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Retrieve a Golden of the Midwest (RAGOM) believes every cloud has a golden lining.
The rescue, run by animal-loving volunteers, is dedicated to rescuing abused and neglected golden retrievers (and other dogs) from the clutches of animal cruelty.
This mission recently led RAGOM to China in an effort to save a group of goldens from the country’s dog meat trade. This rescue operation was headed up by Nicole Stundzia of Rochester, Minnesota, who has been helping protect animals since she was a child.
“I have friends who have been long-time volunteers at RAGOM, and I love golden retrievers, so it was a great volunteer opportunity for me,” Stundzia told PEOPLE. “My first experience was driving to Chicago to rescue goldens who were abandoned to live on the streets of Turkey. That rescue was so meaningful that I found my calling and became a member of the Board of Directors and expanded our rescues to China. I also volunteer on our adoptions team.”
Through her work with RAGOM, Stundzia learned more about the dog meat trade, especially from fellow RAGOM director Patty Larson.
“RAGOM’s Director of Operations, Patty Larson, is a member of an international golden retriever group. These rescue groups share information about the dog meat trade and other unfortunate conditions where organizations can partner and save dogs. She brought the need to rescue goldens in China, and the Board of Directors agreed RAGOM had to help,” Stundzia shared, adding that she also learned about the dog meat trade from the news and pleading letters from animal lovers looking to help canines caught in these “horrific situations.”
To do their part to put an end to this cruel, outdated business, RAGOM has formed relationships with rescuers in China, who remove golden retrievers and other dogs from the dog meat trade and house them in temporary rescues until RAGOM can move the dogs to the United States.
“When we rescue in China, our contacts have been able to provide safety, shelter, and food for the goldens. However, it is not uncommon that 20 or more are all housed together during the day,” Stundzia said of the operation. “Our partners do the best to provide comfort and makeshift cots so they can lay off the cement floor. At night, they go in a kennel to stay safe from unwanted intruders/kidnappers.”
One of RAGOM’s most recent dog meat trade rescue missions involved saving a golden named Mama.
“I was in China in February visiting the rescue facilities. While I was meeting the dogs, I noticed a female dog who looked like she recently had a litter of puppies. When I went to pet her, I saw such sadness in her eyes. Every time I walked by her, she would sit so pretty and proud in hopes I would comfort her. I would find her watching me even if I was an aisle away,” Stundzia added.
Unfortunately, on that trip, Stundzia was already committed to pulling two other goldens and was unable to bring Mama back to the U.S, which broke the rescuer’s heart, but the volunteer never forgot the dog mom with the pleading eyes.
“I took her picture and chip number in hopes we could figure a way to get her to the states. I returned and shared “Mama’s” story with my friends at RAGOM. We decided we had to rescue her, and we found a generous volunteer and her family who offered to make the trip to save her and four other dogs,” she said of Mama’s happy ending. “At the end of June, RAGOM welcomed Mama and four other dogs to the United States and to the comfort of foster families.”
Stundzia hopes RAGOM can return to China before the end of the year to help even more dogs. The group is also focusing on saving goldens from neglectful situations across the Midwest. While RAGOM is committed to bringing an end to the dog meat trade, Stundzia knows the group can’t do it alone.
“Please know that rescues do not stop the dog meat trade, more must be done on the front end to close the slaughterhouses. RAGOM and others are saving the lives of dogs that were caught in it. However, by raising awareness, people can get involved with the worldwide efforts to end the asian dog meat trade,” she advised.
Stundzia recommends contacting international rescue organizations to see how you can put your skill set to work to help canines stuck in the dog meat trade. She is confident that any animal lover can find a way to help, and she knows that the result is always worth the effort.
“My absolute favorite part is opening the crate door after their long flight, seeing their wiggling bodies, watching their tails wag out of excitement, and coming to me for a hug,” Stundzia said of her rescues. “They must know we want to give them a second chance with a loving forever home.”
To learn more about RAGOM and home you can help their efforts, visit RAGOM.org
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