Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico Goldens
Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico Goldens

Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico Goldens

by Lynn Stacy-Smith Rescue Spotlight: Love Puerto Rico GoldensIn November 2014 a yellow Labrador was found tied to a tree in a remote area in the woods in the Carolina area of Puerto Rico. She had been muzzled with a plastic bag that allowed her to breathe through her nose, but secured her mouth so that she could not chew herself free, could not eat or drink even if food had been there, and could not even pant to cool herself in the hot, humid tropical weather. Fortunately a good Samaritan came along and found her, cutting her free, and taking her into the foster care of rescue group Love Puerto Rico Goldens. Her rescuers and fosters bathed her, gave her medical care, and found a foster home for her. In January 2015 they arranged for her to fly to the United States to be adopted out through Chicagoland Lab Rescue. They named her Destiny with the hope that she would be able to fulfill her destiny of finding a loving forever home and the happy, safe, healthy life that she and all dogs deserve. At that time I was actively volunteering for Chicagoland Lab Rescue and I immediately volunteered to be her foster as soon as I read the story of how she had been found. I knew I wanted her to feel the love and comfort that my own dogs receive on a daily basis, and so my husband and I picked her up from O'Hare Airport the day before the  Super Bowl that year as a blizzard loomed on the weather radar. In less than the span of twelve hours, Destiny left the world she had come to know, flew on an airplane, experienced the frenzy of the arrivals area of a major international airport on a Saturday night, drove in a strange car with utter strangers, and then stepped into snow and a whirling blizzard for the first time in her life. I cannot imagine what she was thinking or feeling, and I was amazed that she trusted me and settled into her kennel in our living room at bedtime that night without so much as a bark or whimper. If you have followed my blog for a while or read my book, then you have read about Destiny. She was with us for around three months and she had as much of an impact on my life as I had on hers. In those three months she absolutely claimed a permanent spot in my heart. In fact the only reason that she is not laying next to me as I write this post is that I knew when I met her forever family that they needed her in their life to fill the void that their previous dog's passing had left in their hearts, while my heartache from the loss of my previous dogs had already been filled by both Jackson and Tinkerbell. [caption id="attachment_83" align="alignright" width="225"] Destiny after a month in our home, learning to snuggle and trust. [/caption] These days, Destiny is living the life that every dog deserves as the only dog of a couple who love her and dote on her daily. No longer skin and bones, she could actually lose a few pounds, but the thought of her living on the streets alone and starving, or tied to that tree in the woods with no way to free herself, makes it hard for her humans to tell her no when she wants a few extra treats. And quite frankly, I don't blame them one bit. In one of those bittersweet aspects of life, Destiny is just one of hundreds of dogs who Love Puerto Rico Goldens has saved. Since fostering Destiny I have become friends with some of her rescuers on Facebook and have been added to a group of people who have adopted some of the group's dogs here in the mainland United States. The bitter part is that there is a never-ending number of dogs who desperately need their care. The sweet part comes from the stories of life after being rescued that their owners share through happy photos of the dogs enjoying their new lives. If you know anything about dog rescue, then you know that there is never, ever enough money to go around, even in the best circumstances. There is a never-ending population of dogs in need of homes, most of whom have not received proper medical care from their prior owners. Some have intestinal parasites, most have not been spayed or neutered, others have heartworms. Some arrive pregnant or with a litter of puppies, exponentially adding to the bills that the rescue is trying to cover with donations and adoption fees. One of the reasons that Love Puerto Rico Goldens is able to save as many dogs as they have is that they have arranged for many of their dogs to fly to rescues in the US mainland just like Destiny did, so there is the added cost of transportation via commercial airline. [caption id="attachment_114" align="alignleft" width="225"] Destiny waiting for her treats at the bank[/caption] Ever since Destiny stepped out of her travel crate in the cargo pickup area of O'Hare airport I have wanted to go to Puerto Rico to meet her rescuers, give a hug to the kind souls who originally found her, meet some of the other dogs who they have rescued, interview the people who run the rescue, and write as much as they will let me about their tireless work to help Golden Retrievers and other dogs in a place that has a heart-wrenching homeless dog problem that has been exacerbated by the dire financial situation on the island commonwealth. I have not made it there yet, but it remains very high on my list. Their work was hard enough before the massive devastation of Category 4 Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc to homes, businesses and roads all over the entire island. Now the need for donations and assistance is even greater.  As the citizens of Puerto Rico, and the volunteers who run Love Puerto Rico Goldens, struggle with day-to-day life on this hard hit island, donations to their cause are even more important. If you have the ability to do so, please go to the Love Puerto Rico Goldens website and click on the Donate button  To read more about Destiny, click here:  
Fulfilling Her Destiny
Philosophers have argued for years over the issue of destiny versus free will. Do we create our own paths or is there a force greater than us that propels us through life? As a dog blogger I am not here to answer that discussion, but I can tell you that the kind souls in Puerto Rico who rescued Destiny from that tree in the woods and who bestowed upon her such a powerful name hoped that they could help guide her to her own destiny. It worked. As I type this, Destiny is not snuggled by my side nor is she chilling in her crate a few feet away. She is in her forever home across town from me where she is an only dog in a household of people who love her. [caption id="attachment_114" align="alignleft" width="225"]Destiny waiting for her treats at the bank Destiny waiting for her treats at the bank[/caption] After Destiny's leap over our gate, which I failed to mention in my prior blog was during a visit with a prospective family who had come to meet her,  I decided I could not let her go. I lobbied to keep her here with us and tried to overcome my husband's more logical objections. Her freedom from kennel rest meant she could go places and run and play like a normal dog and the months of trust that we had built together combined with fun things to go and do meant that our bond strengthened daily. She grew more confident and snuggly and in less than a week I was even more head-over-heels in love with our petite little island dog as we went for long walks, car rides and other mother-dog adventures. [caption id="attachment_116" align="alignright" width="300"]Crashed out after a game of ball Crashed out after a game of ball[/caption] My husband, though, was adamantly sticking to our decision to let her find her forever home. "There is a family out there who desperately needs her to fill a spot in their home, just like we needed Jax and Tink to fill a spot in ours," he told me repeatedly, "We love her but we don't need her like another family needs her." I knew deep down that we should not have three dogs, particularly with me focusing entirely on writing as a profession, but my bond with Destiny was starting to override the logical part of my mind. [caption id="attachment_115" align="alignleft" width="300"]Destiny loves this ball! Destiny loves this ball![/caption] While we went back and forth on the topic and I tried to change his mind, I volunteered to take Destiny to an adoption event that was scheduled to occur a few miles from my house. As much as I wanted to keep her I was not going to stand in the way of her finding an adopter and a local open house it meant that a nice family from the country or our small suburb might adopt her since I could not picture her as a city dog after her fence hopping incident. To the west of us it is quite rural even though we are about 50 miles west of Chicago. A few minutes after I arrived at the adoption event a familiar looking family arrived and Destiny and I greeted them immediately. I quickly remembered that I had met them at a different adoption event earlier this year. I had liked them immediately and was touched at the love they had for their dogs who had gone to the Rainbow Bridge, including their most recent black Labrador who they had lost to cancer. I think it was the fact that the husband is a pheasant hunter just like my own Dad, though, that really made our meeting stick out in my mind. There is just something about the love between a man and his bird dog that I understand after a lifetime of seeing my own father and the love he has for his dogs. I don't mean the type of bird dog who lives in a kennel outside with an assortment of other dogs; I mean the type of bird dog who hunts a few times a year, sleeps on the bed and is attached at the hip to his or her human. They spent a lot of time with Destiny, walked her around the property of the event, sat with her, played with her and petted her. They met the other dogs and spent time with them but then came back for more time with Destiny. They talked to me at length about her background, her time with me, her medical issues and I shared everything that I knew. I shared how far she had come, not just geographically but physically and mentally. "She is a very special dog," I told them, thinking about how those same words from my breeder brought me to my own Jackson when we were choosing him from his litter. I was elated when they told me that they wanted to adopt her but were going out of town for a few days and wanted to make sure she would be ok with their six cats before completing the adoption. It was a valid concern because so far I was not sure she knew exactly what a cat was. She had spent a little bit of time with our rescued cat Nala, but Nala has an entire section of the house to herself as a retreat when she needs to get away from our Tinkerbell, so I was not entirely sure how Destiny would be with a braver cat. There was also an issue of timing since my family was going out of town for ten days for vacation and Destiny would be going to a fellow foster mom's house while our own dog sitter stayed with Jackson and Tinkerbell. Fortunately Destiny's new family volunteered to be Destiny's puppy sitter while we were on vacation which would give them a chance to see how she would do with their cats. Although not something normally done with Chicagoland Lab Rescue, in the end it turned out to be exactly the thing that all of us needed. While my family and I were roaming Walt Disney World and spending time with my family in Florida, Destiny's new family was falling head over heels in love with her. I smiled each time I received a text and photo from them, sharing with me how much they loved her. They were able to see how she acted with their cats and to consult some behavioral experts for tips on socializing the cats with her and I was able to keep my mind occupied by vacation  instead of getting used to a home without her in it. [gallery size="full" columns="2" ids="119,117"] Of course the day that I took her there two weeks ago was more difficult than I had imagined. I started crying the moment I began to gather her things to take with her, sobbing hysterically with giant tears rolling steadily down my face as I picked up and folded her special yellow blanket that I had purchased for her as soon as I learned she was coming to me. I gathered her food and her paperwork and took it to my car, barely able to see through the tears. I sat in the driveway with her in the front seat, forcing myself to turn the key in the ignition to take her to their home. I managed to stay tear-free at their home but when I arrived home without her and put her bowls in the dishwasher for cleaning I lost my composure once more. I cried until I could not cry anymore and then my sweet Tinkerbell came to console me. At least I think she was trying to console me by sprawling across my lap so that I could hold her favorite moose antler while she chewed it. [caption id="attachment_118" align="alignleft" width="300"]Destiny napping in her new home Destiny napping in her new home[/caption] Last night I went to Destiny's new home to process her adoption paperwork and this time my eyes were dry. I had been counting down the moments all day until I could see her and right away I could tell how happy she was to be in her new home. She was confident and trusting and relaxed just like she had been at my house which told me that things had fallen into place just like they should. As much as I love her and she will forever be in my heart and my soul, she is in the right place and doesn't need to share the attention with big personalities like Jackson and Tinkerbell like she would in our home. Her forever humans are all hers and I have a feeling she is going to blossom more each and every day with them. Destiny has found her forever home in a family of dog lovers who will never treat her badly, never tie her up to a tree to die with a bag around her snout, and never add another scar to her beautiful body. They will never do any of the things that happened to her before she was rescued on that November day. She has been adopted into a loving, safe forever home where she can be spoiled with toys and treats, where she will be petted gently and with love and compassion and tended to with the best care possible, just like every single dog deserves as their own destiny.

If you would like to support Chicagoland Labrador Rescue's other Labrador Retrievers click here to go to their site: and click the Donate button on their site. To support Love Puerto Rico Goldens, the rescue organization that initially saved Destiny in Puerto Rico, click here to follow them on Facebook: Both organizations are always in need of financial donations in order to continue the amazing work that they do to help save Golden Retrievers and Labrador Retrievers.

One Giant Leap for Destiny
Destiny is officially off of her mandatory kennel rest following her heart worm treatment and has been enjoying longer walks and some games of fetch in our fenced in yard. Along with her newfound freedom to run and frolic, we have also enjoyed spring weather with temperatures into the 60s over the last few days. Mother nature's timing was perfect for once. [caption id="attachment_83" align="alignleft" width="225"]Destiny is learning to love snuggling Destiny is learning to love snuggling[/caption] Along with these lifestyle changes I have been lucky to experience some personality changes in Destiny. Walks are magical for dogs since they get to work both their bodies and their minds and as a result, Destiny has been much more relaxed and is showing signs of being a full-fledged snuggle pup. The dog who would not turn her back on anyone when she first arrived here and who leaped away if you touched her anywhere other than her head has now taken to laying in my lap like a large baby. She has also learned the joy of a tummy rub and trusts us enough to lay on her back with her four legs up in the air to indicate that it is time to scratch her now fur covered belly. I suspect she has learned this from watching Tinkerbell. [caption id="attachment_84" align="alignright" width="189"]Destiny and her pile of toys Destiny and her pile of toys[/caption] Yesterday, however, we learned something new and most definitely not ideal: Destiny can jump a four foot fence. We also learned that my husband can jump a four foot fence, which he did as he followed her out of our yard. We were enjoying the beautiful spring Sunday with Destiny in our back yard and she was having a blast playing fetch with the new Jolly ball with the rope through the center that Jackson received for his fourth birthday last week. It was beautiful watching her stretch her legs and run through the grass without a care in the world. As she ran with enthusiasm I pictured her learning to do flyball or agility. Over the last six weeks with Destiny I have noticed that she has a great sense of smell and is often sniffing around the deck trying to get to the rabbits who must live under it. A few days ago she chased a rabbit around our swimming pool but she immediately came back to me as she always does with a few clicks of my tongue and the command, "Destiny, come!" In fact I have marveled at her amazing recall and joked to Jackson and Tinkerbell that "Destiny comes to momma better than you two do." She has sniffed around the perimeter of the fence but never jumped up or put her feet on it or given us any reason to think that she wanted to leave our property. I was only mildly concerned when she jumped up against the fence yesterday the first time, jumping high enough that I could see that she could get over it if she really tried and if she really wanted to, but fairly confident that she would not actually do it.  I was wrong. She did it, from a sitting position no less, up and over the fence. Instead of landing in our neighbor's yard and being contained in their fence she landed between the fences and had an escape route through them to the road. Fortunately she did not choose that path because her attention was focused on a rabbit who ran under the fence into our neighbor's yard. Destiny, who it turns out is equally agile getting under a fence as she is going over one, shimmied under the fence where the ground had eroded a bit, in pursuit of the rabbit and found herself in our neighbor's yard with my husband right behind her. For now it is back to the long training lead when we go into the fenced yard for our agile little foster dog since she showed the typical Labrador selective hearing during her adventure. It is time to break out the training treats and work on a reliable recall and to make sure that her quick response to "Destiny come" was not simply a coincidence caused by the fact that the subzero temps were freezing her little paws. She seemed pretty pleased with herself and her adventure as she trotted back inside the house with us yesterday with my husband's firm grip on her collar, as if she was happy that someone finally cared if she ran away, but this little yellow Labrador has come way too far to be lost again.
estiny the Yellow Labrador
Destiny the Yellow Labrador, One Month Later
We are just a few days away from marking the 5th week since our yellow Labrador foster dog Destiny came to stay with us. We are also officially counting down one week from today when she can have her post-heartworm treatment checkup to get the all clear to run and frolic like a normal dog. Destiny came to us on January 31, 2015 on a flight from Puerto Rico as a blizzard was heading to the area. The snow literally started to fall as my husband parked at the cell phone lot of O’Hare airport to wait for my call. I watched the snow begin as I waited nervously at the airline parcel pickup area. Her first paw prints on land in the continental United States were on a snow covered airport sidewalk as we hustled to get to the designated “Canine Relief Area” accompanied by an urban soundtrack of the road noise of busses, people shouting and horns honking. I cannot imagine what it was like for her to step out of the airport and into such a cold and confusing scene. [caption id="attachment_64" align="alignright" width="300"]A long, long way from Puerto Rico! A long, long way from Puerto Rico![/caption] During her first few days with us Destiny explored her new world and raced around the snow chasing snowballs and figuring out this peculiar land that was covered in ice. Her snow zoomies came to a screeching halt, however, when we learned that she was still heartworm positive and had not been treated like we thought. Because heartworms are literally growing in a dog’s heart and taking up space that should be free to pump blood, dogs who are heartworm positive should have limited activity even before treatment occurs. Fortunately the veterinarian was able to schedule her treatment quickly and Destiny headed off for a two-night stay at the veterinary clinic. When I brought her home post-treatment I was grateful for the pain meds that were [caption id="attachment_67" align="alignleft" width="300"]Destiny's first experience with subzero temps Destiny's first experience with subzero temps[/caption] prescribed for her as they also made her drowsy and helped her sleep through the worm die off going on in her body. Once the pain meds were finished we worked on simple training and introduced her to Kongs and West Paw toys filled with frozen yumminess and a treat releasing puzzle game to work her mind and alleviate some boredom. [caption id="attachment_68" align="alignright" width="225"]Surrounded by her favorite toys Surrounded by her favorite toys[/caption] With a week to go we are expanding her time out of her crate a bit more, keeping her on leash in the house but spending hours sitting on the floor with her over the course of each day while we rub her ears and pet her tummy as she chews her favorite moose antler. I’ve started very short walks as long as she walks quietly and does not try to run and it warms my heart to see her checking out new places and smells. Part of me feels immense guilt each time I look at her in her crate even though I know that heartworm treatment is a very serious matter because dogs are at risk for blood clots while the worms are dying. This beautiful dog has come way too far and been through too much have something go wrong and if that means she spends a month on strict kennel rest, then that is what we will do. My husband reminds me of the fact that she was originally found tied to a tree with her mouth bound by a plastic bag and left to die, so a warm, dry crate with her own special blanket in suburban Chicago isn’t that bad of a way to spend a month, particularly when the temperatures have been as much as 90 degrees colder than her native Puerto Rico. [caption id="attachment_66" align="alignleft" width="300"]Before and after, her coat is coming in nicely and we are working on getting more meat on those ribs. Before and after, her coat is coming in nicely and we are working on getting more meat on those ribs.[/caption] Thanks to a steady diet of Canine Caviar Wild Ocean grain free dry holistic kibble her ribs are no longer protruding from her body and her once naked underside is nearly covered with fur. Her coat is becoming thick and beautiful and the various tones of yellow are deepening in color. She no longer smells even though she has not had a bath since her arrival, her breath is odorless and she has the legendary small and firm Canine Caviar poop. Over the last month we have noticed scars all over her body. They cover her front legs and there are some on her head and her face as well as one on her lip. No amount of high quality food will be able to heal them or make the fur grow back, nor will it bring back the many teeth that are missing from her mouth, including all along the lower front part of her jaw between her canine teeth. Love and patience, however, are healing some of the scars, at least on the inside where it matters. [caption id="attachment_69" align="alignright" width="225"]Chilling with the family Chilling with the family[/caption] Destiny is still jumpy when being petted but she has relaxed significantly. Her submissive hand licking has diminished and she has picked up the habit of sitting between our feet and legs with her back to us so that we can pet and massage her back and shoulders. She is getting used to us petting her back legs and the lower part of her back by her tail, places that she let us know were entirely off limits when she arrived. She loves human attention and wants to be with us all the time but she is not ready to snuggle or be hugged, and that’s ok. Most dogs do not like to be held tightly or hugged too much so we respect the ways that she wants to interact with us but we also want to prepare her for people who do not realize that hugs are not a dog’s favorite thing so that if she comes across a human who hugs and squeezes her that she’s had some experiences that turned out ok. [caption id="attachment_65" align="alignleft" width="260"]Beautiful Destiny Beautiful Destiny[/caption] Of course we have had the conversation that all foster families probably have: should we keep her as our own dog? My heart says yes but the practical dog owner in me says no. It would be easy to pay the fee to Chicagoland Lab Rescue and join the ranks of foster failures across the country who fell so much in love with their foster dogs that they could not say goodbye. But the logical side remembers the lifelong commitment I’ve made to Jackson and Tinkerbell to provide the best care that I can and that adding another dog to our family could jeopardize my financial ability to provide that life for them. It is not going to be easy to say goodbye to this sweet girl who now follows me around the house, with whom I am starting to develop the dog mom bond. But the key to saving these homeless dogs is to push those emotions aside and summon our inner strength for them, opening up our homes and our hearts as if they were our own and then allowing them to go to their forever home with humans who are actively seeking the next canine love of their life, just like I have found the canine loves of mine with Jackson and Tinkerbell.
A Rescued Dog Named Destiny
As I write this there is a sweet yellow dog dozing off in her crate a few feet from me. Unlike most dogs who nap the day away, she has been awake all day, playing with the toys she has found in the house, exploring different smells, watching our black Labradors Jax & Tink to see what they are up to, frolicking in the snow and best of all, getting tons of human affection. As I type she is trying desperately to hold her head up but the need for sleep is just too powerful and she has finally laid her pretty yellow head on her paws and relaxed. I have never seen a dog so desperately trying to stay awake and I am not sure if she is afraid to let her guard down or if she simply does not want to miss anything. Either way it is a bittersweet thing to watch; sad because of what she has been through but happy because I know that she has nothing to fear while she is in our home. My job is to help teach her that she is safe. Destiny came to us two days ago on a flight from Puerto Rico. In November she was discovered in the woods by a woman who was taking care of some stray puppies. As she took the puppies some food she came across a small female yellow Labrador who had been tied to a tree with a bag tied around her snout so that she could not eat, drink, chew off her leash to free herself or even pant to cool her body in the hot climate. She had clearly been left to die a slow and miserable death. After being rescued she was named Destiny in the hopes that her destiny would change and that she would find a happier life and a safe place to live. After several months of fostering and boarding in Puerto Rico it was arranged that she would fly to Chicago to our local Lab rescue with whom I am a fairly new volunteer. [caption id="attachment_61" align="alignleft" width="225"]Destiny loves moose antlers Destiny loves moose antlers[/caption] As soon as I saw Destiny's story I offered to foster her. As a dog lover who is active on social media I see heart wrenching things done to dogs on a regular basis and I long to help them all. This is one of those stories where I could actually help. Looking at the photos of this small female Labrador tied to a tree I wanted to just pet her and tell her that it would be ok, that nobody would do this to her ever again. And so my husband and I found ourselves at O'Hare airport on Saturday, He dropped me off and went to wait in the cell phone lot. We were playing beat the clock with a blizzard warning and a foot of snow in the immediate forecast. I had to laugh as I carried a large tote with a leash, treats, collar, harness, poop bags and a bottle of water to the baggage claim; it was not my normal stuff to have in an airport. I found the place where I was to meet Destiny and waited, as nervous as I was while waiting for my now husband to pick me up on our first date. After all, I knew this dog from photos and had heard her story. She had just finished a long flight in the cargo hold of an airplane and was being greeted by a strange woman in a loud and completely unnatural environment for a dog. After twenty minutes a man from the airline headed toward me with a large dog crate on a cart. As they got closer and closer I could hear Destiny's strong Labrador tail banging against the side of the crate, going a mile a minute like my Tink's does. I bent over to look in the crate and there she was, a skinny but wiggling yellow dog who licked my hand nervously through the kennel door. I hooked my leash to her collar and quickly got her into our harness & got her arranged so that she was attached at both the collar and harness. The last thing I wanted was for her to bolt into traffic at the airport with a blizzard looming. After a potty break in the dog relief area I texted my husband and told him to come get us. I stood in the familiar third row of the arrivals area waiting for his car, again laughing slightly at the thought that I had never stood there and waited with a dog and a big crate. He pulled up, we got her into our own travel crate, put her airplane crate into the car next to her and we drove off into the Chicago night as the first snowflakes began to fall. [caption id="attachment_60" align="alignright" width="225"]Destiny the yellow Labrador Destiny the yellow Labrador[/caption] Two days later Destiny has started to flourish and relax. She seems to be house trained, she has found all of Jax and Tink's toys and played with them, chewing on antlers and tossing their Planet Dog ball around with delight. Like queen Elsa she arrived just as our world became frozen and she has experienced snow for the first time, scared at first but now dashing through it like a normal dog who just has fun on her mind. She has had lots of love and affection from all of the humans in our family, from ear rubs to tummy scratches. Her belly is full of organic Canine Caviar dog food, we've practiced the sit command as well as "come" and discovered a love of Fruitables snacks. In general she has been able to live the life that every single dog deserves. Soon she will start to meet families who might be the one for her forever home. We are just a transitional place for her, a place for her to stay until her own home and her true Destiny reveals itself to us. In the meantime I get to love up on her just like I wanted to when I heard her story, letting her know that the world has as many good people as it does evil and that this is just the start for her of a new way of life, one where she no longer has to fear falling asleep.