GODFREY -- A pair of sisters set off for a destination Monday to help more than 80 U.S. veterans.
The furry family of two, Izzie and Thora, both nearly 6-years-old, moved from the Alton Area Animal Aid Association Humane Society, better known as 5A's animal shelter, in Godfrey, to Luverne, Minnesota, to become part of a much larger family at Minnesota Veterans Home, Luverne, residence to approximately 85 veterans, under the Minnesota Department of Veteran Affairs.
"They saw the 'girls' on our site. They said they always had golden retrievers as its mascot and would we have any interest," 5A's Executive Director Ric Jun recalled about the conversation with the veterans home. "We normally don't ship out dogs, we usually don't give away dogs, but we'll do it for these veterans."
The "girls," as 5A's staff and leadership referred to the golden retrievers, patiently waited for the veterans home's Volunteer Services Coordinator Duane Mabon's parents, Bryce and Ruth Mabon, to pick them up Monday making their way to the canines via Waterloo, Iowa, a six hour drive to 5A's at 4530 N. Alby Road.
Once the Mabons filled out 5A's required paperwork and picked up the dogs, they pulled out in their van from 5A's parking lot for another six-hour stint, including an overnight stay with Izzie and Thora, on the road to Minnesota.
The entire 5A's staff, who worked Monday morning, came outside to say, "'Bye girls," as they waved and smiled at the canine couple.
"They jumped right in; one got up in the front seat," said 5A's kennel worker Megan Brockman, of Elsah, while working with her mother, Betty Michael, a volunteer, also from Elsah, and Mary Wethington, of Bethalto, who helps with adoptions and cat care. "The girls are going on a road trip."
The dogs, surrendered to 5A's by a family who could not keep them due to a residential move, requested that the pair of females from the same litter stay together when adopted -- they've been together their whole life.
Duane Mabon's parents picked up the pets because a driver was unavailable. Since the veterans home is tax-payer supported, he said he was grateful for his parents' volunteerism. Mabon and his father both also are U.S. Army veterans.
"Ric and the crew there were very generous and knowledgeable; my folks being involved helped avoid expense for the state of Minnesota," Mabon said.
He noted that the Luverne veterans home always had dogs throughout the 24 years since it opened. When the most-recent resident golden retriever, Lucky, died a few months ago, a search immediately began for a new residential pet for the home's veterans through Petfinder.com and 5A's came up in the search.
"These dogs are perfect for these people," 5A's canine caretaker Scott Reynolds, of Cottage Hills, said to The Telegraph. "They're like gentle giants, real good dogs, relaxed. They've been well trained."
Minnesota Veterans Home, Luverne, one of five under Minnesota's veterans affairs' department, always adopts golden retrievers, but Izzie and Thora will be the community's first females.
"We started with golden retrievers. We found, for some reason, they respond better to our residents," Mabon said during a telephone interview Monday with The Telegraph. "Golden retrievers' temperament is very calm, patient, and we've had a very good response with previous dogs of this breed in relationship with our residents."
The Luverne home follows the Eden Alternative Philosophy of caregiving, which includes among its 10 principles that "an elder-centered community commits to creating a human habitat where life revolves around close and continuing contact with people of all ages and abilities, as well as plants and animals."
Thus, the Luverne home applies this principle by having resident pets, including dogs, aquarium fish and a bird aviary; fifth-grade children also visit the home for nine weeks, changing groups of fifth-grade students every nine weeks during the school year, as part of the 85-bed home's adopt-a-grandchild program.
Izzie and Thora will have free range of the home and its grounds, which are surrounded by an underground electric fence. Automatic doors will respond to motion to open and close whenever the dogs want to go outside or inside.
"There's no chain or leash. They're just two new residents of ours," Mabon noted. "They're going to be really spoiled."
Visit www.fiveas.org for more information.
Reach Jill Moon at 618-208-6448 and Twitter @jill_moon.
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