Local rescue group trying to find homes for Golden Retrievers from Istanbul

Dogs found roaming streets in Turkish capital
Posted at 12:04 AM, Mar 02, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-02 02:04:06-05

ARVADA, Colo. – A local rescue group is trying to find homes for 18 Golden Retrievers that were found wandering the streets of Istanbul.

Kevin Shipley, the executive director of Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies, said people look at dogs differently in Turkey.

“We’re crazy about our dogs, right?” he said. “Over there, they’re kind of in the same category as rodents, practically.”

Shipley told Denver7 that Golden Retrievers were once a status symbol in Turkey.

“Many wealthy people had retrievers,” he said, “then puppy mills sprang up and everyone else got one.”

As the dogs got bigger, and more expensive to care for, many were let go to fend for themselves.

“With few animal shelters in Turkey, many of the good-natured dogs starve,” he said, “or become prey to feral dog packs that roam the city and surrounding forest.”

Shipley estimates there are 50,000 stray dogs roaming around Istanbul, and he said the shelters that do exist, are often outdoors, leaving the retrievers vulnerable to weather conditions.

Operation Turkey Dogs

This is the fourth group of dogs brought to Colorado as part of Operation Turkey Dogs.

Sponsors pay for the transportation. 

“They get to name the dogs and be at the airport, when they arrive in Denver,” Shipley said.

Each flight contains 18 dogs, some malnourished, some overweight.

“Usually, we try to bring a couple of special needs dogs, as well, for a variety of reasons,” he said, pointing to Violet, as an example.

“Violet is blind and we were afraid that she might be attacked by other dogs at the shelter.”

He said when the vet, who makes house calls, checked up on Violet, he found that she had some lumps and bumps. 

“She had surgery immediately,” he said.  “The vet removed two tumors.  Violet would never have been able to have the kind of surgery there, that she had here.”

Shipley said the blind retriever will go to a home with another dog “that she can use as a seeing eye dog.   One that can show her where the doggy door is, the back yard, food and water.”

Captain is the other special needs dog in the group.

“He has three legs. We call him tripod,” Shipley said. “Captain is just a sweetheart.  He doesn’t know he has three legs.  He'll climb over anything.”

Shipley said it takes a special person to take care of dogs with special needs.

“We have people here who are very tender-hearted,” he said, “who really want to look after these special needs dogs.”

Rescuing Retrievers since 1996

Shipley said they have about 20 Golden Retrievers at their Arvada facility.

“We’ve rescued, rehabbed and rehomed about 4,400 since 1996,” he said.  “Most  were dogs given up by their owners.”

He said they’ve been rescuing dogs from Turkey since 2016.

While most of the dogs have been spoken for, Shipley said they’re still trying to find homes for some of the others.

“There’s always a waiting list,” he said. “The dogs are very popular.”

He said it’s important to know that Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies is not a drop-in facility, “It’s by appointment only.”

Shipley said anyone thinking about adopting one of the Golden Retrievers should go online and read about the adoption process at

“They can fill out an application,” he said, “and we try to find the perfect home.”

Shipley said if the dog is happy, the owner is happy, but not necessarily the other way around.

“Golden Retrievers are the ultimate pay it forward companion,” he said. “After we rehab them, they go out and help others heal up.”