“Turkey Dogs” – Abandoned Dogs From Turkey Find Homes In the U.S.


Golden Retrievers Abandoned on Streets of Turkey

For several years, the Golden Retriever has been a popular breed in Istanbul. They are friendly, good with kids – a non-aggressive dog with an overall great personality. The people of Istanbul, understandably, fell in love with this breed and it quickly became fashionable to own a Golden Retriever puppy.  But puppies grow up, and many owners are not prepared for nor wanting to take on the responsibility of caring for a big and energetic dog. The result – owners abandoning large numbers of these dogs on the streets of Istanbul where this gentle dog struggles to survive.  The lucky ones end up in shelters – there isn’t enough room in the shelters for all the abandoned dogs (golden retrievers and all breeds), so many dogs live in the streets and the forests.

Hearts Of Gold

Coming to the aid of these abandoned dogs are Yasemin Baban and a group of volunteers from Turkey.  Yasemin has made it her life’s mission to rescue these lost souls and find them homes. She finds them homes in the most unlikely of places – almost 6,000 miles away – in Atlanta, GA.  Yasemin learned that Americans love this breed and that animal rescues have waiting lists for Golden Retrievers.  Yasemine eventually connected with an organization in the U.S. that focuses specifically on helping homeless Golden Retrievers – Adopt a Golden Atlanta (AGA).  Through the cooperation of AGA, these dogs are flown to the U.S. where they will be adopted to loving homes.  They are being called the “Turkey Dogs”.

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Abandoned Golden Retrievers In Istanbul shelter.

Finding Homes For “Turkey Dogs”

We reached out to AGA by email. Lauren Genkinger, President and Founder of AGA, kindly responded with additional information about these wonderful dogs and with ways on how the public can help.

WagBrag: How many dogs from Turkey do you currently have?

Adopt A Golden Atlanta:  Our first flight of 36 Golden Retrievers arrived in May 2015 (the largest international rescue of Golden Retrievers ever) and by year end we had brought in a total of 123 Golden Retrievers. All but 8 of these dogs have been adopted.  There are still hundreds of Golden Retrievers to be rescued from Turkey, and we will be bringing in some on several flights during 2016.

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Dogs unloading at the Atlanta, GA airport.
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Adopt A Golden Volunteers uncrating and meeting the “Turkey dogs”.

WagBrag: Since these dogs come from a home environment, is it safe to assume that they have had some basic obedience training?  And if so, is it difficult for them to learn commands over again in a different language – or does that even matter?

Adopt A Golden Atlanta: Most of them have not come from a true “home” environment that we think of as Americans. When they were with a family, most were outside dogs. The dogs we are bringing in come from shelters, the streets and even the forests. Some have lived in shelters for many years. So for most, having a bed, a toy and a regular food supply is a new experience. Not to mention the love and attention they are getting. They are so appreciative of this that most of them adapt pretty easily. We try a few basic commands with them in Turkish – such as “otur” which means “sit.”  If we say “otur” and the dog sits, then we know he knows some basic commands so you just say “otur…sit” to begin the association to the English word – and then  you drop “otur.” But even if they don’t know the commands, it’s been a pretty easy transition.  Golden Retrievers by nature want to please, no matter what the language.

WagBrag:  Are there any unique stories that you would like for us to share about any of the individual dogs from Turkey that you’ve helped rescue?

Adopt A Golden Atlanta: There are so many great stories. There are some with medical issues —  Hero, who needed surgery to straighten his front leg; Grant, who had a tumor behind his eye and needed his eye removed; and Patriot, who couldn’t see because of juvenile cataracts that we had removed.  All three are now thriving in their adopted homes. And then there’s Jitterbug, a precious girl who was rescued from the forest begging for food, who now lives in a home with a sister canine and two human sisters. We also have brought in two dogs who are tripods – they lost a leg after being hit by a car. One is now a therapy dog for children who have lost limbs. I could go on and on, but they all are very special!

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Lauren Genkinger, President & Founder of Adopt a Golden Atlanta

WagBrag: I also see that AGA has received some negative responses and un-true claims. I’m very involved with animal rescue and have seen that happen before – sorry that is happening to your organization.  Would you like to make a comment about these negative responses and un-true claims?

Adopt A Golden Atlanta:  There are 95 rescue organizations for Golden Retrievers in the U.S. and every one has a waiting list. So no Golden Retriever in the U.S. is at risk because of this effort. Adopt a Golden Atlanta’s mission, since our founding in 2003, has been to rescue any Golden Retriever in need – regardless of where they are – and we have helped many golden retrievers from outside Georgia that other rescues wouldn’t take because of the dog’s expensive medical needs or behavioral problems. Rescuing the goldens in Turkey is just an extension of our mission.  We also have helped 12 other golden retriever rescues across the country bring in Turkey Dogs using our protocols and processes. A total of 214 Golden Retrievers came to America in 2015 as a result of our efforts (with 123 of those in Atlanta). Adopt a Golden Atlanta takes care of all medical needs of dogs we rescue, and with American dogs we often have spay and neuter fees and also find that many are heartworm positive and need heartworm treatment, or have other expensive medical needs. The Turkey dogs are all spayed and neutered before they arrive, and there is no heartworm disease in Turkey, so although we have transportation costs for the Turkey Dogs, on the average it isn’t costing us any more to bring in Turkey dogs than it does to rescue American dogs.

WagBrag: How can people help? Do you need additional foster homes?

Adopt A Golden Atlanta: We always are looking to add to our foster family team – for Turkey dogs and American dogs. These families provide a loving home for a Golden for a minimum of 5 days. To fill out a foster application, go to the “Pitch In” section of our website (www.adoptagoldenatlanta.com) for the foster application.  We also need volunteers for our applications team. We are getting many applications and these need to be processed.  To volunteer for the applications team, go to our website and click on “Pitch In” and there’s a volunteer application button at the bottom of the page.

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Kennedy and Free – enjoying their new home and pool


About: Adopt A Golden Atlanta

Adopt A Golden Atlanta is an all-volunteer, non-profit, 501c3 organization dedicated to finding warm, loving permanent homes for Golden Retrievers in order to prevent them from becoming strays and adding to the shelter overpopulation. All money raised goes directly to the dogs! They are in need of volunteers and donations are greatly appreciated.

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Would You Foster or Adopt a “Turkey Dog”?


Images: Courtesy of Adopt A Golden Atlanta

WagBrag’s co-founder, Russ Boles, has a deep history in animal rescue and welfare. For the past 12 years, Russ has served in various roles with Atlanta-based animal advocacy organizations focused on rescue, training and education. In addition, Russ led a local rescue volunteer team into New Orleans immediately after Hurricane Katrina, assisting in efforts to rescue and care for stranded animals. This experience changed his life, and animal rescue and advocacy will always be a part of everything he does.