Vol 8 No 3

Summer 2006

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GRCA NRC Interview

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Remembering With Fondness

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Interview with Carol Allen
Golden Retriever Club of America
National Rescue Committee Chair

The Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) established its National Rescue Committee to assist local Golden Retriever rescue groups throughout the country by providing technical and developmental assistance, publicizing rescue activities, and advising the GRCA Board on issues related to rescue. Carol Allen chairs the National Rescue Committee, and spoke with GRRI recently.

GRRI: Carol, thanks very much for speaking with us. You get to see what a lot of rescue groups do in your work; from that birds-eye perspective, what common themes or trends do you see developing?

Carol: Everyone is intently focused on foster homes: how to find them, how to make sure they have the training they need, and how to keep them as active volunteers. What we’ve observed is that the rescue groups that are most aggressive in recruitment and follow-up training see the best results. In fact, the ability to deliver on the promise of training serves as a recruitment tool; it takes a lot of the uncertainty out of volunteers’ decision-making and helps give them the confidence that they really can help!

GRRI: Is there sharing of training resources between rescue groups to support that effort?

Carol: Yes, indeed. Several of the local rescue groups quite willingly share the training materials they have developed. In addition, the National Rescue Committee website (http://www.grca-nrc.org/index.htm) has some general information as well as a “private” section available to local rescue organizations, which has many good resources for everyone’s use.

GRRI: It would seem that there are problems and issues beyond training that are probably common to many of the Golden Retriever rescue groups.

Carol: Sure, and we believe that we can save people some time and effort by sharing information. For example, we have an email list set up for the Presidents of each local rescue, so that they can share ideas and best practices.

We’re also beginning to see a bit more receptivity to actually moving dogs between regions of the country, which of course involves a lot of cooperation between the local groups.

GRRI: We think it’s a big deal to drive a dog from one end of New Jersey to the other, and we’re a small state!

Carol: The new frontier of rescue is transport! We see a general over supply of qualified applicants in the northeastern part of the country, and an under supply in other areas. I think just about everybody became familiar with the attempts to move dogs affected by the Katrina hurricane, but we’re seeing more routine movements of dogs now too.  Obviously there are issues associated with making sure that the dogs with appropriate temperament and medical status are the candidates to move. There are financial considerations as well, since it is pretty tough to rely on volunteers to drive multiple dogs across multiple states routinely, so someone ends up paying for commercial transportation services.

GRRI: We all know that it takes the dedication of volunteers to make rescue work, but what kinds of things do you see that distinguish the rescue groups that thrive from the ones that struggle?

Carol: The hurdle we see some rescue groups struggling with is how to become a durable organization that is bigger than any one person. There has to be a measure of commitment to worrying about things like establishing tax-exempt status and abiding by the organizational rules that go along with being a charitable group, because it really sends a message to volunteers and supporters that the organization is serious about being around to help for the long term. Sometimes this is tough to do for people who just want to help the dogs, but we know from experience that the groups that pay attention to nurturing the organization will tend to have far more financial support and far fewer problems with volunteers burning out.

GRRI: The National Rescue Committee is a part of the Golden Retriever Club of America; how does GRCA support you?

Carol: The GRCA has two important commitments to the Golden Retriever rescue community. The first is the Golden Retriever Foundation, which is a charitable foundation that oversees and distributes money to rescue groups. You may know about the April Fund, which provides grants to rescue groups to help individual dogs with extraordinary medical expenses. The Foundation can also help with paying for the legal resources groups require to establish themselves as 501c-3 charitable organizations. The National Rescue Committee, on the other hand, focuses on a lot of the practical aspects of rescue, as well as providing feedback to the GRCA Board on rescue issues. I think the local rescue groups appreciate that they can distinguish their work with the National Rescue Committee from any grant applications they may have pending or the like; it really does promote candor and helps us be truly useful to the local groups.

GRRI: One last question: what do you think the biggest challenge will be for Golden Retriever rescue over the next year?

Carol: Well, that takes us back to the beginning of our conversation! I think the single biggest challenge we face is the lack of foster homes, especially the ones that are willing and able to take on a problem. It is tough enough to find someone who will foster the sweet 8 year old female, but when we have a 1 year old male who is under-socialized and under-exercised, we know it’ll be tough to find that special volunteer who can work with such a hard case.  You know, most dogs aren’t in their foster homes for all that long, but it is just that “hard case” where the foster home has such a great opportunity to make a real contribution to the long-term development of the dog. We know there are probably volunteers out there who are interested in the dogs and could do a great job with the right help, so what we need are more volunteers who are willing to be the leaders to put together the training and help and support to make sure that the foster home can be successful. It comes down to just one volunteer making such a huge difference! – one who can work with the dog in a way that literally will change its life, or one who can help put together the organization that will make it all happen. I think one of the best things about rescue is that there’s room for everyone’s unique contribution to really make a difference.

GRRI: Carol, thanks so much for spending some time with us.

Carol Allen was appointed to  GRCA’s National Rescue Committee in 2002, and has served as its Chair since then.  She is also the President of the Golden Retriever Club of Central New York.  She founded Golden Retriever Rescue of Central New York, Inc. in 1995, and has remained as its President for all but two years since. Over a 15 year period she has adopted 10 Goldens, 9 of which have been seniors or with medical or behavioral challenges.  After retiring in 1995, Carol has learned what “Golden years” was intended to mean! 

Carol Allen with Krystle