Volunteer Highlights – My trip to SeaTac: Eight Smiling Faces

We all know Golden Bond Rescue has amazing volunteers; however,  I didn’t realize just how incredible they are until I participated in the collecting and transporting of eight international goldens from SeaTac, Seattle, to Portland. This is the transport story of these eight souls through my eyes.

The Medical/Intake team is one of the many teams that works valiantly to ensure that each golden has a successful transition to its forever home. What does it take to get the international dogs to their foster homes? Unless you’re there, you couldn’t know because it all happens behind the scenes. Who knew!?! This fast-paced event involves teams of people who are willing to give their time, who have compassion, solicitude, and devotion to these dogs.

I had the amazing opportunity to accompany Kay Yates and Rachel Van Driest on a trip to retrieve a group of eight international dogs arriving at SeaTac and  then deliver them to Canyon Veterinary Hospital in Portland, OR the following day – seems simple enough!  Wrong!!!

I loaded into the Golden Bond van in Portland, the one with all the happy puppy faces painted on the side, and we drove 143 miles north to Tacoma to prepare and wait for the dogs’ flight to arrive. The Tacoma location is a volunteer’s home where the dogs spend the night after their flight. Staying overnight near the airport helps reduce stress and allows them a brief rest before making the trip the following morning to their doctor appointment and foster homes in Oregon and Washington.

Later that same evening, we met a second crew of volunteers at SeaTac who were there to help us collect the dogs from Oversize Baggage and get them back to the van. The crates came out of the shoot one-by-one, and those little faces peering out from the wire crate doors filled me with a sense of urgency to get them outside to stretch, relieve themselves and provide them the assurance that everything was going to be okay.

Once the dogs were moved via carts to the van, the real work began. Like a well-oiled machine, we all pitched in to open each crate and gently remove the dogs, then give them an opportunity to pee, poop, drink water and have a bite to eat. While some of the volunteers cared for the dogs, others were cleaning out the dirty crates (that’s “dirty” with a capitol POOP) and loading them into the van. After the dogs had had an opportunity to stretch their legs, they were loaded back into their crates and driven south to Tacoma to spend the night at Chez Siedlicki, the home of volunteer Melissa Siedlicki (another amazing volunteer who donates her house for the one night stay when the international dogs come in).

When we arrived at the house in the dark, yet a third team of volunteers met us there to give each golden one-on-one time. While the dogs were allowed to run around the back yard, crates were removed from the van and given thorough cleaning, if needed, and placed in various rooms where the dogs would sleep. The dogs were given more water and another small meal. After a bit more running around and playing (yes, there were the usual golden antics), they were placed back in their crates in the hopes of sleep. Yeah, right! So much for our hopes!!!

Many of the goldens were a bit anxious, all were on “China time,”, plus they all had to go out multiple times during the night. Each dog was assigned an overnight person so that all of their needs were met throughout the night. It is like a dog/volunteer slumber party (without the party or slumber). We woke up very early the next morning to prepare the dogs for transport to Portland: water, food, flea/heart worm/parasite preventative and more play. A final loading of the crates and the dogs into the van and off we went to make the 2.5 hour drive to Portland to see Drs. Boothe and Baucum at Canyon Pet Hospital. At the clinic, we were met by a fourth team consisting of foster parents and Intake/Foster Home volunteers who cared for the dogs while one-by-one the dogs went in for their exams. Each dog was given a thorough exam, blood drawn to test for Brucellosis, anemia, and kidney/liver values, given booster vaccinations, if needed, and wormed. Appointments were made for those dogs requiring additional medical care, e.g. neutering, lump removal or teeth extractions.

At the end of two very long days as I climbed into my own car completely exhausted, I jokingly said “I’ll never do this again!”  All kidding aside, I was so touched and inspired by these volunteers who are so devoted to the health and welfare of these dogs, who have already been through so much, that of course, I’ll do it again! Every one of the volunteers at every stage of the process had smiles on their faces and sleeves rolled-up, ready to help.

We Friends of Golden Bond usually never see this process, which is only one piece of the puzzle (foster team, adoption team, behavior evaluations, home visits, etc.) in GBR-land. All we, as members of FoGB, see are the pictures of the dogs in their foster or forever homes. What we miss is the pleasure of seeing these dogs come off the plane – dogs who should be bitter and damaged – wagging their tails, and happy to be in a better place. Like the Grinch, my heart swelled three sizes after helping these eight wonderful goldens make their final long trip to their forever homes.

I am so grateful to the volunteers who are ready to wrap their loving arms around these treasures, regardless of how filthy they (dogs) are or how terrible they smell from their long trip from China. I would go again and again and again no matter how exhausted I was. I came away from the experience truly inspired by Kay and Rachel’s professionalism and stamina, Melissa for her generosity to let that many volunteers and goldens invade her home, Jill for her tireless trekking to China and back, still joking and giving everyone a hard time, and all the other volunteers who cheerfully helped along the way.  I am thankful for my experience, for the quiet time spent in the van on the way back to Portland (without a peep from the many dogs in their crates), and relieved that all these precious goldens are on the road to a better place. I have to admit I was surprisingly emotional when I saw pictures of them in their foster or forever homes, all clean and smiling (Vicki’s picture says it all). Was it worth it? I would say, “Yes and I can’t wait to do it again!”  As veteran GBR international golden transporters say, “It’s life changing.”