HARRISBURG – Talk about a Cinderella story with bark.

A few weeks ago Maggie was living in a rabbit hutch at a Lancaster County kennel. Now, as the latest addition to Pennsylvania’s First Family, the golden retriever is living the high life in the Governor’s Mansion. Weekends at the Shore. A car and driver.

You could say Gov. Rendell has put his dog biscuits where his mouth is – again. The state’s leading canine crusader and First Lady Marjorie O. Rendell last week adopted Maggie, their third rescue dog.

The Rendells began looking for a companion for their 5 1/2-year-old  golden retriever, Ginger, after their beloved 12-year-old golden retriever, Mandy, died in May.

They found Maggie, a petite female who their vet says is about 2 years old, through Main Line Animal Rescue, a nonprofit organization in Chester Springs that takes in dozens of unwanted dogs from commercial kennels in Lancaster and Chester Counties each year.

Like many breeding female dogs in commercial kennels, Maggie was likely destined to spend her life in a small cage standing on wire, churning out litters of puppies until she was no longer able, said Bill Smith, director of Main Line Animal Rescue.

But time was already up for Maggie. She had a litter of stillborn puppies and was going to be sold to a large broker and could have ended up in even “more dire conditions,” said Marjorie Rendell, a federal judge who sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

In a phone interview while driving to her chambers in Philadelphia today, Rendell said she had Main Line Animal Rescue e-mail pictures of three golden retrievers it had picked up from a breeder.

“When I saw Maggie I said, 'She can’t be this cute,' ” said Rendell, speaking from the front seat of her state car while Maggie and Ginger rode in the back. “When we met her I saw she really is that cute.”

Rendell said she was surprised that, given her harsh life, Maggie was so outgoing and friendly. “She’d been in a rabbit hutch,” Rendell said, as Maggie let loose a bark at a passing horse and carriage near Independence Mall. “I thought surely she’d be scared.”

Alarmed by the plight of breeding dogs in commercial kennels, Gov. Rendell last year replaced the state’s Dog Law Advisory Board and toughened enforcement of the dog law, and has proposed sweeping changes to regulations that cover 2,500 licensed kennels, among them doubling the cage size and requiring exercise.

Marjorie Rendell said she and the governor are committed adopters and have had only positive experiences with rescue groups. They adopted their first two dogs from Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue in Reinholds.

“The [rescue groups] foster the dogs so they know if they are good with animals and kids, and they carefully choose the adoptive families,” she said. “All the dogs have had challenges.”

Rendell added: “If we don’t rescue these dogs there could be an even worse outcome.”

Maggie’s outcome was not too shabby. She now divides her time between the Rendells’ East Falls house and the 32-room, Georgian-style Governor’s Mansion in Harrisburg with its household staff and a choice of gardens to gambol in.

And she can count on gourmet snacks when the governor’s around. Rendell – even at formal dinners – has been known to slip treats under the table to his canine companions.


Contact staff writer Amy Worden at 717-783-2584 or aworden@phillynews.com or aworden@phillynews.com.