Nine golden retrievers completed a trek of more than 5,000 miles this weekend, from Turkey to Minnesota, in hopes of finding a new home.

Volunteers with Retrieve a Golden of the Midwest (RAGOM) rescued the retrievers, which had been abandoned and living on the streets of Istanbul, and held a meet-and-greet Saturday with the dogs and their foster families.

Although it was RAGOM’s sixth rescue from Turkey, board member Marti Jones said this group of goldens was extra special: Each was named after a gold-winning U.S. Olympic athlete.

“We thought it was absolutely appropriate to honor those Olympic champions with a golden namesake,” Jones said.

Golden puppies are seen as novelties in Turkey, but when they grow up they’re often abandoned and left to fend for themselves, she said. RAGOM rescues goldens from Turkey twice a year, Jones said.

The rescue group, which has more than 450 volunteers, rescues golden retrievers and mixed breeds and finds homes for them. It has cared for nearly 9,000 goldens in its 32 years, officials say.

An 11-member transportation team picked up the dogs Saturday from Chicago. The adoptees were to receive baths once they arrived at RAGOM’s headquarters in Minnetonka and then will participate in a meet-and-greet with the foster families, which will care for them until they are adopted by people who pass an extensive application process. Applicants are reviewed by a team of RAGOM volunteers and agree to a home visit before being matched with a dog.

“It has a lot of rigor to it because we want to ensure that our goldens will definitely have a forever home,” Jones said.

Three of the goldens — Jess, George and Landy — are named after Minnesota Olympic gold medalists Jessie Diggens, Tyler George and John Landsteiner.

“Nobody thought [the Olympians] could make it and not only did they make it, they won the gold medal,” Jones said. “So we thought it was absolutely appropriate to name these golden boys who were left and abandoned in Turkey. And they’re [coming] back to the United States a champion.”

To cover travel expenses and fostering costs, RAGOM needs around $1,850 for each of the 11 pups. Donations can be made to

“We believe that the unconditional love that you give to a dog, you get back tenfold. And you know, if you love a golden, you love our world,” Jones said.


Kelly Busche is a University of Minnesota student on assignment for the Star Tribune.