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A Hunger for Words

Courtesy hungerforwords.com

Christina Hunger Gives Stella a Voice

If you’re a dog owner, you’ve likely said to yourself (more than once), “I wish my dog could just tell me what she wants!” Well, if you’re serious and don’t mind committing some time and effort, your wish could actually come true. All thanks to the pioneering work of Christina Hunger and her adorable chocolate-colored dog Stella—the world’s first “talking” dog.

Known as the founder of the Talking Dog Movement, Christina Hunger is a speech-language pathologist who taught her dog Stella—who she adopted in early 2018—to “talk” using buttons. These buttons are augmentative and alternative communication (AAC)/augmentative interspecies communication (AIC) devices, often used by children with language delays to communicate nonverbally. Inspired by her passion for using technology and other adaptive equipment to help people communicate when speaking is difficult, as well as her desire for Stella to be understood, Christina set out to see what would happen if she provided Stella with a way to say the words she was hearing and understanding. A few shared videos to her blog, demonstrating her training process and Stella’s progress, went viral and made international headlines. In 2019, a media frenzy ensued that catapulted Christina, Stella, and the concept of teaching dogs to “talk” into homes around the world.

How It Started

As a college student, Christina was looking for a career that would combine her interest in healthcare with her passion for education. At the recommendation of a friend, she took an introductory class, part of the Communication Sciences and Disorders major curriculum, and fell in love with the field. She realized that practicing speech-language pathology would give her an opportunity to make an impact on people’s lives—empowering them with their own voice. 

Through her work as a speech-language therapist, Christina became passionate advocate of communication boards that displays photos, symbols, or illustrations to help people with limited language skills express themselves. These AAC devices empowered her clients to have a voice and express how they were feeling, it helped reduce their frustration with communication barriers, and it empowered them to make decisions for themselves.

Stella as a puppy
Courtesy hungerforwords.com

Puppy Love 

In 2018, Christina brought home her puppy Stella, a Cataula and Blue Heeler Australian Cattle Dog mix. Like all pet parents, Christina’s race was on to navigate her care schedule, teach her the basics like where to potty, when to eat, what not to chew, and all the things welcoming a new puppy into your family brings. While Stella’s personality blossomed, Christina noticed that her learning patterns were a lot like those of her clients. She seemed to display the same language milestones as she was learning the language of her new home. This was the “aha” moment that prompted Christina to try a little experiment. She wanted to see if Stella could learn and express language using the same tools she used with her clients. The idea was to see if Stella could learn to associate specific words with a designated button, giving her the opportunity to “talk” to her parents.

Christina began streamlining her communication with Stella, much like she would with a toddler. Instead of speaking to her in sentences like, “Do you want to play?” She would instead, pick up a toy and say “Play?” to Stella. Stella learned quickly and, over time, Christina began to expand on what words she used. To “play,” she added the word “want,” and began asking Stella, “Want play?”

With Stella showing significant progress very quickly, Christina wondered if there were any AAC-type devices available for use with dogs. Surely someone out there thought dogs could communicate this way, right? Well, no. There was very little information available on the topic, much less devices specifically created for dogs. When she couldn’t find a device to suit Stella’s needs, Christina started looking for a way to create something on her own. 

Stella with 4 buttons
Courtesy hungerforwords.com

She started with a small set of recordable buttons like the ones she used with her clients. Only a week into Stella settling into her new home, Christina started off with the goal of learning one single button. She wanted a button for “outside” that would let her know when Stella needed to use the bathroom. Every time Christina or her now-husband Jake would walk by the button or offer Stella an opportunity to go outside, they would press the button and say “outside.”

After two painstaking weeks, Stella still would not acknowledge the button, and she certainly wasn’t lifting a paw to push it. Christina wondered if there was something else she could try to pique Stella’s interest. Finally, she noticed that when Stella went over to stand at the door, she was stealing a look at the button for “outside,” then peering up at Christina. It required faith and patience, but in her own time, she was getting it! 

Finally, one night Stella stood by the “outside” button, looked at it and looked at Jake. Jake, as usual, looked down at the button and said “Outside?” He watched, stunned, as Stella picked up her paw and pushed the button all by herself. Quickly stirring himself into action, Jake took her outside, where she used the bathroom. He waited a few minutes, let her sniff around some more, and she used the bathroom again, then turned to go back inside. This was a real breakthrough!

And clearly, it was a breakthrough in Stella’s cognitive development, too, as her ability to learn new words and increase her vocabulary took off quickly. Very soon, Stella was adding words, using her buttons to express at least one new word concept a day without much prompting. And Stella left no doubt that she was truly learning—she used the buttons exactly as intended, to express her desire for something, pushing the correct button to ask for it. As Stella started using her buttons consistently, Christina added more words. The words she added were carefully chosen to help Stella communicate her wants and needs—walk, eat, beach, bye, play and come, for example. “As her vocabulary grew, so did her button board,” Christina says. Four words became eight, eight became twelve, and so on. As her vocabulary grew, so did her button board. 

In less than two years, Stella has amassed a working vocabulary of more than 32 words. And, most impressive, she’s learned to combine her words (and her buttons) to convey more complex and specific concepts. Today, her vocabulary is about 50 words and Stella regularly presses several buttons in a row to communicate phrases like “bed want outside” before taking a nap in the sun or “love you come come” before flopping over for a belly rub. It’s an astonishing development, proving that dogs—and likely other pets—have the ability to master new tools to help them genuinely communicate with their owners.

Hunger for Words product shot
Courtesy hungerforwords.com

The Talking Dog Movement Takes Off

Christina didn’t set out to become a media sensation—she simply wanted to communicate and understand Stella on a deeper level. When she began posting videos and information on her blog, she saw no hint of the avalanche of interest in what she was doing that would follow. 

To bring accessible tools to pets and their parents, Christina created her company Hunger for Words and developed a set of buttons pet parents could buy and use in their homes. Each product has a guide written by Christina with step-by-step instructions and activities to try at home with your pet.

As the product reach has grown, she has seen dogs of all ages and abilities learn to use the buttons. She relates that what surprises parents of older dogs is that they typically learn how to use the buttons fast, much more quickly than expected. Christina offers that one reason for this may be that they’ve been listening to you for much longer than a new puppy, and so they’re already familiar with your spoken vocabulary.

Stella and Christine with their book
Courtesy hungerforwords.com

How Stella Learned to Talk becomes a New York Times Best Seller

In 2021, when Christina published her first book, How Stella Learned to Talk, it quickly became a New York Times Best Seller. The book is a moving account of Christina’s career journey, an in-depth look at her work with Stella, and the personal and professional growth she experienced along the way. It also reveals the techniques Christina used to teach Stella, broken down into simple stages and actionable steps any dog owner can use to start communicating with their pets. 

So what does this communication mean for our relationships with our pets? It’s a game changer! Pet parents want to give their pets not only what they need but also what they want (within reason). And it’s not hard to imagine they want the same for us, if only they knew what we wanted. The possibilities of a relationship based on communication are endless. 

Christina says it best when she explains, “Language is often viewed as the last barrier we have between the human and animal worlds. But what happens when that barrier dissolves? We realize that we all think, we all feel, we all have options, we all communicate, and we all want to connect.”

My Karuna: Jamie Lee Curtis Opens Her Heart

Jamie Lee Curtis has illuminated our movie, television, and computer screens for more than 40 years—long enough for many fans to feel like she’s a longtime friend. She has that quality, a gift for connection, and it’s apparent both onscreen and off. You may know Curtis from one of her many films that have earned her an Oscar, a Golden Globe Award, and a BAFTA (British Film Academy Award) for Best Supporting Actress, as well as numerous nominations. She’s a versatile actor with an impressive range—whether horror, comedy, action, or drama, Curtis makes you believe. Her relatability and authenticity have made her a favorite of audiences around the world. Curtis is also a hero to women, having been bold enough to smash the notion that women over a certain age are wilting flowers. Curtis instead proves that women are ever growing, super blooms.


But Jamie Lee Curtis holds many other titles, too—wife, mother, sister, LGBTQIA+ advocate, #1 New York Times bestselling children’s book author, who has written 13 books, television/ film/podcast producer, founder of a nonprofit, CEO of Comet Pictures, and Dog Mom to a magical little pup named Runi.


Runi is short for Karuna, the Sanskrit word for compassion. He is an adorable, white floof with melting brown eyes, and he adores his mom. In fact, you will catch him staring at his mom all day long – even if he’s getting belly rubs from someone else.


The Canine Connection

Curtis lights up when she talks about Runi. “He is my complete. I love him so much.” She describes the first small dog she had, Clark the “no-bark” dog, who looked a bit like Runi. Everyone who met the little dog loved him. After Clark’s passing, Jamie and her family welcomed several other dogs, mainly large breeds, into their home. But in 2016, she found herself craving the companionship of another small dog.

With the help of Nancy Sarnoff of Perfect Pet Rescue, Jamie was introduced to a white poodle mix who had been recently rescued from the streets of Los Angeles. Jamie was working at the time, so she was only able to view a photo of him, but she connected with Runi right away. She knew this dog was meant to be with her. In the days leading up to the formal adoption, Jamie called Nancy every day to check in on Runi, get daily photos, and make sure he was doing well.


Once at home, Runi adjusted in his own time. At first, he was quiet and cautious. No barking—much like little no-bark Clark—but Runi soon found his voice and began to reveal his personality, impressive herding skills, and obsession for yellow balls. He also began working with a trainer right away, Jamie points out. “I hired a dog trainer, because I believe it’s important to train your dogs and establish healthy relationships with them.” Working with a trainer helped Runi become the best version of himself. Although he’s an expert leash walker, sometimes he decides to turn into “a bit of brute,” according to Curtis. But, because of his training, Rumi knows to quickly change his behavior when corrected. Like his mom, he ultimately just wants to bring people peace and comfort, and maybe a smile or two.


Who is Runi?

Curiosity about all things Runi prompted Jamie to request a dog DNA test to reveal what breed Runi’s ancestors might have been. Here’s how Runi’s ancestral breed mix breaks down:

■ 25% Chihuahua

■ 25% Shih Tzu

■ 12.5% Miniature Pinscher

■ 12.5% Poodle

■ 24% “Sporting and Companion” breed group

“So, what is interesting about my little Runi is that all those breed reports are kind of correct, but we learned very early on that Runi is a herder—he is ball obsessed. He will chase it, play with it, and herd it. He’s a natural at herding, much like a cattle dog. He is just an incredible companion, and he’s changed our lives.”


Jamie and Runi share a deep bond, and she honors that bond by making sure Runi is living his best life every day. In celebration of Runi’s 6-year adoption anniversary, Jamie shared a message on her Instagram.

“Six years ago, today my life changed. @perfect_pet_rescue introduced me to Runi and my heart opened. We have had many adventures and he came with me to all the shoots of the Halloween movies, and we have had long separations due to work. He is sweet and fierce and funny and feisty and has discovered his voice. He is loved by my friends and family and has my heart. Happy adoption day to this sweet friend. I love, you Karuna!”


A Day in the Life of Runi

A typical day in the life of Runi includes waking up at 4:30 a.m. with his mom. He hops outside for a quick potty break, then retrieves a toy to show his mom. “Runi is a toy guy. So, in the morning, he will go get a toy, show it to me, we have a conversation about it, and then he goes under my desk to wait on me while I do all my morning work.”

Runi walks every day with a dog walker, but when Jamie is home, she prefers to take him on walks herself. After mealtime he’ll grab his favorite toy – a yellow ball from Planet Dog – and get a little play time in. Eventually, he will find his way to the couch and do his signature move. Jamie calls it “The Drop.” She explains, “You’ll be sitting on the couch, and he will come over and do a very specific movement so he can lean his whole weight against you. Ahhh … it’s better than an Oscar, better than any drink or drug I’ve ever taken. The feeling of him leaning against you is priceless.”

Giving Back

Jamie Lee Curtis is an outspoken, compassionate human being who moves people to action and stands up for her beliefs and her people. She believes in small acts of kindness and offering comfort and support to those in need. To steward this belief, she created My Hand in Yours (myhandinyours.com), an online shop featuring items handcrafted by artists and makers. Everything on the site has a pleasing touch, a softness or smoothness, that’s designed to bring comfort when touched. These comfort items are perfect for a loved one, friend, or colleague going through a hard time and as celebration gifts as well. Best of all, My Hand in Yours reports that “100% of every sale goes to the care and treatment of critically ill and injured children at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, so it’s a gift that will keep on giving year-round.”


Her love for animals resulted in a new offshoot of her nonprofit, My Paw in Yours. This online store is a collection of made-by-hand pieces for dogs and dog lovers. The proceeds from these sales support the Children’s Hospital Los Angeles program that brings service animals into the hospital to comfort and cheer up the hospital’s young patients.

The Little White Dog by Her Side

At the end of our interview, Jamie shared a sneak peek of the cover art of her most recent children’s book, to be released at the beginning of next year. Her 14th children’s book, Just One More Sleep, is written by Curtis and illustrated by artist Laura Cornell. As she revealed the colorful and playful cover art, I saw it. It was right there on the cover, of course—the little white dog. The one who’s always by her side.


Runi Fun Facts

Runi’s Top 5 Things He Can’t Live Without:

  1. Yellow Ball
  2. Yellow Ball
  3. Fuzzy Beach Ball
  4. Small Animal Toy
  5. Yellow Ball

Runi’s Best Party Trick: Yellow Ball.

Runi’s Greatest Obsession: Mom (and Yellow Ball)

My Paw in Yours Featured Pieces

My Hand in Yours (myhandinyours.com) has a collection we love called My Paw in Yours that features items for pet parents and pet lovers. Some of those items include: a comforting Warm Up Puppy, a beautiful leash and companion bag, artful stainless steel water and food dishes. Like all items available on the site, 100% of every sale goes to the care and treatment of the children at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Visit My Hand in Yours to shop the pet lovers collection and other comfort gifts at: myhandinyours.com and be sure to follow them on Instagram @my_hand_in_yours for news and new product announcements.

Warm Up Puppy ERICA CHAN
Warm Up Puppy
Dog Leash
Dog Bowl

Surviving the Pain of Losing Your Pet

Dr. Katie Lawlor

An Interview with Dr. Katie Lawlor, Psy.D., MIA

Losing a pet can feel like a blow to the gut, leaving you gasping for air. Many pet owners will affirm that the grief they experience after a pet’s passing can feel debilitating, isolating, and leave them with an unbearable amount of guilt. While deep empathy is often found among our circle of animal loving friends, sometimes it’s not enough to help navigate the overwhelming feeling of “How do I get through this?”

Dr. Katie Lawlor is passionate about helping people cope with the loss of an animal friend. While completing her formal training in grief, neuropsychology, and trauma she recognized a lack of services for animal guardians. She responded by creating her Instagram page @petlossdoctor to connect with and offer support to grieving animal guardians. Soon after, she found herself with a full case load working with those who have lost their beloved animals or are experiencing anticipatory grief.

Early this year, she released A Tribute to My Beloved Animal: A Journal to Process Grief & Loss to provide an evidence-based resource to help process their grief. The book is available on Amazon.com. In this interview, Dr. Lawlor shares her expertise and insight on pet grief including how to prepare, and how to begin healing.

When you began your career, did you always intend to specialize in pet loss? If not, what prompted you to shift focus?

Growing up, I always felt very close to—and at peace—in the company of animals. When I started my doctorate program, I realized there was a lack of specialized services for animal guardians—both in terms of research and treatment interventions, but also experienced and trained clinicians offering this care.

While my approach incorporates my training in Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT), Interpersonal psychotherapy (IPT), and Trauma-informed/ evidence-based trauma approaches (PE and CPT), I meet my patients where they are on their journey.

Something I am very passionate about is pet loss being included in the DSM-5-TR1 criteria for PTSD and Prolonged Grief Disorder.

How is pet loss grief the same as human loss grief?

Losing a companion animal, like losing a human loved one, leaves an extraordinary void in our lives. I don’t believe we ever move on from this loss; rather, scar tissue grows over the wound and our heart manages to keep beating.

In time, we can hopefully lead a life incorporating the wisdom, compassion, and courage they imparted on us during our time together.

Why do you think pet loss grief has been overlooked for so long?

I think that for those of us who connect so deeply and profoundly with animals, it can be vulnerable to share this bond with those who don’t understand it.

When this connection is not validated or met with apathy, we can feel isolated or ashamed.

Everyone’s pet loss and grief experience are unique. From feelings of anticipatory grief to feeling like they cannot move forward, is there another commonality pet parents share after losing a pet?

Most pet parents feel a tremendous sense of guilt—“I didn’t do enough for them while they were alive.” “They deserved so much more.” “They didn’t know how much I loved them.” Or, “It shouldn’t be this way.”

This is a topic near to my heart, as there is so much healing we can do around these sentiments.

As I discuss in my journal, in the context of loss, the word “guilt” is often used instead of “regret.” There is a massively critical distinction grievers must understand:

Guilt implies that we did something wrong; that we knew what we were doing was wrong at the time that we did it. Regret, however, is when we look back after an event, wishing we would have known or done something differently, but not knowing that what we were deciding at that moment we would later deem wrong. For so many of us who have lost a companion animal, we did what we thought was favorable at the time, only to have regrets due to the unknown variables in play.

Now that we have the proper term, we can begin to reflect on our role—our thoughts, emotions, and behaviors—in what we feel so “guilty” about.

When do you recommend people reach out for professional help during the healing process?

I would suggest reaching out to a mental health profession-al—a master’s or doctorate level clinician with a degree in a related field—when you aren’t able to fulfill your personal or professional responsibilities, or when you are struggling to find meaning and fulfillment in your life following this loss.

What are the benefits of support for grieving pet parents?

The rawness of grief comes from losing the animal that— no matter what happened out in the world that day—could fix everything once we were together.

They were our home, and their closeness was a source of safety.

Receiving the support you need provides validation, understanding, and hope that you will find the strength to keep going.

Your new book A Tribute to my Beloved Animal is a guided journal to understand and process grief. Could you elaborate on what prompted you to write it?

I was working at a Stanford- affiliated therapy practice in Palo Alto when COVID lockdown started, and we went from meeting regularly every week in my office to sessions on Zoom. I wanted my patients to have something tangible that would provide them comfort and relief during this frightening time when we were physically apart.

I am also very aware that effective mental health treatment in this country is expensive, and realistically not accessible for many.

My hope is that this journal will provide everyone who is navigating the loss of their animal an affordable and evidence- based resource that has been carefully tailored to aid them in processing their grief.

What do you hope readers will gain from using this journal to process their grief?

This journal provides a protected space to safeguard readers’ thoughts and feelings. Journaling helps get things out of our heads and off our hearts, providing clarity and healing.

All the prompts in this journal have come from my experience working with those who have lost their beloved animals.

As readers progress through the pages, every word they write is a tribute to the life they shared with their animal.

My hope is that they will find peace in understanding they gave their animals a beautiful life, right by their side, and that is all they ever wanted.

Dr. Katie Lawlor
Dr. Katie Lawlor

Dr. Katie Lawlor, Psy.D, MIA is now accepting new patients through Bloomingdale Wellness Collective, and can be reached at my direct email address: DrKatie@bloomingdalewellnesscollective.com.

You can also connect with Dr. Lawlor on Instagram @petlossdoctor or LinkedIn)

Order: A Tribute to My Beloved Animal: A Journal to Process Grief & Loss on Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Tribute-My-Beloved-Animal-Journal/dp/B0CV89F7RR

1 The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Illnesses is the latest edition of the American Psychiatric Association’s professional reference book on mental health and brain-related conditions. This is the main guide for mental health providers in the U.S. and how insurance is billed.



Southern California has no shortage of celebrities, and that includes the four-legged kind. Let us introduce you to just a few of our local Goldie Palooza™ regulars whose stars are on the rise on social media platforms like Instagram.


AUBREY @pawbrey_

Aubrey is a 3-yearold golden retriever, known online as Pawbrey. She was adopted during COVID-19 and was named after her human’s favorite rapper, Drake (his full name is Aubrey Drake Graham). She quickly became a lovable social media sensation who makes furry friends, loves magic, and doesn’t believe in hiding her facial expressions.

FAVORITE PASTIME: Aubrey enjoys hanging out with her boyfriend Bruno, another golden retriever. They get to play almost every day, and if Aubrey misses a day, she gets angry and takes it out on her toys. www.instagram.com/reel/C3n1FXtpHTP/?igsh=MWQ1ZGUxMzBkMA==

INFLUENCER MOMENT: She became an influencer when a video went viral of her after she swallowed a bee and it stung her mouth. www.tiktok.com/t/ZTLJhYfae/ After the vet visit, her dad decided that her daily escapades would make other people smile, too, so he posted them to TikTok.

FAVORITE CELEBRI-GOLDIE MOMENT: My favorite celebri- goldie moment was when I threw a block party for all the dogs in my neighborhood. A lot of my followers and friends came to the event—it was inspired by Goldie Palooza™ and similar events I’ve been to in the past. A ton of people came up to us and treated Aubrey like a celebrity—it was so much fun!

Skye @Socalgolden


Skye Bear is following in her heavenly sister’s paw prints. Skye (named after the sunsets her human loves; her entire name is Windchime Chase the Sunset Skye) came to us at 9 weeks while we still had Abby, who was 11 at the time. Skye gave Abby a renewed sense of energy. Skye was a typical mischievous pup who thought Abby’s tail was the best toy ever. And Abby was so patient.

INFLUENCER START: Skye is carrying on in Abby’s paw prints, where loving life and spreading kindness and joy has always been a priority. Mom Jenn says, “With secondary progressive MS, it is important for me to enjoy the present, and this is Skye’s life—we take time to sojourn together. People feel the love from our account and, truly, that’s what matters most.”

CELEBRI-GOLDIE MOMENT: Someone once heard my highpitched dog-mom voice at the first Goldie Palooza™ and knew it was us! She ran past me to Abby! BEST!

FAVORITE RESCUE ORG: “We advocate for golden rescues of any kind, and we’ve volunteered for more than a decade, so we know firsthand the beauty of rescuing. We’re getting Skye’s Good Citizen and therapy accreditation so we can visit veterans and provide a measure of joy for those who so deserve it.”

Dwight & Ashley Harris @dwightliketheoffice


Dwight’s dad Trevor Semmens is a professional skier, and Dwight (named after the icon Dwight Schrute from the show, The Office) can often be spotted frolicking on the endless white snow, where he might just lay and bask in his glacial kingdom for hours.

FAVORITE PASTIME: Hiking is a daily ritual for this adventurous pooch, and a stick is never far from his mouth. Dwight also participates in cross-country skiing and snowmobiling with his beloved humans. When the temperatures rise, the clear blue expanse of Lake Tahoe’s famed waters becomes his summer oasis, where swimming is not just a pastime but a passion.

INFLUENCER START: I really started Dwight’s page for fun—I just wanted to put out funny videos showing Dwight and how he is so chill, wearing clothes and hats. And people were really into his videos— some garnered as many as 9 million views! Dwight enjoys wearing costumes or hats, and I swear, if he could speak, he’d have the craziest things to say. He communicates with his expressive amber eyes and a vocabulary of barks that somehow makes perfect sense.

Dwight is my best friend, and I want to bring him everywhere, so I try to share as many pet-friendly hotels, hot spots, and restaurants where you can feel good about bringing your dog, because who wants to have their dog live a life just in the house? Not me!

Dwight, at his core, is a living testament to the boundless joy and love a dog brings into a home. His journey isn’t just about the Instagram likes or the follower count. It’s about touching lives through a screen—bringing a smile to faces and reminding us all of the simple pleasures of nature’s playground.

Chase & Chester @chasin_chester


Chase and Chester are a father and son golden retriever duo best known for their good looks and humorous videos. We started our account back in 2017, when it was just Chester as a young pup. Our account followed his adventures and goofy antics for several years, and in 2022 we added to our pack with Chester’s biological son, Chase! We thought Chester was a slightly quirky and fun name for a dog, and it seemed to match his personality once we got to know him. We named Chase after our account, @chasin_chester, but as it turns out, Chase is the one that will chase after just about anything— squirrels, butterfly shadows, birds, you name it! The names somehow wound up fitting each of them perfectly.

The boys have big smiles, huge personalities, and some slightly exaggerated facial expressions (including their signature derps). Chester is also known for the fact that, despite being a golden retriever (generally known to be natural swimmers), Chester is not a natural swimmer.

This is the story behind our children’s book, Chester’s Big Splash, written and illustrated by Chester’s Mom. Chester was always curious but nervous around water, until we got him swim lessons. He just had to try to discover something he loves!

CELEBRI-GOLDIE MOMENT: We love the everyday notes and comments from people about how Chase and Chester make their days better, and quite simply, how they just make people smile. We hear from folks going through tough times, those that have lost their beloved pets, or some weighed down by the world’s events, and they often thank us for sharing because it brings a smile to their face despite whatever they may be going through. So, it’s not really one moment but all those small moments that keep us going and keep us sharing.

FAVORITE RESCUE ORG: We’ve always had a soft spot for Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue (SCGRR)—they’re local to us and we believe in their mission.

Lady the Golden Retriever @ladyandtheblues


Lady (named after Lady and the Tramp! It was my dream to have my own golden retriever named Lady since I was a kid.) is a sweet, funny, almost 5-year-old golden retriever. She’s famous for her morning grumpy face, puppy eyes, boop skills, ballerina jumps, and many more unique antics. She recently became a big sister to baby sister Olivia, and now these two are the Internet’s cutest sister duo, with matching outfits and big smiles.

FAVORITE PASTIME: Lady’s favorite activity is going to the beach to do zoomies and splish-splash. She jumps so high, trying to catch the water or sand in mid-air!

CELEBRI-GOLDIE MOMENT: We have been invited to a lot of movie premieres. I always love going to those. It is such a LA thing that the dogs get all the spotlights at events like that, just like real celebrities.

FAVORITE RESCUE ORG: We are huge supporters of both SCGRR and The Golden Retriever Club of Greater Los Angeles Rescue (GRCGLA) Rescue. We fostered seven puppies in 2023, and Lady was a great foster sister to them all. We are hoping to get back to fostering when we’ve had more time with our 9-month-old baby.

Legacies of Love

Golden retrievers bring the magic. Their glistening fur, big smiles, and wagging tails have a knack for prompting smiles everywhere they go. Smart, eager to please, and deeply intuitive, they seem to always gravitate toward the person who needs them most. Despite the infinite happiness and love our dogs bestow upon us, we seem to never be ready for the sadness of saying goodbye nor the weight of the grief we are left with. Acknowledging our grief and honoring our beloved pets eventually allows us to move forward, take action to help others, and keep our hearts open to welcome another dog when the time is right.

The golden community lost several beautiful and special goldens over the last few years, including Abby, a healer of hearts. Our Fall/Winter 2021 cover dog Apple. And Scout, who gave out free hugs and inspired others to pass it on.



Jennifer knew diving into rescue work after the loss of her dog would help her heart heal and let her know when the time was right to adopt again. When a plea went out to help a dog who had been picked up while wandering in the high desert, Jennifer and her husband stepped up to foster her.

They weren’t sure what to expect at first, as the dog was underweight and covered in mange and ticks. They took her home and cleaned her up, fed her, and tried to make her feel welcome. Then, in a touching moment, when Jennifer’s husband sat down on the couch, the dog jumped right up next to him and promptly fell asleep. “That was it,” Jennifer says. “In that moment, I knew she was meant to be with us.” They named her Abby.

It took Abby a year before she would look anyone in the eye, and she would hide out among the bushes to keep a safe distance. With time, Abby grew more comfortable, confident, and understood that she was home. Eventually her personality was in full bloom, and her intuitive nature made her the perfect unofficial “therapy” dog for Jennifer, who lives with MS. Jennifer says Abby helped her navigate life with MS. “Abby became my heart.”

Together, they did outreach for rescue and MS, where Abby always seemed to seek out the people who needed her love the most.

Abby’s favorite toy was a plushy bone affectionately named “Skanky Bone.” One of her favorite things to do was greet everyone with Skanky Bone in her mouth, earning her the nickname The Golden Greeter. She loved the beach, car rides, and learned how to deliver gifts during the holidays.

“My favorite time with Abby was in the morning,” relays Jennifer. “I’m the first one up, so she would get up too and bound down the stairs to be with me. I would meet her at the bottom of the stairs with two cookies, and then we would watch the sunrise and welcome the morning.”


When Abby passed away, Jennifer was by her side. “I didn’t know how I would breathe without Abby. But I felt a responsibility to tell her mommy was okay, and she could go. No dog will ever replace her. I honor her every day by being present. I enjoy our dog Skye and our life, and I slow down because of Abby. My heart grew bigger because of her. It was such a privilege to be her mom. I am so grateful for her.”

“When you receive a diagnosis, be super kind and gentle with yourself. Reach out for help, seek proper medical advice, get a second opinion, and listen to your dog. Enjoy and love them. A diagnosis is a very personal journey, do not compare your journey to others. Focus your energy on your dog, on enjoying and loving them.”

—Jennifer, Abby’s mom

Apple. PHOTO COURTESY @apple_thegolden

Apple @apple_thegolden

Apple was 14 months old when her forever family welcomed her home. Her joyful personality was infectious from day one. She was happy, playful, and charismatic. Her human sister thought it would be fun to give Apple an Instagram account and share the joy she brought to their family with others. Over time, Apple became a pup star. As her Instagram following grew, Apple became known for her fashionista looks.

Apple was more than a style icon—she was a canine athlete who excelled in agility and nose work, earning more than 60 AKC titles. She was a therapy dog, a commercial actor, and a model who walked the runway at L.A. Fashion Week. Apple and her family used her social media platforms to inform, educate, fundraise, and most importantly spread joy.

In May of 2023, an OncoK9 blood test for early detection of cancer returned a cancer signal detected result. After multiple diagnostic tests to try and locate the cancer, there were no definitive findings. Apple continued to enjoy her favorite activities and explore beautiful places until October 31, 2023, when a CT scan found a mass on Apple’s heart, with metastasis to the lungs, likely hemangiosarcoma. The oncologist warned that Apple’s prognosis was poor, even with chemo and/or radiation.

Apple’s mom shares, “Getting a hemangiosarcoma diagnosis feels like you have a guillotine above your dog’s head. I lost my first golden Roxy to this disease. She had no symptoms and suddenly passed away overnight.”

“In my experience, traditional oncologists tend to be very fatalistic. If you are faced with a canine cancer diagnosis, don’t let them steal your hope. With the guidance of my integrative veterinarian and integrative oncologist, I was able to make treatment choices to give Apple the best quality of life for as long as possible.”

—Apple’s mom

Apple was fortunate to have her treatment guided by some of the best holistic veterinarians and experts in the country. The goal was to give her a good quality of life for as long as possible. Although Apple was retired from all of her canine sports when she was diagnosed, she continued to adventure and enjoy life, remaining mostly asymptomatic.

On January 24, 2024, six weeks shy of her 11th birthday, Apple lost her hemangiosarcoma battle.

In January 2023, the Morris Animal Foundation launched a multiyear, multimillion dollar Hemangiosarcoma Initiative to dedicate resources to hemangiosarcoma research. Apple’s family created a fundraiser in support of that initiative. Apple’s family also created a tribute fund to support Canine Cancer Alliance, a charitable foundation that funds and publicizes cutting edge canine cancer treatments. To date, those funds have raised more than $5,500. (Links in sidebar.)

Apple’s mom honors her legacy today by sharing her story and cancer journey, supporting and educating other canine cancer warriors, and fundraising for canine cancer research. “My hope is that one day hemangiosarcoma will become less common and won’t be a death sentence.”


Scout @scoutgoldenretriever

Scout was just a puppy when Melissa and her family welcomed him home, and he was loved from the very start. A year later, Scout and Melissa began training as a therapy team. Once they received their certification they jumped into therapy work, paws first. Scout was a natural. He loved people, and people loved him.

Scout was extroverted and silly, full of love and always brought laughter and joy to those around him. He loved traveling with his family, running on the beach and taking walks. Melissa shared those adventures and special moments on her blog and Scout’s social media.

“Scout possessed an extraordinary love for people and had a remarkable ability to intuitively sense who needed his love and comforting hugs. His unconditional love knew no bounds; he embraced everyone without judgment, leaving an imprint of love and acceptance wherever he went. His joy knew no bounds when he was out and about, eagerly greeting people with hugs and soaking up their affection in return. He had a remarkable ability to spread love wherever he went, leaving an indelible mark on everyone he encountered.”

In 2021, after returning from a family trip, Scout fell ill. He was diagnosed with cardiac hemosarcomia and passed away shortly after. He was only 6 years old. Melissa has been very open on her sites about the shock, anger, and torturous heartache she felt after losing Scout. To other pet parents experiencing a loss, she offers this advice, “Embracing grief after losing a beloved pet is not only normal but essential for healing. Finding a supportive community that understands and validates our feelings allows us to grieve authentically. Rushing the process only hinders our ability to honor the deep bond we shared. Remember, it’s okay to mourn, to talk about our emotions, and to seek solace in those who understand. And while it’s natural to feel hesitant, let’s not deny ourselves the opportunity to love again. Each pet brings unique joy and lessons into our lives, honoring the past while making room for new bonds to form.” Melissa continues to honor Scout’s legacy by sharing his story, talking about him often, and hosting Scout Hugs Day. She also adopted a rescue dog named Archie. “His presence has brought light back into my life, reminding me that every soul deserves a second chance, and every wagging tail holds the promise of new beginnings. I rescued him, but in turn he’s also rescued me.”


“Embracing grief after losing a beloved pet is not only normal but essential for healing. Rushing the process only hinders our ability to honor the deep bond we shared. Remember, it’s okay to mourn, to talk about our emotions, and to seek solace in those who understand. And while it’s natural to feel hesitant, let’s not deny ourselves the opportunity to love again. Each pet brings unique joy & lessons into our lives, honoring the past while making room for new bonds to form.”

—Melissa, Scout’s mom

Scout Hugs Day

“During our travels, Scout started randomly walking up to people and putting his head between their legs and standing there until they gave him affection. This was the birth of #scouthugs. On February 13th he wore his Free Hugs bandana and Scout Hugs Day was born. In honor of the very first day he wore his iconic sign seven years ago, let’s make this day a tribute to the joy he brought into our lives. Join us in creating a wave of love and memories. This day is about encouraging our community to spread the joy of canine affection throughout their community! I encourage people to share their favorite memories of Scout, hug their furry friends a little tighter, wear their ‘free hugs’ bandana, and extend acts of kindness to those around their community. Whether it’s volunteering at a local animal shelter, donating to a pet charity, or simply sharing Scout’s story with others, every gesture honors his legacy and spreads love in his memory.”

Golden Retrievers and Cancer

Hemangiosarcoma is the cancer that most commonly afflicts golden retrievers. It also afflicts other breeds, as well as mixed breeds. A dog dies from hemangiosarcoma in the United States every two minutes. Despite this sobering statistic, there has been little research into hemangiosarcoma, because it is a cancer that rarely occurs in humans.1

Learn More And Get Involved

The Morris Foundation Lifetime Golden Retriever Study


Canine Cancer Alliance


Tribute Funds Created in Memory of Apple


The Morris Foundation Hemangiosarcoma Initiative


Cooper the Mini Golden

Janet had longed for a golden retriever ever since she was a little girl. Somehow, she just knew that a golden retriever was supposed to be by her side. When she and her husband bought their house, that was it. The time had come, it was time to welcome a golden into her family!

Their search began, and during a visit to meet available puppies, she couldn’t help but be drawn to the runt of the litter. He was only 9 weeks old and much tinier than a typical golden retriever puppy. They formed a bond in that moment, and she knew she couldn’t let him go. He was meant to be hers.

When it came to naming him, she already knew. She named him Cooper, inspired by one of her favorite cars, the Mini Cooper. The name couldn’t have been more perfect, considering he was indeed “mini” when it came to goldens. “Mini Cooper” became a very fitting nickname. A year later, Janet and her husband announced their pregnancy, and when their daughter was born, Cooper became a big brother. It was a job he took with pride. His new sister grew very attached to him, and they became best friends.

As a family, they did everything together—beach trips, walks, matching Christmas pajamas, family photos, even Halloween costumes. Cooper was part of all the family memories. “One of my favorite memories about Cooper is he learned how to open presents with his mouth and paw. He watched our Pommie do it once, and then he started doing it on his own. He would not eat the paper; he knew there was a gift in there. He got to open presents for all the holidays— he was just perfect.”

Holding Onto Hope

In May 2023, Cooper started to eat only his soft food, which was unusual. Janet thought perhaps he needed a dental cleaning and got him scheduled for the procedure with his doctor. Two days later, he had a dental cleaning and, per recovery instructions, was restricted to soft food for the next 10 days. But Cooper never gravitated back to his crunchy food, and Janet knew something was wrong.

Janet sought out a specialist and went in for diagnostic testing, including an X-ray and ultrasound. The results showed a mass on his right kidney, and a suspected mass on both his adrenal glands. The doctor assumed it was cancer, because it appeared in multiple areas. They did further testing including a CT scan and renal scintigraphy to see if both kidneys were functioning—the right kidney was not, but the left one was.

They decided to fight for Cooper and find an oncologist for a more in-depth look at his case. Surprisingly, veterinary specialists are difficult to find in Southern California, and getting an appointment usually comes with a long waiting period. Janet found an oncologist, but the soonest appointment they could get for Cooper was 3 weeks later. They were hopeful. At his appointment, it was confirmed—the cancer was everywhere. The oncologist advised against treatment, telling the family that chemotherapy and/or radiation would deplete Cooper’s quality of life and, at best, give him just an extra month.

“It was the ultimate heartbreak to go from hopeful to being crushed all at once,” says Janet. “We asked the oncologist, ‘What would you do if this was your dog?’ and he told us to give him the best months of his life.”

We realized in that moment that Cooper’s health and happiness came first.

Cooper’s Bucket List

Knowing they wanted to fill Cooper’s last months with love and joy, Janet created Cooper’s Bucket List. The list included all his favorite things, like going to the dog beach and chasing tennis balls. Lots of tennis balls!

Tennis balls were Cooper’s obsession, and he played fetch every day. He loved tennis balls so much that he could sniff one out just about anywhere. If they were in a cupboard or a drawer, he would paw at it until someone opened it and gave him the balls. Eventually, the only place to hide Cooper’s tennis balls when it wasn’t playtime was in the freezer. He couldn’t smell them up there!


“I came up with the idea of doing a ball drop for him, and getting as many balls as I could. I sent out a message to our friends and family, and we collected 549 tennis balls. We had three buckets full, and we threw them off the roof of our house all at once. It blew his mind; he was so excited! He stayed out there for hours, picking them up one by one. It was a very special day for him.”

On July 20, 2023, Cooper passed away at home, surrounded by his family, just nine days before his 7th birthday.

Coping with Grief

“It feels like it just happened, and it feels like no amount of time has made it easier—he just feels further away.”

Janet says the grief she carries for Cooper is heavy and difficult to manage. Reminders of him are everywhere, and memories seem to just flood in. She still makes reels of him, and to help her daughter cope with the loss of Cooper, she encourages her to write letters and cards to him and place them in his memorial doghouse, which they have on display.

She finds joy and comfort in the family’s other golden retriever, Belle, who was adopted one year before Cooper’s passing. And Janet says following @petlossdoctor on Instagram “has really helped me accept my grief and know it’s okay to be this broken. I think it’s important for people to know that no matter how much time passes, it’s okay to cry and feel emotional over them not being here.”


Honoring Cooper Today

On July 29th, Cooper’s birthday, Janet gathered all the balls from the ball drop and a photo of Cooper and took them to the beach. She found a spot in the sand to place the bucket, his photo and a sign that read, “In memory of Cooper, please take a ball and pass around some love.”

Janet said it was touching to see people taking the balls for their dogs, and it reminded her of the immense love Cooper brought to their lives and how grateful she was to have been his mom. She plans to do a memorial like this for Cooper every year.

This year, Janet and her family look forward to catching those “golden vibes” and feeling the collective hug from the Goldie Palooza™ community. And who knows? She might just bring a bucket of tennis balls in honor of Cooper.


The Golden Dogs of Therapy

Golden retrievers wearing red therapy vests

Golden retrievers are an iconic breed, known for their good nature, intelligence, love of training, and ability to learn quickly. They make wonderful companions and thus are one of the most popular breeds for service and therapy dog work.

Kathi Wahl has been a Therapy Dog Volunteer for 28 years. She is a Tester/Observer (T/O) for Alliance of Therapy Dog, a Canine Good Citizen Evaluator, and a member of LAX PUPS. She says there are countless reasons golden retrievers make therapy dogs, but she gives us her top five reasons here.

5 Reasons Goldies Make Great Therapy Dogs

1.Golden retrievers are naturally amiable, cute, smart, and friendly.

2.They are great at soliciting attention and approaching people.

3.Goldens love to please.

4.Those big golden smiles, the unique “wiggles,” and their warm, reassuring eyes serve to comfort, soothe, and evoke joy.

5.Goldens tend to put people at ease.

Kathi began her therapy dog career with a dog named Sierra. She was a chocolate Lab who was always drawn to people with white hair. Kathi noticed her intense fascination and started looking for a program that would allow Sierra to visit people in nursing homes or hospitals. She found the Orange County SPCA OC Animal Allies in 1996. She prepared Sierra for the certification test, and she passed. Together, they worked story times, care facilities, memory care, foster children’s facilities, and special Olympics events. Kathi says, “Sierra taught me that I needed to learn about training.”

Those big golden smiles, the unique “wiggles,” and their warm, reassuring eyes serve to comfort, soothe, and evoke joy.


Then she met Mick, a 4-month-old golden who needed to be rehomed. She took him in.

“He was so easy to train—gentle, friendly, and he made people smile. So, we took a class and I learned that he really wanted to please, and he was so smart. Mick taught me why people love goldens. He worked with OCSPCA (now called OC Animal Allies); it was an honor to be at the end of his leash.”

Today, Kathi and her working therapy dog Monty regularly visit school campuses, airports, hospitals, long-term care facilities, and cancer and hospice centers. They are also part of the Los Angeles International Airport PUPS (Pets Unstressing Passengers) program which aims to help alleviate the stress of traveling for those who need it.

“Monty is one of the best therapy dogs I’ve seen. He is so good at soliciting—he walks up to people and stands sideways and just melts into them,” Kathi shares. “He went from a dog that didn’t like to be hugged to a dog whose natural instinct is to hug.”

Monty had a rough beginning before meeting Kathi. He was purchased from a pet store and then rescued from an abusive situation. When his owner surrendered him, he handed over all the paperwork from the pet store he’d purchased him from. When Kathi looked at the dates on the paperwork, she realized she and Monty had crossed paths before. Earlier that year, she’d seen Monty in that pet store window. The store was known for supporting unethical breeding, so Kathi and other animal lovers were always walking by the window to check on the puppies.

It was meant to be. Kathi welcomed Monty into her home as a foster but soon made it official and adopted him. He was skittish, easily scared, and did not like being hugged. She found she had to use a softer training voice with him. But all that gradually changed throughout his training, and Monty became an official therapy dog at 13 months old.


Kathi says experiencing moments of therapy with Monty and seeing the magic he provokes in patients is something she is grateful for. She shares, “Monty and I visited a patient who was in a coma—her eyes were open, but she was non-responsive. The room was full of machines that were loud and distracting. Monty wasn’t affected by the noise of the machines at all. During our regular visits, we would help the patient pet Monty. On one visit, Monty placed his head next to her hand and near her face and she reached out to touch his face. That was the first time this patient had moved since entering a coma. Her family was there, and it was a very touching experience. Moments like that make you appreciate how therapy dogs work.”


How Can My Dog Become a Therapy Dog?


If your dog is gentle, calm, and loves meeting new people, they might be a great candidate to be a therapy dog. If you’d like to learn more about certification, the Alliance of Therapy Dogs (ATD) is a good place to start.


ATD offers testing, certification, registration, support, and insurance for members who volunteer with their dogs in animal-assisted activities. ATD looks for dogs who are well mannered, well behaved, and enjoy meeting people to join their program. Therapy dogs of ATD work in a variety of locations, including schools, hospitals, memory centers, and airports, to name just a few. You can learn more by visiting www.therapydogs.org.

The Canine Good Citizen® (CGC) program, created by the American Kennel Club, is an expert-made training program designed to help you and your dog be the best you can be– together.

Canine Good Citizen is a 10-skill test that teaches good manners to dogs and responsible dog ownership to their owners. Some of the skills on the test include:

—Coming when called

—Walking through a crowd

—Reaction to another dog

—Sit, down, stay on cue

—Supervised separation

You can find preparatory classes and information about certification at www.akc.org.

Expert Advice: What You Need to Know Before Adopting

SCGRR and Golden Bond Rescue are committed to finding the perfect homes for the dogs in their care. If you are a new dog owner, or new to the breed, there are some things you should know before you bring a Golden or other Retriever breed into your family.

♥ They shed. A lot.

♥ They love to follow you around the house. You will never be alone.

♥ They are not sorry they can reach counters and tabletops.

♥ They are not sorry for stealing food from surfaces they can reach.

♥ They will sniff out anything you try to hide from them (toys, treats, anything they love)

♥ Most Goldies love people.

♥ Most people love Goldies.

♥ They aim to please, which makes training fun and necessary to build a structure they can thrive in.

♥ You must make time for them. They need enrichment, activity, and training.

♥ Dog care is not inexpensive. Medical costs, dog sitter, dog daycare, dog training, grooming, all have a cost. Consider this before adopting.

♥ Do your research on the breed and educate yourself on common medical issues, behavior traits and challenges, and ask questions! The rescue welcomes your questions about anything relating to potential adoption, because they want a placement to be permanent and successful for you and the dog.

♥ Understand that most rescue dogs are rescues for a reason, be it neglect, poor care, never being trained, to name a few. So, they will make mistakes along the way, and it is up to you to understand that and help them with training and allowing them time to get used to their new home.

♥ Adopting a Golden or Retriever breed dog will bring you a million smiles, a wealth of joy, unconditional love on a level you could have never imagined.

Rescue: The Golden Rule

Three smiling Golden Retrieivers

Spotlight on Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue and Golden Bond Rescue

If you’re considering bringing a golden retriever into your family, purchasing one from a breeder is not your only option. Believe it or not, purebred dogs need rescuing too. Golden retrievers find themselves in animal shelters or being surrendered elsewhere due to circumstances out of their control. This is where a breed-specific rescue comes in.

A breed-specific rescue is one that focuses on rescuing one specific breed of dog, making them a popular choice among purebred enthusiasts who are looking for alternative options to breeders and pet shops. Like other rescues, most breed-specific rescues are typically nonprofit organizations, foster based, and rely heavily on volunteers and donations to continue saving lives.

“Breed-specific rescue groups work hand in hand with and complement the work of animal shelters. Many shelters maintain a list of breed groups in their area, and when a purebred is received (shelters report that between 20% and 30% of dogs received are purebreds), call for assistance with placement.” 1

When a rescue—whether breed specific or not—removes an animal from an animal shelter, it frees up space for other animals who are coming in. Additionally, rescue groups also take dogs that are considered “less adoptable” like seniors, hospice animals, or those with special needs. This is particularly important when it comes to public animal shelters who are overcrowded and euthanize animals as a method of population control.

Precious lives are depending on the work of rescue organizations. To continue their life saving work, funding is critical. Goldie Palooza™ has been bringing “golden vibes” since 2017, and along the way has raised over well over $100,000 that has been dispersed to selected nonprofits among the years. Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue has been a recipient of Goldie Palooza™ since the beginning in 2017 (a host since 2022); this year Golden Bond Rescue will be attending (once again as a special rescue guest from SCGRR) for the third time.

Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue

Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue (SCGRR) was founded in 2008 by a small group of women who saw an opportunity to do things a little differently and took it. This one big move was to place all the dogs in their care in foster homes instead of boarding facilities or veterinary offices. One small change led to a big impact that has not lost momentum. Today, SCGRR is the third largest golden retriever rescue in the country, adopting out over 300 dogs annually.2

SCGRR current President Liz Miller is passionate about continuing the momentum of the organization and saving more lives. She shared, “We are a non-profit organization, 100% volunteer run, we have no paid staff or volunteers, which allows for our donations to go even further in caring for the dogs we take in. And that is what is most important for us.”

SCGRR primarily focuses on rescuing and adopting out to the Southern California area but are continuously receiving requests and pleas for help saving golden retrievers from shelters, owners relinquishing their dogs, animal cruelty cases, and even international cases. Last year, the rescue traveled abroad to save dogs who were at risk in the meat trade. They also took part in a large rescue of golden retrievers from a midwestern breeding facility that was shutting down.


Above and Beyond

SCGRR goes above and beyond when it comes to the dogs in their care. One practice being they are “one of the few rescues to provide not just basic vetting such as vaccines and sterilizations, but also more costly treatment and procedures for those dogs in need. This may include, but is not limited to, MRIs, ultrasounds, CT scans, treatment and extractions for severe dental disease, orthopedic procedures including hip and knee surgeries as well as treatment for emergency situations for incoming dogs. We go above and beyond to understand the health and behavior of our dogs prior to their adoptions.”

Another unique factor is the SCGRR Foster Program, where each foster volunteer is matched with a foster rep. The foster rep helps train and mentor the foster volunteer, preparing and supporting them caring for the dog, then preparing the dog for adoption, and eventually finding an adopter for their foster dog. This eliminates the need for a weekly or monthly volunteer orientation and allows fosters to get started right away.

Are You Ready to Meet Your Match?

If you are ready to adopt a Golden, there are plenty of amazing Goldens available right now at SCGRR. The best way to familiarize yourself with who’s available and the SCGGR adoption process is to attend an adoption event or visit their website scgrrescue.org. There you will find information on how to meet available dogs and learn their adoption process including things like the adoption application, home check, and adoption fees.

Become a Foster or Sponsor

If you love Goldens but can’t adopt right now, there are other ways you can get involved and make a meaningful impact. SCGRR relies on volunteer fosters to ensure every dog has a loving, temporary home before being adopted. Other foster opportunities include fostering those with complex or special needs or becoming a permanent foster. The Permanent Foster Program at SCGRR that provides lifetime care for dogs deemed not adoptable due to long term health, or behavioral issues. Most are terminal. But the program allows them to live life on their own terms, surrounded by love.

If being hands on doesn’t fit your lifestyle right now, becoming a sponsor is a great way to be involved in a dog’s journey at SCGRR. Your sponsorship could help SCGRR provide life saving medical care, comfort for a permanent foster, or help with a domestic or international rescue mission.

“We are so grateful for Goldie Palooza™, it is such a wonderful event. It’s a great way to celebrate the breed we all love, build community, raise awareness of Goldens in need of homes and raise much needed funds to continue saving more lives.”

Golden Bond Rescue

Based in Oregon, Golden Bond Rescue has successfully placed over 4,100 dogs in loving homes since their inception in 1991. Their mission includes finding caring, adoptive homes for retrievers and retriever mixes in need and to educate the public to prevent the homeless retrievers of the future.

Golden Bond Rescue began with a focus on rescuing and adopting dogs to families within Oregon. Jill Groves, President of Golden Bond Rescue shares that “due to the growing crisis of homeless dogs, we expanded our rescue net and areas adopted to, including Oregon, Washington, Idaho, Northern California, Alaska, and Vancouver, B.C. But we will go where we are needed if we can.”


A few years ago, Jill and Liz connected during an international rescue mission. Over the years, volunteer rescue teams from both Golden Bond Rescue and SCGRR have traveled to South Korea, China, Spain, Puerto Rico, and Mexico to save dogs in need. Golden Bond Rescue was invited to attend the postponed 2020 Goldie Palooza™, and they are excited to attend for the third year in a row.

Jill says, “It is a great event, and it gets bigger and bigger every year. It’s magical to be surrounded by so many Goldies, plus it’s a great way to educate and spread awareness. We are honored to be there again this year.”

Don’t Stop Retrievin’

Golden, Labrador, Flat Coat, Mixed Breed, oh my! Golden Bond Rescue welcomes dogs who fall under the “Retriever Breed” umbrella and each one has a story that will melt your heart. Several of the available dogs posted on their website are from international rescue missions. If you’re looking for a pupper with a touch of retriever, like a Lab Mix or a Golden Doodle, they have them too.

The best place to start your adoption inquiry is on the Golden Bond Rescue website. There you can see all the available dogs, read their stories, get acquainted the adoption process, and when you are ready you can start your adoption application.

One of These is Not Like the Other

While Golden Bond Rescue is a breed specific rescue whose focus is on all things retrievers, there have been a few non-retrievers who have wiggled their way in! Jill shares that while in South Korea, she spotted a tiny white puppy with one black ear. She scooped it up. It wasn’t a retriever, but she just knew this was the puppy’s only chance to get out.

Jill named her Peanut because she was so small. Once she arrived back in the U.S. and into a foster home, Peanut started to show that she was a lively, playful, and affectionate puppy. Her breed is unknown, but the rescue shares that she looks and behaves like a Japanese Spitz. She is great with kids, cats, and other dogs. Peanut is a puppy and needs an active guardian who will dedicate time to training and enrichment. Her current foster sibling is a gentle and patient 6-year-old golden retriever, who she loves to play with, and keeps her foster mom laughing!


Sure, Peanut isn’t technically a Golden, but she is a fan of Goldens, and she was rescued with Goldens, so we’re pretty sure that makes her an Honorary Golden.

Become a Foster or Sponsor

Golden Bond Rescue is primarily foster based which means the dogs are living in a home environment, sometimes with other dogs and pets, while they await adoption. They also have a facility called Haven House that serves as an emergency or temporary fostering spot for special cases until a permanent foster home is found.

Sponsoring a pet is a great way to support Golden Bond Rescue. Your sponsorship will be life saver for a deserving dog. Whether they are awaiting adoption, need extensive medical care, or are part of a domestic or international rescue mission. Sponsoring a dog means you are actively freeing up funds that can save another dog.

You can learn more about fostering, sponsoring, and volunteering for Golden Bond Rescue on their website.

Contact & Donation Information for SCGRR

Website: www.scgrrescue.org

FB & IG @scgrr

Email: info@scgrr.org

Phone: 1-866-299-1899

Donate: www.scgrr.org/donate VENMO:



Make checks payable to:

Southern California Golden

Retriever Rescue

Mailing Address: Southern California Golden

Retriever Rescue

PO Box 25698

Los Angeles, CA 90025 Federal ID No: 30-0454968 (501c3 organization)

Contact & Donation Information for Golden Bond Rescue

Website: www.goldenbondrescue.com

FB @gbroforegon

IG @goldenbondrescue

Email: info@GoldenBondRescue.com

Donate: www.goldenbondrescue.com/donate-today

VENMO: @goldenbondrescue Donation checks can be sent to Golden Bond Rescue, P.O. Box 25391, Portland, OR 97298 Federal ID No: 93-1112566 (501c3 organization)

1 https://www.petfinder.com/adopt-or-getinvolved/animal-shelters-rescues/starting/breed-rescue/#:~:text=Breed%20specific%20rescue%20groups%20are,to%20breeders%20or%20pet%20shops.

2 https://scgrrescue.org/.

My Golden Polar

Dogs have a very special way of changing our lives for the better in an instant. Ask any pet parent, and they will most likely tell you it was “love at first sight” upon meeting their pet, and therein lies a piece of the unexplainable magic animals share with us—the instant connection and understanding that in this moment, you both need one another.

When Pablo and his wife Suchana welcomed a golden retriever named Pooklook into their family, their lives changed. They both immediately felt moved to make Pooklook’s life the very best it could be. Pooklook loved being outdoors, so his dad who once considered himself an indoor type of person became and outdoor enthusiast seeking out hiking trails and outdoor adventures to share with Pooklook. Pablo says, “Being outside in nature with Pooklook and witnessing his pure joy while exploring and playing was the best feeling for me. If Pooklook liked it, we were going to do it.”


Pooklook was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and underwent radiation and treatment for several years. A brief remission followed by another cancer diagnosis forced Pablo and his wife to say goodbye to Pooklook in 2014. His passing devastated them, their grief was deep, and both unapologetically admit it was “a very dark time.” Shortly after his passing, the vet tech who had loved and supported Pooklook through his treatments donated in his honor to The Morris Animal Foundation. When Pablo received notification, he looked up the foundation and learned of the Golden Retriever Lifetime Study.

Morris Animal Foundation

The Morris Animal Foundation is a non-profit organization founded by Veterinarian Dr. Mark L. Morris Sr., who believed in applying medical diagnostic and treatment protocols used in human patients to the animals he treated. He opened one of the first exclusively small animal hospitals in 1928.1

During the Great Depression, Dr. Morris noticed an unusually high rate of kidney disease in his animal patients. He concluded that many dogs were no longer eating table scraps, but instead, inexpensive canned food or dry kibble that contained meat byproducts and low-quality protein. This prompted Dr. Morris to create his own prescription dog food to help treat kidney problems. This venture proved successful leading to a partnership with Burton Hill and Hill Packing Company of Kansas. Paving the way to what would become present-day Morris Animal Foundation.

Today, the Morris Animal Foundation is a global leader in supporting studies to find solutions to serious health threats to animals, investing nearly $160 million in more than 3,000 studies that have improved the health and quality of life for dogs, cats, horses, and wildlife around the world.2

The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study

Launched in 2012, The Golden Retriever Lifetime Study (GRLS) is one of the largest, most comprehensive prospective canine health studies in the United States. The primary goal of the study is to identify the nutritional, environmental, lifestyle and genetic risk factors for cancer and other diseases in dogs, and ultimately find answers to canine cancer.

Currently, there are over 3,000 dogs, 2,600 owner participants, and 2,000-plus veterinarians involved in the study. Per current data shared on the foundation’s website, 60% of golden retrievers are impacted by cancer. In 2023, the foundation shared that through the study, they had accrued 500 cumulative diagnoses of four major cancers including lymphoma, high-grade mast cell tumor, osteosarcoma, and a higher than expected prevalence of hemangiosarcoma.3

Polar Perfection

In April of 2014, Pablo and his wife were still grieving but knew they would welcome another golden retriever eventually. A close family member knew their hearts needed mending sooner than later and brought them a golden retriever puppy to meet, or at least cheer them up a little bit. Still raw from the loss of Pooklook, they wondered if the timing was right, and it was. They named the puppy Polar Bear, and so began a new life for a lucky puppy, and a bright new chapter for Pablo and his wife.

Knowing of the Morris Animal Foundation, Pablo reached out to enroll Polar. At the time, he was too young, as the age of acceptance into the program is between 6 months and 2 years. Once Polar had his 6-month birthday, he was in.

How The Study Works

While it may sound daunting to be part of lifetime study, Pablo says it is very convenient to participate. The foundation sends each a participant a sample kit to take with them to their annual exam. The veterinarian uses the kit to collect various samples including but not limited to fur, blood, nail clippings, and skin scrapings. Both the veterinarian and the dog parent are required to fill out a questionnaire that includes questions about personality, lifestyle, environment, food, and other details that reveal a baseline of what the dog’s daily life looks like. The data is then returned to the foundation.

Pablo shares, “We participate in this study to honor Pooklook, and because I believe the study will propel the advancement of health care for dogs, which I hope will mean less dogs losing their lives to cancer in the future.”

In a recent Instagram post marking 10 years since Pooklook passed away, Pablo writes:

“You awakened my life and showed me what love is about. You found me and saved me from a lifetime incomplete.

You taught me to live with no regrets, so I devote myself to honor that, trying to give Polar his best life—and make you proud.

I miss you, my dear Pooklook. Yet I find solace knowing that, in every lifetime, our souls will find each other. In each I will recognize you, and my heart will be full once again.


Meet Polar

He’s outdoorsy, and by outdoorsy, we mean he’s into:

• Hiking every mountain.

• Running up and down every trail.

• Making snow angels.

• Diving into the lake, or a stream, doesn’t matter really.

• Finding the biggest stick among the trees and then taking it apart piece by piece.

• Chilling under the blue sky and sunsets with his dad.

• One of his nicknames is Polar Berry. The rest are top secret.

• He is an A+ couch potato in his downtime.

• Polar is part of the Morris Animal Foundation Lifetime Study.

• He has his own Instagram, @my_golden_polar, where his dad documents all his adventures.

1 Morrisanimalfoundation.org/article/Dr-Mark-L-Morris-Morris-Animal-Foundation-Prescription-Diets

2 https://www.morrisanimalfoundation.org/our-impact

3 https://www.morrisanimalfoundation.org/article/golden-retriever-life-time-study-reaches-500-diagnoses-4-major-cancers

The Charm and Charity of GOLDIE PALOOZA™

Golden Retriever standing on rock

The Goldie Palooza™ story started on Monday, October 12, 2015, when a golden ball of fur with a curled “rat” tail and the sweetest snout came into the life of a couple in the South Bay. This was the first dog for this couple, who did not have children. They promised him to give him the best life possible, full of love and respect. Because “mom” was French, he was given a French name—Hugo for the author Victor Hugo, and the middle name Maxwell to honor a very special rescue pup who belonged to the couple’s French Canadian best friends.

What they didn’t know was that by bringing this golden retriever puppy into their home—which changed their quiet lives completely—a series of circumstances would lead to the birth of an entire community. A community that came together to start the most amazing golden retriever event ever seen in Southern California: Goldie Palooza™.


It started on Instagram in early 2016, with an account created just for Hugo. Other golden retriever owners on Instagram reached out, and soon the family was meeting other local golden retriever families at a nearby park. One day, Hugo was invited to a golden retriever party at a boarding facility. The sight of so many golden retrievers in one location—about 60 of them—created great excitement and a real sense of solidarity. Attendees began to talk about starting a golden retriever group in Southern California. Hugo and his mom volunteered to start the group, named SoCal Golden Retriever Buddies. After spending hours and weeks looking for local golden retriever accounts on Instagram to grow the group, the first-ever “Meet-Up” took place on Rosie’s Dog Beach in Long Beach on September 11, 2016. Approximately 20 golden retriever owners from LA County, Orange County, and other counties met that day. The ensuing monthly meet-ups consisted of playtime at the beach, outdoor activities like pack walks and hiking our local mountains, pup birthday parties, and evening park playdates. The group grew consistently, month after month, becoming a reputable and safe community, one of the biggest active golden retriever communities in the world.

When the first anniversary of SoCal Golden Retriever Buddies approached, Hugo and his mom came up with the idea of gathering the most golden retrievers possible on a field to take a picture. They started to contact the Instagram followers and discuss how and where the gathering should take place. One family suggested that, instead of gathering solely for the photo, the group host a golden retriever “festival.” Hugo’s mom knew that organizing monthly activities was quite different than putting together a festival—the idea was intimidating. But, with much convincing and many promises of help from group members, Hugo’s mom accepted the challenge.


So, what began as a simple group picture to mark the first-year anniversary of the beloved SoCal Golden Retriever Buddies community became not only a day-long golden retriever festival but also a fundraiser for local golden retriever rescues. And the event was run exclusively by volunteers, just as it is today. Hugo’s mom was joined by passionate and talented women of the community to organize the first-ever Goldie Palooza™. It took place at Huntington Beach Central Park on Sunday, October 8, 2017, and drew more than 350 golden retrievers. That inaugural Goldie Palooza™ broke the attendance record previously held by the famous gathering that takes place every five years at Guisachan in the Scottish Highlands, where the breed was founded in 1868 by Dudley Coutts Marjoribanks, later known as Lord Tweedmouth.


Goldie Palooza™ 2017 volunteers will never forget the moment when all the attendees gathered in the field to immortalize this precious moment together. Goldens and their “parents” kept coming and coming, and the sight of all those happy golden retrievers was absolutely unbelievable. From about 30 dogs at monthly meet-ups to over 350 at that first festival, it was truly astonishing. The event became the talk of the town—KTLA news crews were there, as well as reporters from local newspapers. What a heart-warming first-year anniversary group picture for SoCal Golden Retriever Buddies it turned out to be!

Goldie Palooza™ was held again in 2018 at the same location, almost doubling the number of attendees and raising even more funds for golden retriever rescues. Coverage of the event was widespread, with stories published in People magazine and even The Times newspaper out of London.


Organizing the event did not come without challenges. The original volunteers who organized the renowned festival decided to take a break in 2019 to consider the future of the event. A year passed, with many long discussions conducted with a non-profit organization, Southern California Golden Retriever Rescue. The rescue agreed to accept the challenge and took the Goldie Palooza™ annual event under their umbrella.

Just as a new date and location in Orange County was appointed for the 2020 event, the pandemic struck. The Goldie Palooza™ 2020 organization, daunted but determined, remained patient for two long years. Finally, Goldie Palooza™ resumed in 2022 at Lakeview Park in Silverado, California, and was held once again in 2023 at the same park. Both years, our own attendance records were broken—from the beginning, more and more goldens and their families flock to the even every year. Our 2023 count was 938, but even this astonishing number is not the unofficial world record. That record is held by our buddies in Australia who hosted 1,278 goldens at their annual Gold Rush event last fall.

Besides drawing record numbers of golden retrievers from different states to Southern California for a joyful day with us, our biggest accomplishment is the fundraising our group has accomplished since 2017. Goldie Palooza™, run 100% by volunteers since day one, has raised and donated more than $100k to various non-profit organizations.


Goldie Palooza™ 2024, 5th edition, takes place April 7 in Orange County (a central location for families coming from all over California) at Oak Canyon Park, on 17 acres of exclusive recreational commons nestled in the historic Santa Ana Mountains. Families will be coming from as far as the East Coast, with some even flying from Brazil, Mexico, and Canada. Some of our exceptional guests will be Pet Loss Psychologist Dr. Katie Lawlor, Pup Stars Chase and Chester, and the LA Galaxy Star Squad. Our Golden Village will be the biggest to date, with almost 90 exhibitors (sponsors, vendors, dog sports, dog testing, food trucks, DJ, training, contests, and courses). It will be a mix of local and out-of-state exhibits, with the best of the best selected for our attendees. Many activities will be offered for golden retrievers, their buddies and families—many favorites will be returning, along with new activities being introduced this year.

Volunteers of Goldie Palooza™ will tell you, “It’s the best day!” “It’s impossible to choose just one best thing.” And, “It’s Disneyland for goldens and families!”

We take great pride in the accomplishments made since October 2017, and we know it takes a village to reach a goal. Goldie Palooza™ could not happen without the kindness, tireless efforts, and sacrifices of the volunteers who made this festival what it is today. We cannot thank them enough. Today, there is not a “Goldie Palooza™ Committee” but a “Goldie Palooza™ Community!”

Our slogan in 2017 was, “Let’s paint Huntington Beach golden!” The sentiment remains the same, but since the festival is renowned worldwide, we like the sound of “Let’s paint the world golden!”

Does it Hurt? How Pets Communicate Health Concerns

“If only they could talk to us. I’m sure most of us have had this thought, or even spoken it aloud at some point when trying to figure out if something was bothering our pet. I hear similar sentiments from dog and cat owners weekly when there is concern for illness. It definitely would simplify my job if I could ask Lola where she felt pain, or if I could have Bentley run through a list of all his symptoms. Although dogs, cats, and other animals are incapable of speech, they do possess other methods for communication. As research in animal behavior and medicine has evolved, veterinarians have learned to identify these more subtle communications. Pet owners, as well, can learn to identify signals that may indicate their fur friend is not feeling the best.

One of the biggest concerns for a sick animal that owners have is whether or not their pet is experiencing pain. “Is she hurting?” In some cases, the communication is clear—I touch a swollen limb and the dog yelps. Vocalization is often associated with acute (sudden) pain. This could range from a sharp cry to a whimper. Of course vocalizing does not only indicate pain—it can also be used to communicate fear, stress, excitement, or other feelings—but when combined with touch or lameness, a cry can certainly clue us into the possibility that something hurts.

There are other more subtle signals that dogs and cats display when in pain. Veterinarians use a number of different scales or assessment tools that have been researched and validated as means of detecting pain. One example is a “grimace scale.” A grimace scale evaluates a patient’s facial expression and posture and can help determine if an animal is experiencing pain. These scales were first developed in laboratory settings for mice but now include scales for other species, including rabbits and cats—see the chart, Feline Grimace Scale. When a cat feels pain, several changes occur to its facial expression—ears position further back, eyes are less open, whiskers are more straight (less relaxed), muzzle becomes more tight, and the head tends to droop downward. Using this scale can help determine if a cat is in pain and can be helpful to determine if pain medications are working after surgery or other procedures.

Another scoring system exists for dogs developed by Colorado State University veterinary program. They created a Canine Acute Pain Scale, which also evaluates a number of factors including body position, vocalization, reaction to touch, restlessness, and other behaviors to help assess pain in the acute (sudden) setting. Just like us, when dogs do not feel well, their behavior is going to change. The aforementioned are some cues owners can use to realize their dog may need veterinary care.

Feline Grimace Scale

Feline Grimace Scale


Other assessment tools and scales exist and can be found through an online search. Specific examples include the Glasgow Composite Measure Pain Scale (GCMPS) for orthopedic or soft tissue injuries in dogs, University of Melbourne Pain Scale (UMPS) in dogs, and Colorado State University Acute Pain Scales for cats. Some of the resources even have downloadable apps—see the online feline grimace scale website.

Besides pain, other medical conditions can also result in activity changes. Although a dog or cat may not be intentionally telling their owner something is wrong, the behaviors themselves can communicate a disease process may be occurring. Most owners I see in the clinic are attentive to these changes, which can include increased water intake or urination, accidents in the house in a normally house- or litter-box trained pet, decreased or increased appetite, vomiting, and excessive licking or scratching. Animals will frequently withdraw, become less active or quiet, sometimes hide, or act guarded or irritated when they don’t feel well—just like people! A veterinarian would call all of these “clinical signs” and uses them to pinpoint the underlying malady. Often, additional diagnostics such as lab work, imaging, fecal tests, or infectious disease panels will be needed to determine the actual diagnosis.

Canine Pain Scale

■ Comfortable when resting

■ Happy, content

■ Interested in or curious about surroundings

■ Content to slightly unsettled or restless

■ Distracted easily by surroundings

■ Looks uncomfortable when resting

■ May whimper or cry

■ Droopy ears, worried facial expression (arched eye brows, darting eyes)

■ Reluctant to respond when beckoned

■ Not eager to interact with people or surroundings but will look around to see what is going on

■ Unsettled, crying, groaning

■ Guards or protects wound by altering weight distribution (i.e., limping, shifting body position)

■ May be unwilling to move all or part of body

■ Constantly groaning or screaming when unattended

■ May bite or chew at wound, but unlikely to move

■ Potentially unresponsive to surroundings

■ Difficult to distract from pain


Dr. Michael Forney

Dr. Michael Forney

Dr. Michael Forney, DVM, is a UC Davis graduate (c/o 2018) working in general practice with special interests in behavior and preventative medicine. VCA Rancho Mirage Animal Hospital is located at 71-075 Highway 111, Rancho Mirage, CA. Visit vcaranchomirage.com*