Our Village

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” ~ Margaret Mead

A plane buzzed to signal a special event today at Homeward Bound – the annual Volunteer Picnic. This is the one time during the year when all volunteers come together to an afternoon of appreciation, and connection.

And of course – they were accompanied by their honored guests: the Goldens; almost all of them (like Libby and Jasmine below) rescued from Homeward Bound.

The saying goes, “it takes a village” – and that couldn’t be more evident than today’s gathering. In this all-volunteer organization, each person contributes their unique talents putting in long hours, at, and away from, the ranch. Many times, their paths do not cross except at a couple of events each year. There are transporters, feeders, walkers, groomers, trainers, placement experts, foster families, community representatives and more in addition to the volunteer staff.

They are the lifeblood of the organization, and the reason why Homeward Bound is able to take dogs that other shelters find challenging to place, and create miracle, happily-ever-afters for hundreds of dogs each year.

In all the hubbub, we did still manage to get some gardening in. It is, after all, prime fall planting season, and both Ina and Maria are expanding beds in the Memorial Garden.

Ina plans a California natives garden to frame the garden’s entry. We spent about six hours pick-axing old roots, uncovering archeological treasure,

gigantic weeds,

and laying the groundwork for her next amazing creation.

Having just doubled the size of the Herb Garden,

Maria is now planning to convert the Container Garden into a Fragrant Garden.

By next spring, St. Francis will be surrounded by the smells of orange blossoms, star jasmine, rosemary, lavender, thyme and gardenias.

So many plans – so little time. Hope to see you in the Garden.


When a plant fails to thrive, is over-run with bugs, or becomes a thug to others, we do our best to nurture, mend or tame it in the Memorial Garden.

One of our volunteer gardeners, Ina, is famously tough on her problem plants. She literally tells them to toughen up and get it together, or they are out of here!

And they will be, if they don’t respond. But plants are not animals.

When you see so many dogs come through a rescue organization like Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary, it is easy to fall into judging those who have given up their pups. This is Sammy. He was surrendered this week.

Recently, I met a woman in the garden who made me rethink my judging. She had come to the ranch, accompanied by her young son, in hopes of learning the fate of an older Golden she had given up.

She explained to me that her family lived in a very rural area at the time. Her dog was very much a beloved member of her large family which included a foster child, and was used to having room to run in the great outdoors. Life changed on a dime, however, when her husband passed away unexpectedly. Forced to move from the country to the city and a small apartment, she became a single, working mother practically overnight.  She was beyond overwhelmed just trying to keep herself and her children together. The complication of caring for their older dog in a tiny space was beyond her capacity.

You could see that it broke her heart, and her son’s to surrender their dog.  She didn’t know what she could learn, if anything, when she visited the Sanctuary – but she was hoping for closure.

When you surrender a dog, you give up all rights to it. Still, she was able to learn that her dog was successfully adopted, and now lives in an area with the wide open spaces it was accustomed to. She was greatly relieved – and sad as well. Tears welled up in her eyes as she told me about her pup and her heartbreaking decision.

My dogs are part of my family, and I consider them a lifetime commitment. I can’t imagine a circumstance that would ever force me to give them up. But I have never been faced with difficult choice this woman faced. To seek out Homeward Bound – an organization dedicated to rescue, no matter what the dog’s age or health, gave her dog the best chance for a good home and happy ending.

Too often, people give up on their animals without a second thought.

Shelters are filled with the pets of people who regard them as an inconvenience, an expense, or too much trouble.  Worse, are those who simply drop a dog off on a road somewhere.  If you would give up your dog because “he’s un-trainable”, or “he has (name-the-ailment)”, or simply “he was a lot smaller and cuter as a puppy” – please stick with Goldfish (nothing against Goldfish!) That wasn’t the case here. And many times, surrender is the last option of people who have lost their loved ones, their homes, and more. It was an important reminder to me to count my blessings and pray that I will never have to face the decision this woman did.

Rescue. Adopt. Foster. And if you must surrender – do it with responsible care.

Shelby’s Homecoming

Regular readers will remember the story of Shelby, one of Homeward Bound’s more difficult rescues.
Not because she was sick, or old, or broken – at least not physically.

But there was something very broken about her ability to relate to people, other dogs, or even a human touch. You can read about her here.

Maybe that’s why Chris – one of Homeward Bound’s talented trainers – took such a loving to her. Over the course of a year, she and her husband patiently worked with Shelby. In the same amount of time it took for the Memorial Garden to take shape – Shelby blossomed too.

Last weekend -Shelby was finally able to go home. Happy girl.

It is not the end of her story. Shelby may always need special attention to feel safe and secure. But she has found her fur-ever home, and a family devoted to her healing. And that is cause for special celebration. Happy homecoming, Shelby! Come back and visit us in the Garden. 🙂

Still Planting. Still Rescuing.

I thought our gardening plans were ruined, it was so dark and dreary (and early) when I got up. Even the pups had to be dragged out of bed today. But then, the crown of the tree across the street turned golden – and the day in the garden was saved. A little cold. But saved.

Next week, Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary is recognizing its volunteers in a special annual event. Our Maria insists that the Memorial Garden must look its best. So, while my garden and photographer blogger friends showcase the fading season, we’re still busy planting. The benefits of California gardening.

I finally attacked the merging of the Hummingbird and Grandma’s Garden beds. Maybe it’s Grandma’s Hummingbird garden now. The rosemary, lavender and sage were spread throughout;

While this amazing Blue/Black Sage found its way to the Perennial Garden.

The petunias were pulled up as their season was over, and they were replaced with more seasonal Snapdragons, Iceland Poppies and Pansies.

Maria finished expanding the Herb Garden which now includes winter veggies; Ornamental Kale, Bok Choy, Broccoli, Red Chard and Artichoke. We’ll see if those are planted for our enjoyment – or the bunnies!

She filled the box behind it with Sages: Pineapple, Autumn, and Genetian (love that blue!)

Pat and Penny (she’s the one resting) dead-headed the roses…yes, still in bloom!

Meanwhile, Ina’s Asters are putting on a magnificent show –

appreciated by all.

Most appreciated, of course, are our visitors. This weekend’s hit parade includes more pairs (we’re seeing so many of them now) including Robbie and Nina,

and Ginger and Rusty.

There’s Dusty;


Sunny (recovering from a recent surgery);


and Pancho.


Bogey (who is blind – and the sweetest boy ever!);

Little Scout (who is going to school to learn how to be a dog-loving dog);

and…Moe. As in Curley and Moe. As in – not even close to a Golden Retriever.

What can I tell you? We rescue.

Time For A Change

Next month marks a year of chronicling the progress of the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden on this blog. Though it wasn’t part of the original plan, capturing the progress of the dogs has become as much a part of the storytelling.

The season is changing,

so it seems an appropriate time to change the blog format to something that better shows the blend of our passions: gardens and Goldens.

Pardon my tweaking as I figure things out. And thanks to all who have followed along this first year. There is much more to come in the garden, and undoubtedly, many more pup stories to tell. I hope you will visit often.

Paths Fully Dressed

The day started early.

Very early.

The Homeward Bound Memorial Garden is beautiful and peaceful at sunrise…

and, when not even the Daylilies have opened, best served up with a hot cup of coffee.

A full day’s work was only a truckload away…

actually two truckloads.

30 yards of walk-on bark to put a final finish on our weed beaten paths and bring out the beauty of the garden’s beds.

“The unmulched garden looks to me like some naked thing which, for one reason or another, would be better off with a few clothes on.” ~ Ruth Stout, The Ruth Stout No-Work Garden Book

The hard work of wheelbarrowing and raking in place was done by the team of Wholesale Bark and Mulch. This family business features three generations pulling together to deliver their great work with pride. We are as touched by their generous added donation as we think they were by our dogs and mission.

While they toiled, we had no excuse but to do the same. Maria expanded her Herb Garden, while Ina took a pick axe to the blackberry roots, clearing the way for her expanded Cottage Garden.

The results of the day: fully dressed and manicured paths lined with rounded rock which highlight the beauty of the flowering beds.

This is the dressing we have been waiting for.

With benches moved in, the paths create a focal point of the “lawn” area and wonderful places from which to soak up the surrounding beauty.

This calls for a celebratory drink!

We’ll see you in the gardens. It’s lights out time for me!

A Good Day For Gardens and Goldens

Some days are too good to be true.
First, it feels like the night before Christmas at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. Today we met to finish prepping for the path installation which is scheduled to begin very early tomorrow morning. We’re so excited that the day is finally here!

The weeds have been beaten back and the ground leveled on our well-trodden garden paths. While they look manageable for the moment, they have been a constant battle of spring mud and summer weeds since we began this project.

By burying them in three inches of walk-on mulch, we will dramatically cut down on our weekly maintenance, while making the garden more dog, and dog-walker friendly.

Brutus and Sierra say that they whole-heartedly approve.

Can you guess which one is Brutus?

And which is sweet Sierra?

In the pen next door, I met Leslie and Tiffany, two Animal Behavior College (ABC) students who were doing their required “extern-ships.”

Tiffany was working with Scooby. She has always loved working with animals and would like to become a trainer herself.

She has completed most of the stages of the program, and was at Homeward Bound to put her new skills to the test.

Leslie has a special connection to Homeward Bound. Today, she was working with Buster – you’ve read about him here before.

But her first love was Rusty, adopted from Homeward Bound in 2009. Rusty helped her through some tough challenges; and she helped Rusty on his journey over the Rainbow Bridge. To honor him, she wants to gain experience as a trainer so she is equipped to foster, and provide the best possible preparation for, other dogs in search of their “fur-ever” homes.

As luck would have it, both of their pupils had very big days. Scooby caught the eye of a family with young boys; and we just received word that Buster was adopted late today as well. Buster’s adoption would not have been possible without the hard work and effort of the trainers, walkers, feeders and countless others who helped him to focus on people instead of a ball.

Here’s another one who is making great progress: Huck.

A couple of weeks ago, he wouldn’t even sit still for a picture – and now look.

Great gardens require preparation, care and continual feeding. Great pups need the same, and they receive these at Homeward Bound.

If there’s hope for Scooby and Buster, there’s hope for Huck. Not to mention these two near-identical beauties; Luni…

and Angel.

Another step forward for the garden – and the pups. It does not get much better than this.

Where We Have Ended Up

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I’ve ended up where I needed to be.” – Douglas Adams.

“Homeward Bound desperately needs help with their Memorial Gardens.” These were the words written in the November 2011 Homeward Bound Newsletter, recounting two years of fits and starts, and multiple set-backs in the establishment of the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.

Volunteer groups had been mobilized, and projects started, but without a dedicated effort, nature quickly erased all that had been accomplished.

Soon to be garden

“By the time the gardens dried up enough to work in, we couldn’t see a single plant that was planted last year; everything was overgrown with 4‐foot tall star thistle and weeds that the rain brought out. Trying to mow the weeds in the pathways was almost futile because they had grown so tall.”

By November, 2011, the plea went out:

“The volunteers have slowly faded away again. We need to find a way to maintain the gardens on a regular basis and make it worthwhile for volunteers to come back. So, we have decided to have volunteers sponsor one or more of the garden beds themselves.”

The article stated that volunteers would only need to come once a month “on whatever schedule works for you.” Grateful to Homeward Bound for our own adopted Bella and Jackson, I had always been interested in volunteering but had difficulty juggling other commitments while contributing on a schedule that accommodated the organization’s needs. A lover of gardening, this seemed ideal.

Now, I look back and smile.

What was supposed to be a “once a month” visit has turned into at least weekly trips – and occasionally, as many as three. It’s not whatever schedule works for us – but the schedule that the gardens demanded to maintain forward momentum.

It is most definitely not where I intended to go. But it is very much where I needed to be.

“More in a garden grows than what the gardener sows.” – Spanish Proverb. I think I’ve used this quote before, but it is so appropriate here.

New gardening skills; friendships; community. These have all grown in a season of working in the Memorial Garden, along with pride in all that we have accomplished, together. And of course, all my new blogging buddies!

I look forward every week to our workdays and the opportunity to visit with pups as well as volunteers. I enjoy sharing our progress with all of you; benefiting from your advice and encouragement.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for you to make a huge difference to the Homeward Bound Memorial Gardens and what it means to all of our Golden friends.”

Absolutely, positively, true.

What’s In A Name?

“What’s in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet.” – Shakespeare

Hundreds of dogs come through Homeward Bound each year. Some arrive with names; some are given to them. And sometimes – it seems – they just get it wrong!

Flowers names are pretty true to form. Sunflower…

Black-Eyed Susan…


Simple enough. This beautiful boy arrived as ‘Hank’. Does he look like a Hank to you?

Since there were other Hanks in residence, he was named Hank Spoon. It is a ridiculous name.

Rationale #1: “He has a tongue like a spoon.”

He does not.
Rationale #2: “ He’s like that character in Lonesome Dove.”

That would be Jake Spoon – a lazy gambler and drinker. Hank’s not lazy, but he may drink, and if he did gamble, he’d be taking points – betting the underdog. He may also be a bit of a wise guy. Which may be why he is now “Hank, The Spoon.”

On the other hand, the name Hank means ‘ruler of the home’ in German and Dutch. And that may be closer to the truth. Maybe the name ‘Hank’ really was astute…

but I prefer ‘Misunderstood’.

Where Friends Gather

“Gardens are not made by sitting in the shade.”- Rudyard Kipling

Maria lost no time today prepping the garden paths for our installation project, only a week away now. She removed buried rock, the few remaining weeds and leveled some hardened clay bumps and lumps.

Meanwhile, I set about expanding the Hummingbird Garden, giving the plants a little more breathing room, as the Russian Sage continues its skyward march.

Nothing gives us greater joy than seeing that the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden has become such a gathering place for friends – of all kinds. Today, in addition to walkers and trainers, we played host to frogs,

butterflies –

and our newest volunteer gardener; Pat’s newly adopted Penny.

If you’re a regular reader, you may remember her as Blossom. She’s a beauty – and great company in the garden.

The Hummingbirds returned,

this time displaying an amazing courtship ritual of aerial acrobatics. While the female sat on the wire playing hard-to-get;

the male rocketed high into the sky,

and then dive-bombed back to earth and to her…over and over and over again.

Some honored guests shared photos with us of the garden when it was nothing but a field of mud and weeds. We have come a long, long way.

The best friend visits of all, of course, are the dogs. Today’s line-up included Sanctuary pups Bebe and Veronica,

Hank Spoon…now Hank, The Spoon (more on that in another post),




Susie and Hope,


and two extra-special friends. This little girl was found by one of our trainers on the side of a country road.

There’s not a stitch of Golden in her – except her obvious affection for people –

so we’ll have to craft a rescue plan for her. We call her Sanka – for her coffee-colored spots.

But the most heart-warming moment of the day belonged to Snuffy.

You saw him here a few weeks ago; shaved and obviously in need of adding a few pounds.

We watched him, hopefully, visiting the garden with a family considering fostering –

then saw them leaving together a short time later. That people can see beyond Snuffy’s missing coat and temporary rat-tail to see the adoring dog within, makes all efforts worthwhile.

Make a volunteer gardener’s day: adopt, foster, rescue. Who knows? We might even plant something in your honor.