After moving from Atlanta to WaterColor four years ago, Nancy Steinmentz was looking to add a four-legged friend to her family.
"I had lost my Golden Retriever and knew that I wanted another dog, but I did not want to go through the puppy stage again," she said.
Through a little research, she found the Emerald Coast Golden Retriever Rescue (ECGRR), a non-profit organization that links abandoned, abused or surrendered Golden Retrievers — or Goldens as they refer to them — with forever homes and loving owners. She called them up and scheduled a meeting. The organization’s protocol calls for ECGRR members to visit with prospective owners before the adopting process begins.
"They came to my house and brought with them Shelby, who was 11-years-old," she recalled.
As older dogs typically have a harder time being adopted, ECGRR asked Steinmentz if she would foster Shelby until a permanent owner came along.
"I said 'Sure, we'll foster her while we wait for our forever dog,' " Steinmentz said.
Shelby ended up becoming a part of the Steinmentz family and lived out her later years being showered with love and affection.
"She had a great four years with us."
Steinmentz went back to ECGRR to add another furry friend to her clan and adopted Fletcher, a "handsome boy who loves to be looked at and petted."
"Every December I wrap gifts for donations at Orvis at Grand Boulevard; I brought Fletcher with me last year and he engaged with all the people," Steinmentz exclaimed like a proud parent. "I really should be taking him to a nursing home to visit with the residents."
From Pensacola to Tallahassee, ECGRR actively pursues Golden Retrievers in desperate need of a home through visiting shelters and even searching Craigslist. While finding permanent homes is not a quick process, the organization seeks out families and individuals to foster Goldens as they wait for forever homes.
"We need foster families desperately," said Kandie Evanchyk. "They are the backbone of the organization."
Foster families and prospective adopters have to be approved by ECGRR, which consists of seven board members and approximately 50 volunteers along the Panhandle. Currently, there are three foster families in Walton County and six in Okaloosa. Those who want to help foster should have a fenced in backyard, be willing to keep foster dogs inside the house, pay for food and administer heartworm and flea medicine.
Vet bills are covered by ECGRR. Through the non-profit's collaboration with 17 different veterinary offices, including Best Friends Pet Doctor in Freeport, most bills are discounted, but still paid for by ECGRR board members and volunteers.
"We're all doing this at our own expense and from our own homes," said Evanchyk. "I've never met a more nice, caring group of people."
The length of time a foster family devotes varies, Evanchyk said. It can be as short as 24-hours or as long at 18 months. How long you'd like to make yourself available is up to you.
"We can work with other fosters to provide temporary placement," Evanchyk said. "We just try to place them wherever we have to."
"It's amazing to see when we get the call and everybody goes into action," Steinmentz added.
Evanchyk has volunteered with ECGRR since 2002 when she became a foster parent to six-year-old Faith. The Freeport resident now currently serves on the organization's board as well as volunteering through website assistance and foster coordination.
Faith was an outdoor dog and surrendered by her previous family.
"She had bad allergies, calluses on her rump, her eyes were infected and swollen," Evanchyk remembers. "She was in bad shape."
After plenty of visits to the vet and unconditional love, Faith's health was restored. She enjoyed the rest of her life inside the Evanchyk home where "she got along beautifully" with the family.
For anyone looking for a first-time dog, Golden Retrievers are the perfect canine breed, said Steinmentz.
"They're the best with kids," she said. "They're loyal and smart. They don't have what I call 'Lab craziness.' "
"They're very laid back," Evanchyk added. "They don't sweat the small stuff. They want to be where people are — they're just gentle, loving dogs."
Fostering also allows you the chance to "try out" a dog before committing to adoption. Although, if you're anything like Steinmentz and Evanchyk, you'll most likely adopt any dog that enters your house.
"Try fostering, the one you have been looking for might come through your door," said Steinmentz.
"Open up your heart and home to a Golden in need," Evanchyk added.
"Open up your heart and home to a Golden in need"
Visit www.ecgrr.com for more information on the Emerald Coast Golden Retriever Rescue and how you can become a foster parent to a Golden in need.