Fort Myers Florida Weekly

For the love of Lola: Senior dog touches hearts around the world

Local nonprofit hosts GoldenFest XI to raise funds for rescued dogs

Clockwise from top: Lola with her new golden family, Cami, Daisy, Riley and Bentley. COURTESY PHOTO

Clockwise from top: Lola with her new golden family, Cami, Daisy, Riley and Bentley. COURTESY PHOTO

It takes a village to rescue animals. For Bonita Springs-based Golden Retriever Rescue of Southwest Florida, that village spans the world.

When Lola #1003, an emaciated 14-year-old golden retriever, came into rescue in September, her horrific condition and sad plight touched hearts as far away as Germany, Wales, Australia and the Philippines. Through Facebook posts and a fundraiser, the rescue raised money for Lola’s vetting, found her a foster home, and ultimately gave Lola the forever family she deserves.

GRRSWF President Alesia Galuppo of Estero said the rescue, founded in 2009, relies solely on donations to fund its mission, typically helping up to 100 dogs per year. In August, the rescue celebrated the arrival and adoption of its 1,000th dog.

The worldwide support for Lola touched rescue officials’ hearts and restored their faith in humanity.

“We will never stop rescuing dogs like Lola because we will never have to with the loving, generous donors that we have. Our rescue is blessed with the most amazing supporters who truly have rescue hearts,” said Ms. Galuppo.

Lola pictured on Sept. 4 at the shelter.

Lola pictured on Sept. 4 at the shelter.

The tale of Lola

Looking back on 2021, Lola’s incredible journey is a highlight for rescue officials.

It began with a message about a golden in dire condition at kill shelter in Ocala.

When volunteer Penny Iannone left the Marion County shelter after meeting Lola for the first time on Sept. 4, she was too upset to talk. Instead, she sent a text to an intake coordinator at GRRSWF.

“I am in the parking lot at the shelter trying to compose myself. I just looked at Lola. She made me cry due to her condition…She has badly infected ears, one tumor on her neck, substantial hair loss and overall in rough shape. Her owner died…This girl has not been taken care of for a very long time to be in her current condition. She seems very sweet and I hope we can take her because she really needs us!!!”

Lola today. The senior golden has gained 7 pounds and grown back most of her coat.

Lola today. The senior golden has gained 7 pounds and grown back most of her coat.

Four days later, following a mandatory hold period, Ms. Iannone picked Lola up and took her straight to the vet.

From that point on, magic happened.

First, an examination uncovered nothing serious or terminal. Lola was simply suffering from starvation, serious skin issues and infected ears.

Next, the rescue launched a Facebook fundraiser for Lola. Photos of her taken by Ms. Iannone at the shelter tugged at heartstrings all over the world, and donations poured in from as far away as Australia, Wales and the Philippines. Donors also included many regular rescue supporters from Fort Myers, Naples, Charlotte County and other parts of Florida.

Then, in what was to become a huge stroke of good luck for both Lola and the rescue, Jacqueline Chalifoux, who lives in Lady Lake, saw a social media post about Lola and offered to foster the frail, emaciated senior.

Though Ms. Chalifoux had never fostered a dog, she was a previous adopter from the rescue. Lola’s story compelled Ms. Chalifoux and husband Steve to jump at the opportunity.

Lola with her new mom, Jackie Chalifoux.

Lola with her new mom, Jackie Chalifoux.

“We didn’t hesitate, but I honestly thought she just might die,” Ms. Chalifoux confessed. “She looked so terrible I thought maybe she wouldn’t make it.”

Lola barely moved during her first week in the Chalifoux home. “She was so weak and so hungry,” said Ms. Chalifoux. During her second week, the frail senior picked up a bone. By the following week, she was playing with the family’s four other goldens.

“Every Lola moment is just so big to me,” Ms. Chalifoux said. “Picking up a toy, playing with the other dogs.”

Though she is 14, Lola is bright, engaged and lively, Ms. Chalifoux said. In just two months, she has regrown a beautiful coat and gained 7 pounds.

“She is super attached to me and always looking for me,” said Ms. Chalifoux.

Giving a dog a second chance and ensuring that every day is her best day ever has meant the world to Ms. Chalifoux, who recently had knee surgery. She noted that Lola has repaid the favor by rarely leaving her side as she recovers.

This story has a happy and not unexpected ending: Lola has found her forever home with Jackie, Steve and their four other goldens. From the loss of her original owner to near death in a kill shelter, Lola is now a happy, healthy, beloved family member.

Annual fundraiser nears

As an all-volunteer foster-based nonprofit,

GRRSWF covers an area from Naples to Ocala on Florida’s west coast. In addition to purebred goldens, like Lola, the rescue helps goldendoodles, flatcoat retrievers and golden mixes.

In order to continue its mission, the organization is always in need of donations. GRRSWF will host GoldenFest XI, its biggest annual fundraiser, on Nov. 14 at the Shell Factory. Featuring agility, obedience, flyball, K-9 and dock dog diving, the event includes a huge live and silent auction, pet photos, live entertainment, food, drink and more than 70 vendors.

Dozens of “graduates” of the rescue will be on hand, identified by colored bandanas, but leashed, well-mannered dogs of all breeds are also welcome.

The event also includes a reunion of goldens rescued from South Korea — where dogs are still a food source — and their families.

Since 2015, the rescue has saved 68 goldens from that country to raise awareness about the dog-meat industry. The group has also rescued three goldens from Iran and two from China.

GRRSWF is always in need of volunteers, foster homes, adopters and donors. For more information, visit, email or call 239-369-0415. ¦

In the KNOW

GoldenFest XI, hosted by Golden Retriever Rescue of Southwest Florida

» When: 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Sunday,
Nov. 14
» Where: The Shell Factory & Nature
Park, 2787 N. Tamiami Trail,
North Fort Myers
» What: Vendors, doggie demos, silent
and live auction, live music, food
and more
» Info:, or 239-369-0415

One response to “For the love of Lola: Senior dog touches hearts around the world”

  1. Barbara Mahoney says:

    Great article Cathy, what a special dog so sweet thanks for saving her and getting her a new family

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