanting to adopt and asks questions about their family life and schedule. (Goldens, it turns out, are extremely social, so the matchmakers prefer someone who spends a lot of time at home.)

If everything checks out, the person or family is placed on a wait list and matched with the next dog that’s a good fit. If no one on the list is a match for a dog that’s coming, the group posts melt-your-heart photos and a blurb on its Facebook page.

“99.9 percent of the time when they arrive Saturday morning, they walk off the plane into their new homes,” Libby said.

They take a long walk to stretch their legs and then head home with their new families.