‘Nacho’ the rescue dog gets a new home in the Florida Keys

Nacho is an 18 month old golden retriever from Idaho. But it didn’t take long to discover paradise.

Hot off his cross-country road trip on Sunday, Nacho found out what life is like in the Florida Keys. He walked to the back dock of his new family’s home in Sugarloaf Key, inspected the scene – and confidently dove into the salt water.

Nacho, an 18-month-old golden retriever with special needs, arrived in the Keys on June 13, 2022, after a 5-day road trip that began in his native Idaho. Photo provided by the Golden Ratio Foundation

It started to take a ride but returned to its owners, Jen Golbeck and Ingo Burghardt. They lured him to dry land by offering him a ball.

“Alone without coaxing,” said Golbeck, 45. “It shows he’s just a confident dog. He wasn’t afraid that we were letting anything happen. He had been here two hours at the time.

Nacho is curious, well-mannered, playful, goofy – and into his toys, his owners report.

“Definitely obsessed with the ball,” Golbeck said. “He tried to stick his nose out the closet door.”

When Nacho arrived in the Keys, it took about five minutes to get him out of the car. But once he got out, he trotted around the yard like he owned it.

Nacho is the newest and youngest member of the couple’s pack, called the Gold number. Nacho joins Venkman, 7, Hopper, 8, Guacamole, 5, Remoulade, 6, and Chief Brody, 12.

Golbeck can single out the Goldens, but Burghardt admitted he has to check sometimes.

The dogs are happy now, but some of them have sad stories.

Remoulade came with a scar around his neck after being chained up for six years. He also lacks fur and has never visited a vet. On Sunday, he was walking around his house with the pack, showing off a nice coat.

Years ago, another dog hid in a guest bedroom for a month after arriving. Hopper has a leg after having cancer. (She was named before she lost the member.)

“You see them transform after a few months from these sometimes really terrified, anxious, sick dogs into happy Keys dogs playing in the water,” Golbeck said.

Golbeck understands that many people cannot afford to care for their pets and is grateful that they can step in for so many dogs. They had a dog that required about $30,000 a year in surgery. It was Voodoo, 5, who suffered from epilepsy and died a few weeks ago. He had cluster seizures and had to travel to Miami for treatment and would remain in intensive care.

“We are very lucky right now to be able to afford to care for these dogs,” she said. “For the vast majority of my life, I was barely getting by on every check. I understand being broke.

These dogs have much more than a bowl of kibble: they have their own calendar, a range of products and a wiki page. They even have a podcast. Host of Golbeck and Burghardt the Golden ratioa witty critique of the stories and dogs of the Keys.

Golbeck, a computer scientist who teaches at the University of Maryland, is working on a book, “The Purest Bond,” about the science of people bonding with their dogs.

The couple started the Foundation of the golden ratio, a non-profit organization dedicated to improving the lives of golden retrievers and their friends. They have over 800,000 social media followers, including about 153,000 on Twitter.

Twitter helped rescue Nacho and find him a forever home in the Keys where he could join other special needs dogs and some senior citizens.

Remoulade, Venkman, Nacho, Guacamole, Hopper and Chief Brody, a pack of special needs golden retrievers, were all adopted by a Florida Keys family. Nacho is the newest member of the pack. Photo provided by the Golden Ratio Foundation

People on the social platform started a ‘Save Nacho’ movement which had supporters cheering on the dog and his volunteer friends as they hit the highways. Nacho was in fashion on Sunday evening, after news of his arrival and video of his impromptu swim were displayed.

In Idaho, Nacho had been abandoned by his owners, who couldn’t pay vet bills related to the dog’s severe allergies, treated in part with prescribed food and injections. He may also have a knee injury that could require surgery.

Nacho was first taken in by the Herd House, an animal shelter, shelter and hospice in southeast Idaho. The non-profit organization began looking for its permanent home. Once Twitter learned the young golden boy needed a new family, all tweets led to Goldbeck and Burghardt, who were ready to add him to the pack.

Nacho on his way to the Florida Keys.

On Twitter, the couple recruited volunteers, who drove Nacho in teams about 2,739 miles from Pocatello, Idaho, to Sugarloaf Key. Other people gave Nacho places to stay throughout his journey.

An online network of dog fans stepped in to help.

People who lived in Denver drove to Salt Lake City to pick up Nacho, stayed overnight, and then drove back to Denver, Golbeck said.

So far, none of Nacho’s drivers or hosts have requested or accepted compensation. Everyone received an email from the couple offering to pay the expenses.

“We offered to pay for gas,” Golbeck said. “No one emailed me. »

Since 2016, between their dogs and their foster families, the couple have had around 30 dogs at home. There was grief too.

“There were times when we lost two within a week or two of each other,” Golbeck said. “It just breaks a part of you.”

“Even if we see these dogs at the end of their lives, it’s gratifying,” she said. “We make it peaceful, joyful and as sweet as possible. It’s kind of an honor to do that.

She just can’t turn away when she sees a dog in need of a loving home.

“I can’t say no; it’s really tough,” Golbeck said, taking stock of the cost, emotional toll and energy it takes to care for a pack of goldens. “It’s a very happy place.”

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Gwen Filosa covers Key West and the Lower Florida Keys for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald and lives in Key West. She was on the staff of the New Orleans Times-Picayune which in 2005 won two Pulitzer Prizes for its coverage of Hurricane Katrina. She graduated from Indiana University.

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