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Published February 28, 2012, 09:12 PM

HEROES AMONG US: Grand Forks Woman Gives Much-needed Love to Fostered Golden Retrievers

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - Most communities depend on volunteers to maintain or improve their quality of life. Tonight we introduce you to a Grand Forks woman who has given her time to help save the lives of golden retrievers.

By: Stacie Van Dyke, WDAZ

GRAND FORKS (WDAZ-TV) - Most communities depend on volunteers to maintain or improve their quality of life.

Tonight we introduce you to a Grand Forks woman who has given her time to help save the lives of golden retrievers.

Every journey begins somewhere. For Kelly Sander, it was 2007, when she turned on the TV from her home at Park and Chestnut.

"We were watching the 6 o'clock news and they had a story about a puppy mill that was closed down in Bismarck and it was golden retrievers. I told my husband that we had to do something to help," Sander said.

And they did. In the past six years, Kelly and her family have fostered 25 different golden retrievers, sometimes as many as four at a time, until they can find permanent homes.

"They are usually the most loving dogs of all because they know they're getting a second chance. One of the dogs we fostered, it was a really bad situation. The dog was left in a barn with no food or water in the wintertime in Iowa and he was left to die. I think when they get adopted they know that they're moving on," Sander said.

Kelly got online and found the nonprofit RAGOM, Retrieve A Golden Of Minnesota. Over 27 years, the organization has re-homed nearly 7,000 dogs, all with the help of only volunteers. Kelly recruits others to the program and serves as a mentor.

"Every day there's an email that comes out with the dogs that need to be fostered," Sander said.

Dogs as young as eight weeks old can be fostered for many reasons. For some, their time at a shelter is up. Others are abused, injured or abandoned. As a foster, Kelly transports the dog to her home, and then the real work begins.

"I will take them to the vet, that's your responsibility as a foster to groom them, have them spayed or neutered. We make sure they're healthy and then they're ready to be adopted," Sander said.

Kelly spends money out of her own pocket on the food and supplies necessary to care for the dogs. She says they get attached to their toys and blankets, so she buys new ones for every single dog that comes through her door.

"We usually just pass that stuff down to the families that adopt them because it's something that' part of them, something they know," Sander said.

It's not only financial. After investing so much emotionally into each dog, Kelly admits that many are hard to give up.

"When he left, he came over and put his paws up on my shoulders and gave me a hug. You do get attached to them because you're showing them the love that they need," Sander said.

Kelly actually chooses the family who gets to keep each dog. For two special goldens, that family was her own.

"There's four fosters in Grand Forks and I think now all of us have been foster failures and adopted at least one of the fosters we had," Sander said.

After fostering 13-year-old winnie, who is deaf, Kelly knew she was meant to be part of the family. She adopted 9-year-old Annie with multiple infections and sores on her legs.

"My son was 11 or 12 years old when we started doing this and it really showed him how to be a volunteer and give back," Sander said.

If you have any interest in volunteering with Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota, you can email rescue@ragom.org or contact them at 952-946-8070.

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