Two Lives Saved

In my “Winter Gathered” post I promised the story of Maggie, the adopted Golden who literally saved her human dad’s life. I have the inside scoop as the compiler of the organization’s newsletter. Now that it has been published, I feel free to bring you her story now.


Bill and Carol adopted Maggie from Homeward Bound last year. It was love at first sight, but they had no way of knowing what a huge impact she would have on their lives until last October.

Bill had taken Maggie for her morning constitution. They walk on a remote wetland trail that runs behind their home. It is a beautiful place for a nature walk, but not a good place for a medical emergency. Bill collapsed on the trail; Maggie sprang into action. Like something out of a Lassie episode, she ran up the trail, around the corner, and down the block where she found a neighbor walking his dog. Excitedly encouraging the neighbor to follow her, she led him to the trail and then sprinted down the length of it. When the neighbor turned the corner, he saw Maggie about 60 yards away, sitting next to an unconscious Bill.

Emergency responders were called. Bill was revived and rushed to the hospital; he flat-lined a total of three times before undergoing emergency surgery to implant a pacemaker. The urgency was so great that it was done under local anesthesia. Ouch. The surgeon informed Carol that they had acted just in the nick of time.


“Our wonderful new dog Maggie had saved his life. She is an angel from heaven and she is the reason that Bill is alive today.”~ Carol

I guess this is the universe leveling the score. Carol and Bill saved Maggie’s life and gave her a wonderful forever home. She probably just thought she was returning the favor.


There are other inspiring stories in the newsletter. If you care to visit, you will find it here. Enjoy.


If you look very closely, you can see the first signs of winter’s departure in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden, not far behind the recent weeks’ frost.


Of course, the most beautiful colors in Northern California gardens this time of year come from the oranges and lemons that overflow our trees.


Maria and I finished the shrub roses today – and not a minute too soon, as they are already budding. We left these a little taller than the tea roses so they would continue to climb and cover the fences.


We welcomed and trained a couple of new dog walkers today. They are lured in with puppies before introducing them to the big dogs.


I had the pleasure of meeting Elia and her boy, Cooper. Elia adopted Cooper, and his son, Bear around Memorial Day in 2011. She continues to bring them to Homeward Bound for regular training and socialization.


The same tactic has apparently worked miracles on her two teen boys, who both cook and clean! Who knew?
Some of our best friends visited with us in the garden – Nicholas aka Obi who went from his walk to a bath –


and Gina with her twin best bud, Hank.


Thankfully, we have had a good number of adoptions recently – because the call “incoming!” best describes the latter part of the week. Meet Quinn,




and Kyo.


This is Gus.


While we can all see a little too much of Gus right now, that won’t be the case for long. He was adopted today by folks committed to his future weight reduction and exercise routine.


There’s a lot to love here, but we can’t wait to see the before and after.


And this is Christy.


We share a little in common. She is here is because she lost her human dad not long ago. On top of that, she had a needed surgery and dons this cute t-shirt to prevent her from popping her stitches…again.


She spent a good amount of time with us on a blanket in the garden monitoring the rose pruning while basking in the warm, January sun.


Good fortune shines upon her. A family came through that was instantly taken with her. Keep your fingers crossed; it looks like she might have found her forever home.


There are more on their way. It’s like that in rescue – and in gardens.
“The gardening season officially begins on January 1st and ends on December 31st.” – Marie Huston



A friend shared a disappointment recently, which caused her to question the good she contributes to because the results have occasionally been imperfect. Sometimes, in trying to do too much, we end up doing too little. Now and then, that causes us to fail.


Like an over planted garden. We want to save them all, but the soil can only accommodate so many.


Hard choices sometimes have to be made. But in the end, they’ll stand stronger, taller and more brilliant if attention is focused on what can truly be supported well.


Of course, gardens are not living creatures. But a rare failure, however heartbreaking, should not cause us to question all.

“Success is not final, failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts.”
― Winston Churchill

Mistakes will happen. Perfection is never achieved.


“Use what talent you possess: the woods would be very silent if no birds sang except those that sang best.” ~Author unknown


“Learn to pause … or nothing worthwhile will catch up to you.” ~ Doug King


Today I paused. I went to the Memorial Garden and worked only at my pace. I walked some dogs; stopping in the garden to spend time with each. A pat on the head; a belly rub; a promise to help them find a home again.


The garden is quiet in January. Everything is curled up in a tight, frost-bitten bundle protecting its roots and the shoots we will see by this time next month.


Just a few of us here – the walkers,


the birds,


and the dogs who keep us company.


“Every winter,
When the great sun has turned his face away,
The earth goes down into a vale of grief,
And fasts, and weeps, and shrouds herself in sables,
Leaving her wedding-garlands to decay –
Then leaps in spring to his returning kisses.”
~ Charles Kingsley


Until the spring leaps, we will gladly make do with dog kisses.


Telling the bees

I have been absent for a bit; apologies. This is for my father, who instilled in me a love of gardens and dogs; who entrusted his care to me – the middle daughter – for the past two years, making me a better person; and who passed early this morning after three days’ vigil.


Telling the Bees ~ by Deborah Digges

It fell to me to tell the bees,
though I had wanted another duty—
to be the scribbler at his death,
there chart the third day’s quickening.
But fate said no, it falls to you
to tell the bees, the middle daughter.
So it was written at your birth.


I wanted to keep the fire, working
the constant arranging and shifting
of the coals blown flaring,
my cheeks flushed red,
my bed laid down before the fire,
myself anonymous among the strangers
there who’d come and go.
But destiny said no. It falls
to you to tell the bees, it said.


I wanted to be the one to wash his linens,
boiling the death-soiled sheets,
using the waters for my tea.
I might have been the one to seal
his solitude with mud and thatch and string,
the webs he parted every morning,
the hounds’ hair combed from brushes,
the dust swept into piles with sparrows’ feathers.


Who makes the laws that live
inside the brick and mortar of a name,
selects the seeds, garden or wild,
brings forth the foliage grown up around it
through drought or blight or blossom,
the honey darkening in the bitter years,
the combs like funeral lace or wedding veils
steeped in oak gall and rainwater,
sequined of rent wings.


And so arrayed I set out, this once
obedient, toward the hives’ domed skeps
on evening’s hill, five tombs alight.
I thought I heard the thrash and moaning
of confinement, beyond the century,
a calling across dreams,
as if asked to make haste just out of sleep.
I knelt and waited.


The voice that found me gave the news.
Up flew the bees toward his orchards.

Winter Gathered


Jody and I had a rose pruning session in the (very cold) garden this morning. You’ll recall that we shared a grape pruning session recently.


I think she was pretending inexperience with roses (showing up with manual in hand) just to have an excuse to play in the garden. She took to it immediately, quickly pruning all of the tea roses in her bed. We did a quick lesson on one of the shrub roses growing along the fence, which we will not take back as far. Her instructions are to finish all 21 along the fence perimeter within the next two weeks.


I have been drafted for some marketing help for Homeward Bound (see what happens when you start a blog?) As a result, I spent a good part of my day capturing photos of dogs whose stories will appear in our newsletter and upcoming campaign. Spoiler alert: This is Maggie – she literally saved her Dad’s life. I will bring you the story as soon as it is published.


Cody, Lincoln, and Nicholas will all be featured in our campaign, “Fund of Love” which provides the support needed for up to $300,000 in extraordinary medical expenses that we incur each year.


And this is Rusty and Ginger – a beautiful pair, currently being fostered and in search of their forever home.


Somehow, I managed to get to the rest of the tea roses today; fifteen, I believe. I lost count. This very hungry bee was not happy with my work, clinging to a frost-bitten rose in the pile of clippings – and despairing about the branches left bare.


“Nature looks dead in winter because her life is gathered into her heart. She withers the plant down to the root that she may grow it up again fairer and stronger.” ~Hugh Macmillan, “Rejuvenescence,” The Ministry of Nature, 1871

Nature may be cold and bare in the winter, but we have Golden warmth gathered in our hearts.


The virtues of dogs and gardens

Maria was out at the Memorial Garden today doing some January clean-up and bare root planting. I’m jealous; missing both the pups and the garden. Funny how I’m drawn to such seemingly different obsessions. Dogs offer unconditional love;


gardens require conditions that are just right for sharing their bounty with you. Too warm and they shrivel; too cold and they withhold; too wet and they wilt.


Dogs are grateful; give them food and water, an old blanket, a worn tennis ball, and a pat and they will reward you with devotion.


Gardens have never-ending demands. Water and feed precisely; weed continuously; prune judiciously; stake correctly; and divide appropriately to coax that hoped-for display.


Dogs are loyal; gardens plant their seeds with abandon and will turn on you the minute you take them for granted.


Dogs are defenders; gardens are thorn-bearers.


“Gardening is an exercise in optimism. Sometimes, it is a triumph of hope over experience.”
~ Marina Schinz

Maybe that is it. Gardens are like the rescued dogs of Homeward Bound; an exercise in patience, the consistent the application of kindness, and most of all, hope. The reward: blossoming trust and love. Both leave me breathless.


A Welcome Frost


Below the frosty morning surface of the garden, all the little microorganisms are busy creating nutrients. But for gardeners in need of rest and recovery, January is mercifully slow. After a week of hard overnight frost in the Sacramento Valley, the roses in our Memorial Garden have finally succumbed.


On New Years’ Day, Jody and I completed pruning and tying the grapes; soon, the roses will be ready for their turn.


Yarrow is the only perennial still in bloom,


but we are graced with a silvery green chorus of Artemisia, Lamb’s Ear, Lavender and Rosemary.


The drama of magnificent blooms has been replaced by wildlife’s romantic grace.


“I prefer winter and fall, when you feel the bone structure of the landscape – the loneliness of it, the dead feeling of winter. Something waits beneath it, the whole story doesn’t show.” ~ Andrew Wyeth

With the plants retreating back to the ground, I can see the need to add more permanent structure to the garden; some raised mounds to create height interest and keep tender plants from flooding; a clearer entry path; more evergreen and grass foundation plantings; a stone wall perhaps (a gardener can dream!) The garden has come a long way from last January’s blank canvas – but the picture is not complete yet, by any measure.

As the garden demands less right now, I have quite literally ‘gone to the dogs’ – helping out our dedicated dog walker team.


Today, I got to assist in an introduction; one of our Homeward Bound rescues meeting the pup of a prospective adoptive family to ensure a good match for all. What an incredible feeling to see a connection made; hoping that another may be on its way to a forever home. That was George’s good fortune today, (shhh…one of my favorites.)


I knew I should have gotten in just one more walk with him! Happy life, my friend!