BIRMINGHAM, Ala. - With their gentle disposition and playful attitude, golden retrievers are consistently ranked one of the most popular dog breeds in the U.S.
They have also been extremely popular in Turkey, where Lorraine Donald says, "people looked at golden retrievers as a status symbol."
But as the breed falls out of favor, thousands of these dogs have been abandoned on the streets of Istanbul.
Unfortunately, the same characteristics that make the dogs such good family pets make them especially ill-suited for life as a stray. They simply can't fend for themselves.
With few resources for such dogs in Turkey, animal advocates there contacted Adopt a Golden Atlanta.
The Atlanta rescue began flying some of these "Turkey Dogs," as they became known, into the U.S.
Gradually, other rescues got involved. There are now 25 agencies in North America participating in the rescue missions.
Donald says, "what is most impressive is their adoptability and how loving and sweet they are...it's just remarkable how 50 they just act like they've been here all their lives."
According to AGB, it costs about $1,500 to bring the dogs to Birmingham. Once here, however, the rescue typically spends less on their health care than on the domestic dogs in its care.
Donald says the goldens rescued from the Birmingham area often have expensive medical issues, such as heart worms.
In contrast, the "Turkey Dogs" have already been vaccinated, spayed or neutered and treated for any major health problems by the volunteers in Turkey.
Still, it's a big commitment for this non-profit, all-volunteer group. How do they do it?
"How does a rescue survive? They survive by donations. They survive through volunteers and fosters," Donald explains.
While Birmingham may be a drive down I-65 South, AGB's mission touches the heart of many dog owners here in North Alabama.
The group's big annual gala, a Night of Golden Opportunities, is September 15th in Birmingham. For more information, including a ticket link, click here.