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Helping golden retrievers find their forever homes

The Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue relies on the flexibility of propane to provide a warm, safe rehab and adoption environment for the dogs in its care.

By Jeffrey Lee

Staff Writer

On the second Saturday of every month, eager families from the greater Philadelphia region converge on a five-acre campus known as the Golden Gateway, hoping to bring a canine companion into their lives.

The Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue's (DVGRR's) "Meet & Greet Days" allow the public and approved adopters to tour the facility and meet dogs available for adoption. But until recently, the events were highly weather dependent.

"We typically have to cancel two or three a year because of rain or snow, or last year we had that -20 degree spell of windchill in February, which happened to hit that Saturday," says John Plummer, staff support and facility manager for DVGRR, located in Reinholds, Pennsylvania. "You can't have dogs sitting out in -20 degree windchills. Plus no one would come."

In December, the DVGRR debuted the fix to that problem: a new 5,600-square-foot adoption and activity center. The pole building–style structure will weather-proof the rescue's adoption days, with two 12-foot-high garage doors that can be opened in the summer to let air circulate. In the cold days of winter, two 100,000-Btu Modine unit heaters fueled by propane will take the chill off — and allow enthusiastic families to fall in love with the golden retrievers they'll be taking home.


 
    
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Affordable space heating

Propane heaters were a natural fit for the activity center because DVGRR already used propane to heat its kennels and a sanctuary home for senior dogs. Bernville Quality Fuels has supplied the organization with propane since 2014 and is a contributor to the group's cause.

Heating with propane was also more affordable than trying to heat with electric or oil-fueled systems, Plummer says. "Heating the buildings to care for the dogs is one of our biggest expenses. As a non-profit, we're very conscious of where our dollars get spent."

Power outages are another concern the organization can check off of its list thanks to two propane standby generators that protect the kennel and sanctuary. "All the power lines around here are aboveground, so it doesn't take much for a tree to come down on a line, and the next thing you know you're without power for a little while," Plummer says. "It's peace of mind knowing that we have these generators, and they're hooked up to a source of fuel, and they're going to switch on as soon as it's detected that we don't have electric."

The generators protect the facility's well pump and lighting and can start the heating and air conditioning systems as well.

Having consistent propane heating and cooling that works even in a grid outage is critical to creating a healthy rehab environment for the rescue dogs, which may come from neglectful puppy mills or, more recently, strays brought in from Puerto Rico and Turkey. "Part of their rehab is keeping them comfortable," Plummer says. "Consistency is very important for us. If they're consistently warm and consistently fed, they come around a lot quicker. Using propane makes it easy on us. It's one less thing we need to worry about."

A barking-friendly location

Propane offers a gas option no matter where a building is located, which is an important feature for organizations like DVGRR that are better suited for rural locations that lack access to city amenities like natural gas.


"If they're consistently warm and consistently fed, they come around a lot quicker. Using propane makes it easy on us. It's one less thing we need to worry about."


The rescue was founded in 1993 and, until 2000, utilized the foster home model that many other rescues use. Focusing specifically on golden retrievers, goldendoodles, and Labrador retrievers, the organization grew until there were more dogs than available foster homes.

In need of boarding space, DVGRR purchased a local boarding kennel for sale and founded the Golden Gateway campus. The large site is ideal for a rescue facility, Plummer says.

"When you run a kennel, you have to be aware of and courteous to your neighbors — and dogs will bark," he says. The large site allows plenty of space for volunteer dog walkers to exercise the retrievers for a mile walk twice a day. It's a routine that results in the gratifying silence of dogs happily sleeping off their exhaustion during afternoon naptime and at night.

"A tired dog is a happy dog," Plummer says. And with warm, comfortable spaces to rehabilitate and interact with future dog owners, the Golden Gateway is an idyllic place for the more than 4,600 golden retrievers the organization has rescued to transition into their new "forever" homes.

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