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GoldenFest attracts largest crowd yet

By Staff | Apr 3, 2019

Each year, GoldenFest has become much more than a place to bring your golden retriever or other dog. It has become something of a family reunion for these dogs, many of which have been rescued or adopted away from nightmarish situations.

On Sunday, Golden Retriever Rescue of Southwest Florida hosted its 10th annual GoldenFest at the Shell Factory. They made it a reunion, with all dogs they have adopted out given bandanas, with those from Korea given special green ones to show how really special they are.

Mark Dahlberg, event organizer, said it is meant to be the biggest fundraiser for the rescue, as it pays for all the veterinary care the dogs receive.

And it’s for all breeds of dogs.

“We’re here with all other rescues and shelters representing dogs that are up for adoption,” Dahlberg said. “We have a lot of Facebook fans that follow us, and see the dogs, but don’t get to meet them until they come here. This is a chance for everyone to meet each other.”

The event featured more than 50 vendors, mostly those offering pet services or treats; dock diving for those who want to give it a try; and raffles for dozens of prizes, gift bags and other items.

It also featured hundreds of dogs, from the smallest wiener to the largest German shepherd, which walked the parking lot and played in the dog park.

GRRSWF has adopted out nearly 900 dogs, with more than 50 coming from South Korea, where dogs are considered human food, and three others from Iran, where dogs are prohibited from being outdoors.

Every year, several dogs are brought to America, where foster parents help care for them and usually never give them up.

Alesia Galuppo, president of GRRSWF, is one of those who adopted a Koran dog.

“We’ve been rescuing Korean dogs for more than three years. Bo came in 2015, I came in to foster him and couldn’t let him go. We call ourselves the foster failures,” Galuppo said. “Every year this event seems to grow and this is the biggest one we’ve had yet.”

Another “foster failure” was Terri Krass, who adopted a three-legged dog named Jasmine, who lost her leg in an automobile accident while being rescued from the meat-packing industry.

Krass said Jasmine had a nightmarish beginning to her life, but has matured to become a loving and obedient pet.

“She grew up in a cage where they threw scraps for her to eat. She never really developed,” Krass said. “When dogs come from Korea, most have never eaten out of a dish, so they eat off the floor at first and like it’s their last meal. She never had a toy or trained to do anything. She was destined to be a meal.”

Not all fosters “failed.” Robert Makuch got his Korean-rescued dog after their previous golden retriever, Angel, died of cancer at age six.

“We came across this rescue group at an event here and we ended up getting another one,” Makuch said. “She came to us at age 2 with heartworm, but the rescue took care of all that and she’s happy and healthy. We named her Cheonsa, which is Korean for angel.”