When Sully 16-027TD wakes up in the morning, he’s ready to go to work. He makes sure everyone in RAGOM volunteer Christie L.’s family is up and ready to go as well. He’s eager and focused, happy to visit patients, students, and anyone needing a reading partner or just a kind paw.
He loves people and he loves his new home in Minnesota. It’s a far cry from his early days living on the streets of Istanbul, Turkey, fighting for scraps of food or even his life.
A life of service, begun in loneliness and danger
Sully was just a puppy when he was found roaming the forests near Istanbul. He survived on scraps of bread and food waste provided by caring people in the area. The terrified puppy was cajoled into a car, then rescued by Devon T., a RAGOM volunteer who was documenting the plight of dogs abandoned by the thousands to survive on the streets and in the forests of Turkey.
RAGOM arranged transportation for Sully, who arrived in the U.S. on March 4, 2016. His huge heart was apparent to everyone involved in finding, treating, and transporting him from Istanbul to his foster home in Richfield, Minnesota. He was judged to be about 9 months old and his friendly, trusting outlook was a dramatic turn from the defensive approach required in his early life.
Early progress and rapid results
Sully was quickly paired with Christie, from Fargo, North Dakota, who had connected to RAGOM looking for a dog she could work with as Buddy, her therapy dog at the time, neared “therapy dog retirement.” Sully and Buddy became fast friends and the “new kid” learned a lot from the established veteran in this active, caring family.
About a year later, Sully’s training and early career as a therapy dog began under the tutelage of Pet Partners, the national leader in demonstrating and promoting the health and wellness benefits of animal-assisted therapy, activities, and education.
He excelled at his work visiting nursing homes, medical facilities, and schools in the area. He displayed his never-ending patience by listening carefully to students as they would read to him, either alone or in small groups.
Christie explains her motivation to keep going with her dog’s training despite a busy work schedule. “I know that he’s my dog and so does he,” she explains. “He’s mine, but it’s my job to share him with everybody that he can help or make feel better. A lot of people can’t have a dog, but they can get love from Sully. He loves everyone!”
One of the highlights of his week was working with a young boy needing occupational therapy to strengthen the grip in a disabled hand and arm. Sully happily received many hours of petting, brushing, and treats as the boy’s grip and dexterity improved.
Another move. Another home. More success.
When Christie and her family moved to the Twin Cities to be closer to grandchildren, North Star Therapy Animals came into the picture. North Star Therapy Animals provides therapy animal teams and services in the metropolitan areas of Minnesota. They became Sully’s connection to hospitals, schools, and other organizations that could benefit from his love for people.
Maple Grove Hospital is one of Sully’s favorite spots to visit, with a weekly jaunt and visits with patients, staff, and visitors. Sully greets everyone he sees on his rounds, offering a nudge or cuddle to those in pain or just feeling a bit blue. Nurses, doctors, and other staff are treated to the same affection, bringing a bit of relaxation and love to their busy, often stressful days.
“Every therapy visit that we go on is different,” concludes Christie, “but one thing is always the same. I can see the positive affect that Sully has on people. Their eyes soften and their body relaxes as they pet and talk to Sully. I am continually amazed at his special gift, and I’m so thankful for the opportunity to share him with everyone.”
So are we, Christie and Sully, so are we.
Because of relationships RAGOM has developed with dog rescue organizations in Turkey and the overwhelming need to help Golden Retrievers abandoned and living on the streets of Istanbul, RAGOM leadership approved the rescue of Sully and several other dogs to provide a second chance at life and love for these homeless Goldens.
RAGOM has been rescuing dogs from Turkey since September 2015. To date, we have flown more than 100 dogs to the United States and placed them with forever families.
Sully was chosen by his owner to be trained as a therapy dog. These intuitive dogs understand whether you’re sad or happy, and give unconditional love not just to you, but to everyone they meet.
Want to help?
We need volunteers. RAGOM is always looking for dog transporters, home visit volunteers, fosters, and more to help achieve our mission of rescuing Golden Retrievers and Golden mixes in need. Learn more about our volunteer opportunities. If interested, email [email protected] or complete a Volunteer Application.