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Dog adoption a "golden" opportunity for pet lovers

Jessica Honer, Perham, gathers together her dogs for a photo, left to right, Allie (her current RAGOM foster dog); Rusty the Pomeranian; Titan the Schipperke she is fostering; and Ginni, a Golden Retriever she adopted two years ago.1 / 3
Allie, a Golden Retriever Jessica and Brian Honer are currently fostering, smiles for the camera.2 / 3
Heaven was Jessica's first foster dog through the RAGOM program. Within a month of bringing Heaven into their home, the dog was adopted into a permanent home.3 / 3

Dogs have long been dubbed "man's best friend," and if a Golden Retriever is your companion of choice, RAGOM might be able to help.

RAGOM, or Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota, is an organization set up to rescue Golden Retrievers in a five-state area, and find them suitable, loving homes. For rural Perham resident Jessica Honer, RAGOM brought her Ginni, a puppy mill Golden Retriever from South Dakota.

"I believe in giving every dog a chance," Jessica says. "These animals, if you're an animal lover, stay in your heart forever."

"Two years ago we rescued Rusty [a Pomeranian] and I wanted another dog," Jessica explains of how she and her husband Brian decided to add another furry friend to their family. "We came across RAGOM on an internet search and decided that's how we wanted to adopt a dog."

After witnessing first-hand the care and attention RAGOM volunteers put into finding each rescued dog the perfect home, Jessica decided to go through the training process and become a volunteer with the organization.

In September of 2009, Jessica filled out an application, went through training in the Twin Cities, and has been an active RAGOM volunteer since then. She does home visits, transports the dogs, serves as a foster home for Goldens, and does welcome calling for new volunteers. Jessica is the only person in this area who fosters RAGOM dogs.

"We, as volunteers, get an e-mail plea stating 'these dogs need fosters,'" Jessica explains of the process. RAGOM is often contacted by shelters or individuals who are surrendering Golden Retrievers. Volunteers then decide which dog they will foster.

RAGOM dogs are each assigned a number-based on when they were picked up. The organization microchips all of the dogs taken in, making it easier for them to find the dog in the event that it runs away.

Volunteers fostering a dog and those who transport the dog take the time to evaluate the animal for things such as aggression related to cats, kids, or food. This information is critical in assessing the type of permanent home environment the dog will fit well in. House training is also evaluated.

After a week of having the dog and getting to know it, the family fostering the dog puts its profile up on the RAGOM website, All dogs old enough to be fixed must be spayed or neutered before they can be adopted.

There are adoption fees, depending on the age of the dog. These fees go back into RAGOM for costs such as getting the dogs spayed or neutered. RAGOM takes care of all the initial veterinarian bills when the dogs are placed in a foster home. People fostering the dogs are only financially responsible for paying for dog food and treats.

"Quite a few of these dogs were puppy mill dogs. Sometimes a lot of these dogs won't know what a toy is. It's very sad," Jessica says of her experience with fostering dogs through RAGOM.

"We've had good luck," she continues. "All the dogs have gotten along. Our dogs teach the foster dogs how to be a dog and play with toys."

Jessica and Brian have four dogs in their home right now, and one them, Allie, is a dog they're fostering through RAGOM. They got Allie, who is 8 years old, in December. Allie is currently up for adoption on the RAGOM website.

Heaven was Jessica and Brian's first foster dog, coming to their home in November. After posting about Heaven on the RAGOM website, Jessica says the dog was adopted within a month. On average, Jessica estimates dogs spend anywhere from a couple weeks to a month or two in the foster homes, with older dogs tending to take longer to find an adoptive family.

"In order to adopt a dog, people need to fill out an application and they need to have a home visit done. We, as volunteers, go to their homes and make sure it's a good environment for the dog," says Jessica.

Once interested parties pass a home evaluation, they can then put in a request for a dog. Ultimately, the individual fostering the dog makes the final call about whether the people wanting to adopt the dog would be a good home.

For now, Jessica can only foster one dog at a time, until she's successfully fostered three dogs. At that point, RAGOM will allow her to foster more than one dog at a time. With four dogs in her home right now, in addition to three cats and a bird, it's clear that Jessica is a true animal lover.

Her mission is to raise awareness about RAGOM in the East Otter Tail area. "Be aware of adopting dogs," she encourages locals who may be searching for a canine companion. "They have come from a not-so-good life to working on becoming better dogs. I want people to be aware that there are good programs out there like this."

If making a full commitment to dog ownership is not right for an individual, there is also a great need for people to sponsor RAGOM dogs waiting for a home.


Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota, Inc. has been rescuing Golden Retrievers since 1985. It all started with one homeless Golden Retriever whose time was up at a shelter. Hank and Jane Nygaard took her in, and after getting her spayed and all of her vaccinations, they found this lucky Golden a new home. After the first Golden, there always seemed to be another that needed to find a home.

The program is based out of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area. RAGOM works with dogs in Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, and western Wisconsin. Although some of the dogs served through the program are full-bred Golden Retrievers, many of the animals are mixed breed dogs.

With an ever-growing group of volunteers, RAGOM has re-homed over 3,000 Golden Retrievers since 1985.