MINNETONKA, Minn. — We need to talk about the Golden Retriever. Feel free to disagree, but Golden's have long been considered the "quintessential" dog. They're friendly and loyal. Loved by many in the United States.
But, in China, they're considered good for meat.
A local rescue, Retrieve a Golden of the Midwest (RAGOM) is working to save those dogs and bring them back to the U.S.
Here's an uncomfortable statistic. According to RAGOM, an estimated 10 million dogs are slaughtered for their meat in China. Pictures and videos of dogs crammed into cages stacked in the back of pickups show the dogs being transported somewhere, presumably to a slaughter house.
What's even harder to believe is that those dogs aren't bred for meat. RAGOM said most of them are stolen.
Nicole Stundzia who is on the board of directors for RAGOM said she saw it for herself in February when she made a trip to China to rescue a couple Golden's.
"I learned while I was over there, they don't walk dogs on leashes," Stundzia said. "So it's very easy for somebody to jump out of a truck, grab a dog, jump in, and drive off."
Stundzia said the dogs are kept in a shelter once they are saved from the trucks, but often in overcrowded situations.
"It was a hundred dogs at least, and they were just all starving for human attention," Stundzia described the shelter. "Jumping on gates, they wanted you to pet them."
Of the hundreds of dogs that jumped on her and asked for attention, there was one, she said that caught her eye.
"I'd walk up to her kennel and she'd sit so pretty for attention, it was hard to walk away," Stundzia said. "There was something in her eyes. It was just so sad, so I took her picture."
She was immediately drawn to Mama. Before she got the name Mama, she was dog #6894. Stundzia was already slated to bring other dogs back from that trip and with a limit on how many she could bring back at once due to airline restrictions, she said her hands were tied. However, she said she couldn't shake the thought of leaving Mama there, so she appealed to RAGOM's volunteers.
"RAGOM village kind of rallied together and a volunteer was kind enough to go over there with her husband and daughter and they were able to bring Mama back with four others," Stundzia said. "It's unbelievable to me that she made it back there."
A connection had been made, incredibly, halfway across the world.
Now that Stundzia and Mama have been reunited in Minnesota, Stundzia said she is relieved. She said knowing that Mama and other Golden's like her are slowly finding loving homes in the U.S. makes her job worth it. She said she only wishes the process could go faster.
"It's rewarding, part of being the pre-adoption team, it's so, so fun to see these families so excited to adopt dogs that I had a part in bringing back over," Stundzia said.
Currently, Mama is with a foster family and is not available for adoption quite yet. However, Stundzia said Mama will be available soon. You can keep tabs on her here, on RAGOM's website.
If you would like to help RAGOM by donating your time or your money, you can find details here.