Where It All Began

“Rescue knows no boundaries and that is what Goldens Without Border is all about."

I grew up in a small, quintessential New England town, Boxford, Massachusetts. Boxford is very rural and only a few minutes from the New Hampshire and Maine borders. Growing up, we always had a dog or two, and all were mutts and mixes that somehow made it to our house. We never had a Golden Retriever, but we had a neighbor who had a Golden and his name was Riley. I was about 15 (1980) when Riley was a young Golden and would trot down to our house where me and my three brothers were almost always outside playing ball or just hanging out with our friends. 

Sun or snow, we were always outside.

Riley’s owners did not have children at the time, so we knew he just followed the kids voices in the neighborhood and hung out with us, tail always wagging.


We played baseball nearly every day during spring and summer in the front yard. Riley knew the game well and played outfield waiting for the ball to come his way and when it did, he would take off with all of us running after him, which is what he loved. He hung out with us each and every day. I remember having fur from Riley in my used 1979 Chevy Chevette despite him never being inside my car. I would arrive to school or work and a part of Riley would be with me…on my shoes, skirt or pants. 

All of you Golden Retriever owners reading this will understand the phenomena of your car having dog hair everywhere despite them never going anywhere near the car, room or other…it’s just everywhere and Golden Retriever owners approach it as an accessory to every outfit. But I loved that dog. From morning till night when his owner Peter, would come and pick Riley up with his pickup truck. I can still see Riley, at the end of any given day, curled up outside our front door on the mat. Peter would have to coax Riley into the truck only to return the next day to our house. 

This went on for many years. I was a young adult 21 years of age when I moved away from home and with all the thoughts and dreams and things that are important to a 15–21-year-old such as friends, boyfriends, social life, college. 

I remember telling myself that when I had my own place, my first dog would be a Golden.


Fast forward to 1990. I was 25 and just purchased by first home. I had a kitchen table and chairs donated to me by friends and a bedroom set. In 1990, I was not aware of rescues. I would scourer the Sunday Boston Globe newspaper looking for a Golden Retriever and I found a breeder in NH that had a 4 month Golden for $200. I’m not sure how I was able to scrape up $200 back then, but I did and off to NH I went. When I arrived at the breeder’s home, the breeder made me an offer for the two Goldens she had left from the litter, but I had exactly $200 on me and had not another nickel to my name. So, I headed home with Bojangles, my very first Golden Retriever. 

I had 13 wonderful years with Bo. I discovered this wonderful breed as a young teenager with Riley and then with my own with Bojangles. I have come across many wonderful breeds and mixes and mutts in my now 56 years, but a Golden Retriever stole my heart way back and this is where my heart and passion lie.

I have had seven Golden Retrievers in my life and rescue is the biggest way I can give back in honor of them who have added so much to me over these past several decades.

Each one teaching me many life lessons. Trust, joy, companionship and living each day as if it was your last tennis ball! 


I recently connected with Riley’s mom, our neighbor from Boxford, Ma., after nearly 36 years. I shared my memories of Riley and the profound affect he had on my life and one of the biggest reasons with starting Goldens Without Borders. 

I have volunteered with several rescues, attended many events, donated on a regular basis and have fostered nearly 100 rescue dogs in my life before starting Goldens Without Borders.


I have had many blessings in my life that include my husband, our son Zack, good friends and family and all with the handful of Goldens I‘ve been fortunate to also call family, in my adult life.

In 2016, social media had more than exposed the horrible conditions, treatment and imminent deaths to millions of dogs overseas. With more than 80 Golden Retriever rescues in the United States, covering all 50 states, there isn’t a Golden Retriever in the US that goes uncared for. In fact, many Golden Retriever rescues have suspended adoption applications with many having waiting lists of more than a year with dozens if not hundreds of applicants waiting to adopt. 

To start up yet another Golden Retriever rescue, would be of no help to this wonderful breed that I am convinced is a magical and spiritual breed like no other. Rescue knows no boundaries and that is what Goldens Without Border is all about. Many ask me why not save all the dogs in need and my response is this; I would love to save them all but, feel strongly that I need to do what’s best for the dogs I save, meaning, how to assess behavior and temperament, be somewhat of an expert in health and medical issues prone to this breed and how to best place then in the best forever home I can find Goldens are what I know. I love all breeds, small, large and everything in between, but I would not do justice to other breeds I know very little about. 

Secondly, there are so many Goldens in need in these God forsaken countries, that it takes everything by me and my small board of directors and handful of volunteers and what we can do. There already is never enough volunteers, time or money, to save the many more that could use our help. We leave so many Goldens behind and is what keeps me up at night, how could we possibly do more than what we are doing? Most importantly,I do this because of my passion for Goldens, no different than the folks at other breed-specific rescues that also rescue internationally. Poodles, Shepherds, Samoyeds, Bulldogs, and many, many others…..I applaud all of them and I completely understand their passion to save just these breeds because they have had a “Riley” in their life that compels them to do the same as what I do at GWB.

Many of you have had a Riley or a Bojangles in your life and I would love to hear your story. Email me at sheila@gwbrescue.org 

-Sheila Oliveira, President Founder

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