MOORPARK, Calif. – Golden retrievers rule not only Ruth DiGregorio’s house, but also her heart.
The Moorpark resident’s love for her three golden retrievers, as well as the many dogs of that breed that she has fostered and rescued through several organizations she helped found, has garnered her one of the nation’s top dog-rescue awards.
The Golden Retriever Club of America recently selected DiGregorio as recipient of its prestigious Golden Starfish Award for her 13 years of golden retriever rescue and “as an individual who makes a difference.”
She will receive a plaque and $100 and be recognized at the club’s annual national meeting next week in Ohio.
On Sunday, one of the organizations DiGregorio helped found — Forever Friends Golden Retriever Rescue — will hold its third annual Golden Garden Party in Westlake Village. The fundraiser will include food and entertainment, a silent and live auction, a golden retriever petting area, a training demonstration and a video presentation.
Proceeds will go toward medical expenses and training for the dogs. The group’s goal is to help abandoned, abused, neglected, homeless or ailing golden retrievers. Also, the event will include the introduction of Cecil’s Forever Friend, a toy fuzzy lion that will be auctioned, with a percentage of the proceeds donated to Lions, Tigers & Bears, a big-cat rescue sanctuary in Alpine.
DiGregorio, 78, became interested in golden retrievers after her cat died in the late 1990s. She researched breeds and decided a golden retriever was a good dog to have around her grandchildren.
She loved the breed so much, she helped start two other rescue organizations.
After her husband was diagnosed and ultimately died from cancer, she went to a counselor to deal with depression.
“The counselor told me that I didn’t need to see a counselor, that instead I needed to be doing something emotionally rewarding and mentally stimulating. She said I needed to start another rescue,” said DiGregorio, who also served on the board of directors for the Los Angeles chapter of the Golden Retriever Club of America.
Forever Friends Golden Retriever Rescue has found homes for almost 500 golden retrievers since 2009.
DiGregorio said the group has been successful because it has a great group of volunteers who share a goal: to ensure a good experience for the dogs, the people who provide them foster homes and the people who adopt them.
Forever Friends has a reunion every spring where about 80 golden retrievers originally from the organization and the families that adopted them come together.
“It’s really rewarding for us to be able to see the success stories,” DiGregorio said.
DiGregorio’s own golden retrievers are all from rescue organizations. One of them, Courage, was rescued after he was hit by a car and had his front leg amputated. He had been destined for euthanization.
The volunteers at Forever Friends nominated DiGregorio for the national award. DiGregorio said she was “blown away” when she got the call that she was being honored.
“I had always admired the people they selected for that award,” DiGregorio said. “I never would have thought it would be me. I’m very pleased and honored.”
She said the organization and her work have “always been about the dogs.”
Golden retrievers are her favorite breed, she said, because despite whatever they’ve been through, they usually keep their sweet spirit. They’re very loving and good with children, but DiGregorio noted that they need a lot of room and exercise. She said they act like puppies up to about 3 years old.
“They’re just a very rewarding dog to have,” she said. “They’ve just taken my heart.”
IF YOU GO
What: Third annual Golden Garden Party
When: 3:30 to 7 p.m. Sunday
Where: A private estate in Westlake Village; address will be given to those who purchase tickets
Cost: $100
Tickets and information: Link to tickets and information

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