Golden Knights to the Golden Rescue

Known for their friendliness, Goldens are sought after in America as companion dogs and in South Korea, but for dreadful reasons.

*Disclaimer: Content described in this article may be disturbing to some readers, especially dog lovers.

Dani Roth remembers the application well. But then again, Dani remembers most, if not all, of those who apply to adopt a dog from her organization, Retriever Rescue of Las Vegas

From the looks of it, all appeared to be a good fit for the black-haired Golden Retriever known as Habong. The applicant had another golden named Brucie in the home she shared with her boyfriend of six years. There was plenty of space to accommodate a second dog. Everything else was lining up for the raven haired dog. It was time to schedule a meet and greet for Habong and his potential brother Brucie, mom Ariana Alston and dad Shea. Shea Theodore, number 27 of the Las Vegas Golden Knights that is. 

“On one hand I was pretty much speechless, but at the same time it didn’t change anything. When it comes to adopting a dog, it’s about the dog and the best fit for their first household,” says Dani, when recounting the phone call.

For Mariana it was already a done deal from the first time she saw Habong on social media. “I just immediately fell in love with him,” she says. 

She applied quickly and then told Shea.

Habong would meet his new family and officially become Max Theodore a few days later. He would join 388 other dogs that have been rescued from the Retriever Rescue of Las Vegas. A rescue started by realtor, Dani Roth, and her husband in May of 2019. The 501c3 charity organization was born out of necessity for many reasons.

Photo of Dani and Jon

While Retriever Rescue of Las Vegas (RRLV) will save any dog in need, their focus is primarily in saving dogs in South Korea. There, Golden Retrievers are a delicacy, as in to eat. Sought after and rounded up with the intent to be dinner. Chained up, kept in cages and tortured, they number in the thousands.

They are attractive to meat farms for the same reasons they are to us, because they are friendly. So friendly they won’t bite while being hurt. And they are hurt for one reason, “They believe the more abuse that happens, the more adrenaline that pumps up in the dog and makes their meat more tender,” says Dani. That is the brutal truth of what these dogs are up against. 

“The more people know, the better chance we have to stop this.” That is a hope echoed by Mariana, “They are held in really inhumane places, they just don’t know why they’re being this way and it’s just heartbreaking.” 

Photos Courtesy of Madison Wedderspoon

Once Max made his Vegas residency official on social media others soon followed. That was true for Madison Grace.

“We had already had one dog and I always wanted to get him a companion. Retriever Rescue of Las Vegas came up because of Mariana and Shea when they rescued Max.” 

The “we” she is referring to is her and boyfriend Zach Whitecloud. The couple already had a four-legged dog named Leslie in the house. Once they laid eyes on Wally, it was a done deal she said, “ I know it’s a big decision but I am 100% sold.” Madison (Maddy) reports happily, “At bedtime they take over all the space and there is no room for Zack and I. They take up my spot now.” The couple are apart while she studies in London, but Maddy knows all is well back here in Vegas with her boys. 

“When he is done with practices or games, they are all snuggled up on the couch. When we are on Facetime and he is eating there is one dog behind one shoulder and the other dog behind the other shoulder and they are just drooling!” “The bond is amazing. He is definitely a sucker for them,” she says, pretending not to notice he sneaks the dog’s chicken from his plate.

That is a benefit of adopting from a rescue that saves dogs from South Korea over adopting local or buying from a breeder. That’s a benefit that Emily Ferguson saw. The former contestant on the 20th season of “The Bachelor” and fiance to William Karlsson adopted the couple’s dog from an organization called Bunny Buddies – Emily came to know Bunny Buddies from another “Bachelor” contestant. Their dog, Obi-Wan, is a Golden-Jindo Mix. 

“I didn’t get to pick the name. My fiance absolutely loves ‘Star Wars’. He always told me that when we get a dog he gets to pick the name of the dog and I said, that’s fine. As long as I get to pick the kids’ names. Once they’re born,” says Emily. 

Emily drove the four hours to LAX to greet her new dog. “Oh my gosh. It was like the most emotional day of my life seeing this dog,” she recalls.

It became clear to Emily, once Obi-Wan was home, he was scared of men.

“His issue was [that] he hated men. It was so weird to see how he would act towards me, and my sister versus how he would act towards Will, who’s technically his dad.” She continues, “Whenever he would walk towards Will, his tail would be totally between his legs. Like his head would be down. He would just be so scared.” 

“There’s no bond like a rescue dog…And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”

Emily Ferguson

It took almost a year for him to warm up to Will, and he has warmed up to him. Today, two years and two days after his ‘gotcha day,’ Emily has come to the conclusion that “buying a dog from a breeder is cute. And I know that those people have a connection and a bond with their dog. But, there’s no bond like a rescue dog. It’s completely different. And I mean that from the bottom of my heart.”

“The first night we got him he slept in the same bed as us,” says Mariana. “It was like that was just everything and more that I could have hoped for. Just as well, of course, like with every dog, especially every new dog, especially a rescue.”

As for the RRLV they are well aware not everyone is able to adopt a dog. But that by no means means you can’t help rescue a dog. At an average cost of $1000-dollars for every dog rescued, cash donations are always welcome (and tax deductible). 

Second in the ‘most needed’ category are fosters. The foster job is one that is in high demand and is among the most rewarding. “One of the main reasons I foster these gentle souls is to see them get a second chance at life,” says Jonathan Haas. “Seeing these dogs smile over the simplest of things such as being pet, receiving food, walking on grass and living inside of a house for the first time, this makes my heart smile and for that I’m grateful.”

Photo of John Haas and Grace

Jonathan is one of a few fosters who have become a foster failure. His dog Grace is a rescue from South Korea. Together the two of them help welcome new dogs as they decompress and adjust to life in America. No worries if you can’t foster, volunteers are also in desperate need. All the information of how you can help can be found at

As for those 389 dogs who have been rescued so far, we know of three who have come from RRLV. There are nine total Goldens on the Vegas Golden Knights team. They are the finest dogs for the finest team in the National Hockey League. A team that starts their season tonight against the Seattle Kraken. No need to worry though folks, the Knights have a lot of Golden love in the lineup, both on and off the ice.  

Golden Socials to Follow

Follow Vegas Golden Knights on Instagram:

Follow Retriever Rescue of Las Vegas on Instagram:

Follow Obi-Wan on Instagram:

Follow Max Theodore on Instagram:

*Note: Toni Gonzales is a volunteer with the RRLV and mother of Leo, the 389th dog rescued from South Korea. 

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