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Rescue and Retriever

Max Mileski of Duluth knows why the nonprofit group Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota goes through all the effort and expense of finding homes for hundreds of golden retrievers each year.

Max Mileski of Duluth knows why the nonprofit group Retrieve a Golden of Minnesota goes through all the effort and expense of finding homes for hundreds of golden retrievers each year.

"They're very exuberant dogs that are always looking on the bright side," he said as he watched Charlie and Harvey, his two golden retrievers, meet other dogs at Park Point Saturday afternoon. "They'll turn your day around when you get home."

It's that love for the breed, a feathery-haired and athletic hunting dog, that brought a small group of golden retriever owners to Park Point in hopes of helping the nonprofit find funding and homes for dogs in the Twin Ports.

"We have just started to try to build a community [here]," said Marjorie Johnson of Superior, who helped organize the event.

The group, known by its acronym RAGOM to its supporters, started in 1985 when founder Jane Nygaard of St. Louis Park rescued a golden retriever named Sophie from a shelter and placed her with friends.

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That year, she rescued 10 dogs. The next, 15.

"It just grew and grew," Nygaard said Saturday. "When the Internet came, we just blew up."

Last year, the group rescued 516 golden retrievers and placed them in homes across Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa and the Dakotas. So far this year, it has saved 487 dogs.

In 22 years, Nygaard estimates the organization has found homes for 5,000 dogs. A majority are golden retrievers, but golden retriever mixes are not denied help.

About 40 Duluth families have adopted golden retrievers from RAGOM in the past seven years, Johnson said.

"We get them for all reasons -- divorces, they're moving, the owner goes into a nursing home," said Kathy Beyer of Blaine, who has picked up dogs from donors and provided foster care for about six years. "In some of the sad cases, the people just don't want them. But we don't judge the people who turn them in."

Some dogs have come from puppy mills, others from families that didn't realize cute puppies quickly become fully grown, energetic dogs. Nygaard's dog, Ford, was found in a trash can as a puppy; Mileski's dog, Charlie, was surrendered by a breeder after suffering a bad bout of allergies that made him lose the hair on his chest and tail

On Saturday, Charlie looked healthy and seemed happy to be around the other dogs. Mileski said he didn't get involved with the group until his first golden retriever began to decline in health three years ago. Now, both his dogs are from RAGOM.

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"They captivate me," he said.

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