By Courtney Clark

In 2000, Judi and Reed Brown realized the need for a non-profit pet rescue in Northeast Florida. With their love of and experience with golden retrievers, they founded GREAT – the Golden Retriever Emergency Assistance Team. The group has saved almost 900 goldens since its opening, but now it faces a new and exciting rescue opportunity.

About two years ago, GREAT learned that the country of Turkey was experiencing a high volume of stray goldens. In Turkey, golden retriever puppies are status symbols, but when they grow they lose this status. Sadly, many of the dogs are simply thrown out and left to fend for themselves. Because goldens are so docile, their chances of survival in those harsh conditions are slim.

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GREAT was happy to help in January of 2016 with three of the 275 so called “Turkey Dogs” that have been transported to the United States: Jax, Sabal and Flora.

The Browns asked for foster families to take these dogs in and Chris Ann Gibbs of the Southside, who previously adopted from GREAT, gladly offered her help. Flora, renamed Maggie Mae, is now in her foster care.

The terms to foster a Turkey Dog are simple: fosters must be previous golden owners, have a fenced-in yard and have someone home all day. Most importantly, as Gibbs says, families have to provide a loving home.

Gibbs speaks highly of her new family member, describing Maggie Mae as calm and sweet, such that one would “never, ever know this pup had been in such a dire situation.”

Maggie Mae is friendly to people and dogs, and she has filled a void in the Gibbs’ lives. In fact, she immediately made herself at home when she arrived. The family fully intends to adopt the sweet Turkey Dog, although Gibbs praises those who are able to take in dogs only temporarily, calling the act one of the most unselfish of all.

Yet Gibbs strongly encourages those who can open their homes to foster a rescue dog, since those who do are rewarded many times over.

The Jacksonville community can help GREAT by giving. Judi Brown explains that bringing over Turkey Dogs is highly expensive. Each dog is $1,800 to transport and veterinary expenses such as vaccinations only add to that amount. Since the organization is not-for-profit, it relies on the kindness of families and businesses for donations and to host fundraisers.

Gibbs believes all dogs are the greatest gifts given to people. Although the rescues never expect anything in return they are happy to offer unconditional love and loyalty, remaining grateful to their last breath.

GREAT Rescue and foster families are living up to the rescue’s motto with the public’s help: “Giving Goldens a GREAT Second Chance.”

Visit to learn more about the Golden Retriever Emergency Assistance Team.


Photo courtesy Golden Retriever Emergency Assistance Team


Kaitlyn Chana with Sabal, Jax and Flora (now Maggie Mae)

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