Last Updated Mar 15, 2017 8:19 AM EDT
Golden Retrievers are the third most popular dog breed in America, but in Turkey, hundreds of the pups can be found living on the streets. An organization in Istanbul is trying to find the Golden Retrievers new homes in the U.S. Fifteen states have taken in the so-called “Turkey dogs” over the last two years.
It’s been a long, hard winter in Istanbul, especially if you’re a stray dog – one of thousands in the sprawling, Middle Eastern city. They live on the streets, dodging traffic and begging for scraps, reports CBS News correspondent Holly Williams. They’re dogs like Valentine, a 1-year-old Golden Retriever who was found weak and undernourished.
Edna Surujon and Yasemin Baban help run a rescue center in Istanbul where many of the dogs are Golden Retrievers. They told us they’re bought as puppies, but some owners then discard them when they realize they’re so big and energetic.
“They end up throwing them away, or giving them to shelters,” Baban said.
“And how do these Goldens do on the street? Do they cope very well?” Williams asked.
“They don’t,” Baban said.
Golden Retrievers are famously friendly and playful. On the streets, though, Baban told us they’re often attacked by more aggressive breeds.
But for a few, lucky dogs, there’s hope for a better life. At a time when the flow of people from the Middle East has divided the U.S., these dogs are being sent to America and finding new homes.
“What would happen to them if you guys didn’t take them off the street and find new homes for them?” Williams asked.
“I don’t even want to think, but we can’t take all of them, there are so many every day,” Baban said.
Last year this group sent around 600 dogs to America for adoption, including some disabled animals like Violet, who’s blind, and Captain, who’s lost a leg.
We don’t want you to get the idea that dogs aren’t loved in Turkey. Volunteers feed hundreds of stray dogs every day. And in this wealthy neighborhood, Tommy has been fed by so many residents he’s become obese. “Don’t feed the dog,” says the sign. Tommy is now on a strict diet.
But still there are too many homeless dogs on Istanbul’s streets. So last Thursday, Valentine, along with 7-year-old Romeo who needs an operation on his hips, and 16 other Golden Retrievers embarked on a journey to a very different life.
Six-thousand miles later, the journey ends in Denver.
At a cargo warehouse, there were hugs from sponsors who donated the $2,250 for each dog’s airfare, reports CBS News correspondent Barry Petersen.
Penny Morris found a very skinny Romeo.
“I think he’s adorable and he needs a lot of hamburgers,” Morris said.
Then they traveled across town to the Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies, where every dog will eventually have a home.
Families like Dick and Robin Valore, looking to adopt, suddenly faced doggy disorder.
“I’m looking around and here’s Sundance and I’m goin’, ‘You know what, that’s a sign,’” Dick said.
In just minutes, a lifetime decision – and off to his first night in America.
“We got our sleeping bags out and we threw ‘em on the floor, took our pillows down and that dog got to sleep right in between us,” Robin said.
“So you went to sleep on the floor like the dog? Why?” Petersen asked.
“Because I think they need to realize that you’re there for them,” Robin said.
Back at Golden Retriever Rescue of the Rockies, Valentine listened in as director Kevin Shipley said the Turkish dogs who’ve come here have a nickname.
“Operation Turkey Dog Colorado,” Shipley said. “They say I’ve got a Turkey dog and other neighbors look at them sideways.”
Dick and Robin’s neighbors have a new friend on their street. They said Sundance is now part of their family.
“Unconditional love?” Petersen asked.
“It has to be if you’re going to bring a dog like this into your life -- I mean, it has to be,” Robin said.
About their dog who came from Istanbul, a question the Valores couldn’t answer: Did they pick Sundance, or did Sundance somehow know these were his people?