THE RECOVERY SERVICE

In July 1977 the club decided to care for lost and found Golden Retrievers.  An appeal was made for members to become holders and a vet was chosen who would offer his services to the club at a reduced rate. The first dog in the system was a dog around 12 months old, who had been hit by a car and given to a vet who had treated his broken leg.  It took five months to get this dog back on his feet again.  His owner never claimed him, so he was placed in a new home.

Lost and found was the only function of the service until the following year when calls came in from people who no longer wanted their dogs.  In 1978 the service started taking in these Goldens who were desexed, vaccinated and re-homed.  These dogs were sold for a fee of $50.00. Bev Crawley was our first Recovery Service Coordinator and she coordinated a group of holders, drivers and vets and was convenor for the next five years. By the start of 1981 the Recovery Service had placed 50 Goldens aged from 4 months to 9 years in new homes.

The lost and found section continued to be a vital part of the recovery service.  From 1983 to 2002 this section was efficiently run by Kaye Kilgour.  Kaye’s job required her to help people with information about how to find their lost Golden and to find homes for the Golden Retrievers that were found.  Kaye checked the lost and found columns in the newspapers each day and then rang the people concerned offering advice on how to find their lost dog.  With a network of callers sometime Goldens were found and returned to their surprised owners who hadn’t known that their dog had gone missing.

The club was very fortunate to have three long term convenors of the Recovery Service.  Bev Crawley was convenor for five years and when Jill Dusting took over from Bev Crawley in 1982, she continued in the convenor role for twelve and a half years.  The next Recovery Service Convenor was Alison Hargreaves who took on the role in 1995 and continued for six and a half years.

Ninety percent of the Golden Retrievers that came into the service were handed in by their owners who for various reasons no longer wanted them.  The other ten percent came from the lost and found service or from animal shelters. The dogs were handed in and placed with a holder family where they were treated as one of their own.  They were then assessed and if needed, desexed, vaccinated and checked for heartworm.  We have had Goldens come in with broken legs, very bad hip dysplasia and two very old abandoned dogs with eye infections who were very very thin.

Most of the Golden Retrievers that came in were generally well looked after, but all have been neglected of the special love and company that all Goldens need.  Because their new families gave them so much love and attention the dogs settled in extremely well.

Up until 1992 the Recovery Service had re-homed approximately 250 Golden Retrievers.  The service averaged around 19 dogs each year.  Finding homes for these Golden Retrievers was not usually a problem because there was a waiting list of people who wanted an older dog.  Occasionally a pair of Goldens was handed in and in most cases the pair was kept together. In 1997 and 1998 seven dogs were sent to Adelaide to be part of the Pets As Therapies program which was quite successful.  One of these dogs, Tess, who was working with the elderly, taught herself to pick up a brush and take it to someone so that they could brush her.

After Alison Hargreaves left the convenor position in 2001, several Recovery Service Convenors followed;  Felicity Hawkins, Rae Szuch, Shane Addison, Jennie Coutlemanis and Cheryl Cooke. In 2003 the Lost and Found Service was combined with the Recovery Service as so many of their functions overlapped.  In 2007 a recovery fee of $50.00 was introduced for dogs being handed in to the Recovery Service.

Unfortunately late in 2007 the Recovery Service was scaled back to a referral service only because there was no member able to make the commitment to this time consuming and challenging role.

The Recovery Service played an important role in the club for thirty years.  The role of the Recovery Service Convenor was very rewarding but also an emotional one.  Over the years there have been some very sad cases of neglected Golden Retrievers who needed our help, but there were very many more Golden success stories with happy endings.

AMY AND SKYE'S STORY

Two female Golden Retrievers, one about six years old and the other about a year old were found wandering in the State Forest at Clonbinane.  The pair had been seen at various times over a six month period before eventually being caught by a lady who worked for the Veterinary Board.

The older dog had a shoulder injury, virtually no teeth and both dogs were in a shocking condition.  How they survived at all is amazing.  The two dogs had a health check up and were desexed by the club’s vet who considered them to be nice dogs.

The lady who had found the two dogs decided to keep the older female and named her Skye.  The younger female, Amy, had a great deal of trouble trying to settle into a new home.  Because she had been used to living in the wild ever since she was a young puppy she had trouble adapting to living in a home and civilisation. But some tender loving care and a great deal of patience worked some magic and Amy blossomed into a wonderful dog.  Her new owner was thrilled to bits with her.

PETE’S STORY

Jill Dusting rang me one hot Saturday afternoon to enquire if we would be interested in fostering a recovery service dog who was pretty much in a terrible state.  Jill had been at her vet surgery and they showed her this dog who had been brought in to be put to sleep.

He had been found in a drain by the Knox ranger, where he was apparently stuck.  When Jill saw him he had pus oozing from his poor old eyes, slugs and garden worms in his tail, and he was sitting in his own excrement.  To say the least – he stunk.  The ranger had made enquires about his owner and eventually concluded that he belonged to some market gardeners in the area who (the neighbours said) had kept a dog locked up as a guard dog.  These people would not admit to owning a dog at all.

Jill brought him to our place on the Sunday with her greyhound bath and we tried to clean him up.  Poor Pete had so many washes, hosing downs, dunks and flea rinses, he was exhausted.  Underneath the fleas and the filth we found a very old, very tired, creamy-white Golden Retriever.  The fleas were attacking him – there was a lot of blood in the water and I eventually found there were nests of fleas in both ears and they were bleeding terribly.

His poor old coat was matted so close to the skin (I don’t think he had ever been brushed in his life) and Jill and I had to cut away a lot of coat.  He was extremely emaciated and also quite dehydrated.  I took him to the vet the next day and he didn’t think he would last out the week.  He estimated him to be about 11 to 12 years old and so recovery, if at all, was going to be slow.

The fleas were a big problem but using a product recommended by the vet, we solved the flea problem.  The next problem was his eyes, and he proved to have a slight dry-eye condition which we treated with bathing, drops and creams.  By the time he left his eyes were clean, bright and even cheerful.  The next problem was his weight and we had a great deal of trouble finding a diet he could tolerate without agitating his bowel.  He had diarrhoea for two to three weeks before we settled his bowels.  With a no fibre diet he improved immensely.

Of course he received a lot of love and attention too, and I am sure that made him feel better about himself.  Once he started to improve, he went for a walk with my other two Golden Retrievers, who would make sure he was alright on his walk.  Seamus kept coming back to him all the time and Shelley would sit with him while he had a rest.

His hearing wasn’t too good, and his eye sight wasn’t either, but he knew all of our individual steps and in the morning when we all had a play, he would growl and have a little dance and roll about on the grass.  One morning he even came running to greet me!  He had quite a bit of arthritis in his back legs so that was no mean feat I can tell you!  On those occasions he actually showed a little bit of the beautiful dog he once was.  Hopefully those glimmers of the past will keep coming back again and again.

Unfortunately Pete got out of our property one night during a terrible storm.  He squeezed through the rungs on our deck and fell about seven feet.  And although I was up most of the night searching for him, he ended up in the local pound.  So apart from the infringement notice that the council was not prepared to recall, they then knew we had three dogs without a permit.  So poor Pete had to leave us.  To all of us it was a sad occasion, especially as he was to go to another holder as his new home was not quite ready.

Pete is now in his new home and the new owners have just acquired a Golden Retriever puppy as well.  So we are hoping that the puppy and the new environment will perhaps give Pete back some zest for life.  He lives on 10 acres in Tyabb with two dams and lots of space.  He will love it because he hated being locked in, and he also loves water.

I urge all breeders to vet your puppy buyers carefully and to try and keep in touch with them.  If Pete was one of my puppies I would have cried my eyes out, knowing that he had been so neglected.  If we all try a little harder perhaps we won't find any more Petes in drains.  It is a shame that some human beings treat animals like that.  We mustn’t allow it to happen.

Janine Morgan

SAM’S STORY

Another sad case came in to the Recovery Service.  During the May school holidays a Golden Retriever owner went to stay with some friends in Sydney.  They told her about a Golden Retriever that lived across the road and the conditions in which he had lived for three years.  His owner often went away leaving no food and little or no water.  Sam lived in a run which was down one side of the house and this was where he had stayed all his life because he had never been taken out for a walk. 

The owner returned to Sydney during the Christmas holidays, to find Sam still living in the same conditions but in an even worse state than before.  Because she was very worried about Sam, she took it upon herself to talk to the owners and was successful in acquiring him.  Sam was then brought to Melbourne.

He was in very poor condition, he had a bad cough and diarrhoea and even although he was very thin and only weighed 54lbs he wouldn’t eat very much.  He was taken to a vet who said that Sam was on the verge of malnutrition.  The vet diagnosed him with a gut infection, ear infection, tonsillitis, pharyngitis, laryngitis, a high white cell count and probably worm infestation.  The vet thought that if Sam had been left in the conditions in which he was living he would only have lived for six months. 

Living in those conditions Sam had many problems, not only physical but mental.   He wasn’t accustomed to going for a walk and collapsed after walking a short distance.  Sometimes he had to be carried back home.  Having plenty of fresh water was also a novelty to Sam and at first he seemed to just drink and drink.

Sam stayed with the family of the person who rescued him for three weeks and he seemed to improve a little although he wasn’t gaining much weight.  A family on my waiting list went to see him and fell in love with Sam and so he went home with Carol and her husband and two children. Sam settled in well with the family and had finished his medication, but he still didn’t seem as well as he should, Carol took him to the vet where they examined him and decided to do another blood test for heartworm as Sam’s symptoms indicated that this might be the trouble.  Even though a previous blood test had shown negative, this new test was positive.  This meant that Sam now had to be treated for heartworm.  Treatment for heartworm is a very dangerous and can be fatal if there are complications.    

Sam started his four weeks of heartworm treatment with everyone hoping for the best.  Another four weeks passed while his new family waited to see if there would be any serious side effects from the dead heartworms circulating in Sam’s body.  Fortunately to everyone’s relief Sam was given the all clear and he was able to concentrate on the important work of living his new life with his new family.

SANDY'S STORY

Last December, the Victorian Animal Aid Trust rang me about a female Golden Retriever who was available.  I immediately went down and picked her up.  Sandy was about four years old and had been wormed, spayed and vaccinated and was ready to be placed in a home.

I found her to be very timid and scared.  When I got her home she ran and hid under a bush and wouldn’t come out.  I knew that Sandy would need a special family and I found just the right one.  She was in her new home for an hour, and unfortunately got out and ran away.  With all the club's efforts and the owner looking for her over a two week period we were unable to find her.

Four months later, I received another call from the Victorian Animal Aid Trust about a female Golden Retriever.  I went down and they bought her out to me in the office.  Straight away I thought I recognised the collar as one of my old ones that Sandy had been wearing.  Yes, four months later Sandy had turned up again and home we went.  She seemed a little better this time and not as frightened.  Her family in the meantime had got another dog and they didn’t want to have two.

Sandy didn’t take to men very well, so the placement of her needed careful thought.   It was important to find a special, kind and loving family.  In the end Sandy found the perfect family.  She has a terrific home with a Mum, Dad, two children and two cats.  She has settled in very well and has a special bond with the eldest daughter.  Sandy won’t be running away any time soon.

WILLY'S STORY

Willy was collected from the Williamstown Pound in an absolutely shocking condition.  He had mange, no coat and hardly any teeth.  Willie was starving and he was lame on all four legs.  Added to these problems he also had a kidney infection and chronic conjunctivitis.  In fact it took two visits before we could ascertain if he was indeed a Golden Retriever!

Willy was around four years old and stayed in the care of Jill Dusting for nine weeks while his health problems and lack of weight were treated.  There are always some people who say that a dog like that is not worth saving.  But we thought he was and the result has proved we were right.  Willy has the most marvellous temperament.  He is a credit to the breed and although he will never win any beauty contests, he is the most gentle and loving companion.

A Happy Ending

Willy lived with my family for nine weeks.  He ate four large meals a day and at the end of nine week had gained his correct weight.  His other problems were cured and it was great to see the hair growing back over his bald patches.  If we didn’t have problems with the council and the ranger, we would probably have kept him.

In June, three ladies came to see Willy.  They were members of a committee from a geriatric hospital called Broughton Hall.  They were looking for a dog to live at the hospital and visit with the elderly residents.  I told them that Willy still had more coat to grow and that his appearance would improve, but that his temperament was perfect.  They fell in love with him, which wasn’t hard to do.

With tears running down my face, I watched Willy being driven away to his new home.  I knew this would be a terrific home for him, living in a ward of 28 people and getting lots of attention, but deep down I was hoping that it wouldn’t work and that he could come back to us. Much to my happiness it did work.  Willy sleeps in his own basket in the lounge area.  The cook makes him three meals a day of scrambled eggs, stewed chops etc and all the ladies give him a piece of toast at breakfast time. 

One of the committee rang me to report that Willy was wonderful.  When she had arrived that day to see him, she was alarmed to see that his face was covered in something red, but closer inspection revealed that it was lipstick.  The resident ladies had been kissing him.

A day later, another lady from the committee rang with another report.  She said that Willy was the perfect dog - just the one they had been looking for.  One of the more active patients wanted to take him for a walk, so they had bought a lead and collar so that she and one of the sisters could walk him.  So this lady, accompanied by a sister walked Willy around the block.  The lady was 92 years old and Willy, being the gentleman that he is, just walked quietly bedside her.

My son Glenn and I will go to visit Willy in about a month after giving him time to settle in.  My job as Recovery Service Convenor is sometimes a hassle, but with dogs like Willy, it certainly makes me feel it is all worthwhile.

Jill Dusting

Postscript:  Eight months on, Willy has grown a full coat and perhaps now he could win that beauty contest.  I am glad that I didn’t listen to the people who said that he should be put down.  Everyone at Broughton Hall loves him and Willy is doing very well.   Jill