The true meaning of rescue

When a dog arrives at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue, they are welcomed quietly and typically allowed to run or roam in one of the large yards to de-stress and acclimate to their new environment. Over the next couple of days, they spend some time with us for evaluation, are checked by the vet, and have their pictures taken when they are relaxed and feeling more comfortable with their new routine.

This pup’s welcome was a little different with urgent issues to address.


Rose was rescued from a shelter. Had she not been released to us, her fate was pretty clear. She would not sit or lie down through the transport. When she arrived at the adoption center and sanctuary, she could barely walk, perhaps indicating some type of neurological disorder? Most obviously, she was covered in a thick layer of mats from head to tail.


She arrived very late in the day as our volunteers are usually departing. They took one look at her and stayed. Using sheep shearing tools at first, they set to work carefully removing the mats that were tugging painfully at her skin.


Giant ear mats were removed and treatments were administered to her ear canals, immediately flooding back out because the buildup of wax and dirt was so thick.


She stood or sat patiently, as a small army of hands and clippers gently tackled her coat of dreadlocks, and soothing voices reassured her that she was safe now.


Clippers replaced the shearing tools and uncovered stickers, thorns, foxtails and welts all over her body. With five inches or more of mats removed from her underbelly, something else was revealed. Rose was inappropriately named. There were boy parts under there! Rose was quickly renamed, Rainier. After about an hour of this, it was time to give our newly discovered boy a much-needed rest. He was tucked in for the night and reassured that from here; things would only get better.

The next day brought a fresh bath to clean his skin and sores, and a second round of shearing.


Walking gingerly and slowly like a very old dog, Jody brought Rainier to the garden where we set up some shade and went about clipping what remained of his fur.


The trickiest part of the operation was addressing his paws. The fur had to be removed from top to bottom, with each area between the toes closely inspected. They were filled with foxtails. I have always found it surprising that a woman involved in rescue has long fingernails; now I understand why. Jody deftly pulled out more than 50 foxtails from between those toes – imagine the pain poor Rainier had endured.

This dog demonstrated the patience of a saint while Judy and Jody worked on him for well over an hour. With a slight breeze blowing across his freed skin and soothing voices talking quietly to him, he fell asleep in their hands.


Three clipper battery changes later, it was time to get up.


What arose from that slumber was a changed dog. With amazement, he took his first, pain-free steps – and then he was off!


I know you’ll forgive the blurred photos. I was not prepared at all for this rush of exuberance, and had not adjusted shutter speeds – which was clearly in order!

A lot can change in the life of a dog in a single day. A ‘she’ becomes a ‘he’; lameness is discarded with a pile of fur and thorns,


and an “old dog” unable to sit or lay down without pain is transformed into a running, prancing, tail-wagging prince of a boy.


This is only the beginning of Rainier’s story. He’ll see the vet to deal with his uncovered lumps and bumps and assess his overall state of being. But we have made a promise to him that the best is yet to be, and from this point on, he will always be loved. That is a promise we can keep.

There are dogs that pass quickly through Homeward Bound. They come to us in good shape because someone’s life circumstance changed and soon find a new forever home. It is our honor and privilege to help them all. But dogs like Rainier make unforgettable impressions on us. They are the verb ‘rescue’ – not the noun. Without Homeward Bound, Rainier would have passed on as Rose, forgotten and in pain. Because we are here, Rainier’s best days are ahead.

A lot can change in a single day for the life of a dog. Just look at this quick clip here. Welcome to your new life, Rainier.

Published by


I am a nascent gardener, rescuer, and photographer, chronicling the journey of the dogs at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary near Sacramento, CA - and the Memorial Garden we have devoted to them.

244 thoughts on “The true meaning of rescue”

    1. THANK YOU for what you do. I recently lost my good friend, Bonnie, and English Springer. I still think of her daily, but I babysit a friend’s Golden Retriever which helps. He is as sweet as Bonnie was.

      1. Rainier is actually doing well! I’m hoping that he’ll visit the rescue someday soon so I can do some new photos and an update. Thanks for asking!

  1. Im so glad he found his way to you guys. I hope he has only the best life from this time on – he deserves nothing less. please give him love and kisses from aunty Donna

  2. Jody and volunteer staff are saints! Thanks so much for caring so well for all dogs, our loving pets, who find their way to you! Ogee, thank you for sharing such a beautiful story of rescue and love for life. Best of life to Rainier! It has finally begun.

  3. I’m so glad Ranier found his way to you…poor dog. And lucky dog finally…he deserves so much better.

  4. I’m so, so sad when I think of the pain Rainier must have been in. Thank goodness for the tireless rescuers who shaved him and for wonderful people like you – you are all true heroes. Please give gorgeous Rainier a huge cuddle from me.

  5. I love Ranier’s saintly patience…what inner peace he must have been feeling, knowing he was –finally–loved and safe. Thank you; had to share on Facebook! 🙂 Love to sweet Ranier and to all his caregivers and benefactors.

  6. This brought tears to my eyes. Ranier was in chains and you set him free. Job well done Homeward Bound!

  7. Sitting here crying with happy hope for this beautiful boy, sadness for his pain, and anger at the “people” who did this to him. Only happy days are ahead for him thanks to the Angels at Homeward Bound. Send him hugs and kisses all the way from Kentucky!

  8. Ohhhh, sweet Rainier, you came to the right place! I’m so looking forward to meeting you in person!

  9. What a wonderful story; I’m weeping like everyone else who has read this but also am SO grateful that you and the Homeward Bound rescue crew care so much and save the pups that come to you. Blessing always.

  10. Smiling through my tears and so grateful for all of you at HBGGRRS. What a tremendous story.

    1. Thank you, Karen! We’re so pleased to be able to help thanks to the support of so many volunteers and supporters. Pups like Rainier remind us of what all of this hard work is really about. 🙂

      1. Thank You! Truth is I have been trying to find out how to nominate your blog for a while so when I was awarded I knew I had to nominate it! The pleasure was all mine to be able to nominate such a worthy blog, and after all you o for those beautiful Goldens, how could I resist! You are most welcome!

  11. You guy are awesome !!!!! I would also have stayed to help any animal that needed it !!! God bless all of you ❤❤❤

  12. I think the blurred photos of Rainier (once Rose) are the most beautiful photos you have ever posted. With the arrival of Rainier, the Homeward Bound Garden has sprouted another gorgeous Golden flower. Kisses from Miss Harper Lee to that sweet boy and to all the wonderful Homeward Bound volunteers.

    1. I sort of figured that you would all forgive a little motion blur! What a happy reason for it 🙂 Thanks for the kisses Miss Harper Lee!

  13. This story made my heart happy. I have been doing Golden rescue for over 25 years and have encountered dogs such as Rainier. The transformation always makes me cry when their true spirit is finally released.

    1. Sheila, that is a perfect description of the moment! I wish I had said it so eloquently. 🙂 Thank you for the good work you do!

  14. I foster for a golden rescue and have had some pretty sad looking goldies….but Rainier really broke my heart. How lucky we are that they can forgive us so completely! Be happy, healthy and loved sweet boy….a special family is waiting just for you.

    1. We can’t wait to connect him to that waiting family! Thanks for the good work you do, Susie! Foster is such an important contribution on the journey home.

  15. Jamie and I met Rainier at feeding time Monday morning. We were wondering what his story was. He is a sweet boy, hopefully he’ll find a happy forever home soon!

    1. It is truly our pleasure…on both fronts. There are so many Rainier’s…we just have to uncover them and get them home! Thanks for visiting.

  16. Dog is love. 🙂 Thank you for the work you do. I know it can’t be easy to handle the emotional burden of seeing dogs in distress, but it must be afforming to experience such a direct link between your compassion and effort and the tangible emergence of another creature’s joy!

    1. You are right, Jennie. There are difficult days. But stories like Rainier’s make it so worthwhile! Thanks for visiting with us. 🙂

  17. What a luck boy to have come to such a caring place with such wonderful people. What a heartbreaking fate he would have had otherwise…Hopefully he finds a forever home that will give him all the love he deserves and more! And congratulations on being Pressed!

    1. Thank you! We so lucky to have such wonderful volunteers and supporters. They make it possible to help hundreds of dogs like Rainier every year. We’ll keep everyone posted on his developments! Thank you for visiting with us. 🙂

  18. I can never stop being gobsmacked at how loving a dog will usually be the minute they get some love themselves. You mistreat a human like that, and they’ll never trust again. But put a dog through that kind of hell and the first thing they want to do the second they get the chance is forget it and trust someone again. Very noble creatures.

    1. Wish it were true in each and every instance. We spend a long time bringing some pups back from the dark places they have come to know. But in Rainier’s case, he literally shed it. It was a delight to witness, and to share! Thanks for visiting with us.

  19. Dogs are innocent creatures. When that innocence is betrayed, it can be difficult to get back. The fact that you can turn the tortured Rose into the freed Rainier is almost fairy-tale like in its telling. I hope the best for Rainier after hearing his story.

    1. It is not always so quick a transformation. Some require a very long time to rebuild that trust. Regardless of the length – it never ceases to amaze. So happy to share Rainier’s transformation. Thank you for visiting with us!

  20. Good to see a dog in a safe place. My dog came from the local animal shelter, and is a happy, healthy, ball-catching, bubble-popping, sweet, and essential part of my family’s life.

  21. You have told a beautiful story. I adopted both my cats from shelters. Fozzie came to the shelter as a stray, severely matted. I’ve often wondered how he was found and taken care of by shelter staff. You’ve just filled in what I could only imagine. Thank you for telling this heartwarming story in pictures and words. You might enjoy a post about my cats and how I keep them healthy and living a long, happy life.

      1. You are humble and appreciative of what dogs bring to our lives:) That says a lot about you. We, humans, have so many short comings, but to see people like you do this for dogs really gives me hope:)

  22. First of all, you people are truly amazing how you care for dogs and show the loving care and attention. I was so happy to get to the end of this post and find out that Rainier was running around and happy. If someone has the opportunity to have a pet and take care of one, they should definitely look into adoption. There are some great animals that are unfortunately put in situations without owners. I hope Rainier finds a wonderful home with a lovely family and huge lawn to run in. Keep up the good work and I’m sure so many animals are thankful for what you do.

    1. Thank you for your kind words and support of adoption! He’ll receive the medical attention he needs, get started on a new coat, and we’ll get to work on finding that perfect home!

  23. God bless each and everyone of you for what you do. Thank you for “being there” and for telling this sweet boy’s story. I am so thankful he came to you and that he is experiencing relief, comfort and love. I can’t give him or any of you a big hug so I will hug the sweet golden who has her head on my foot as I sit here and type; reminding me just how special these gentle spirits are.

  24. This is beautiful. I love it. Rescue is so important and this is a beautiful story. Thank you for taking the time and helping Rainer and all the others. You and those in your organization are truly a blessing.

  25. Just saw that you have been Freshly Pressed, how did I miss that? Congratulations! So wonderful to see such a beautiful doggie post on the Freshly Pressed page 🙂

    1. Oh…I knew I saw your comment somewhere! I am buried…but happily so. So wonderful to be able to spread our message of rescue far and wide. So grateful to Freshly Pressed for that opportunity. 🙂 Great to hear from you!!

  26. Rainier found saints! What a blessing all around, volunteers and this wonderful pup…kind, gentle, and loving. Dog is love and this one now knows love!! Thank you for sharing this story of true rescue and for all your tireless work.

  27. It is great to see a dog post on freshly pressed and such a great one at that. i am truly amazed at the work you do and thank you. I feel sad yet happy – thank you for this. You made my day.

      1. I have shared about this post on my blog today – thank you again for the work that you do and the joy that you bring to the dogs.

  28. One of our favorite dogs of all time was a golden who came as a gift. I was a collie person, my hubby had German shepherds. We were trying to decide which we would get when a friend who raised goldens offered to give us one of her pups for the children’s birthday. My sister had a golden and we knew he would be a good fit. Buddy was a beloved member of our family from the time the children were in elementary school until they were in college, when he passed away from bone cancer. We have other rescues now and love them dearly, but we still miss our big boy.

    1. They are gone from us, but not from our hearts. I hope you meet again someday at the Rainbow Bridge. Thank you for rescuing – and for loving them all so well.

  29. What a lovely story, glad he is better now and able to live a better and more healthier life. 🙂 Sounded like he was in a lot of pain before, no animal should go through an ordeal like that. 😦 There should be more organisations like Homeward Bound.

    1. Thanks for spreading the word, Miranda. There are too many Rainiers still out there who need our collective help.

  30. What a wonderful and engaging write. Great for Ranier! Congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! You are certainly deserving of the honor, and we, the readers, and hopefully future Raniers, are all the richer for being introduced to you! I look forward to reading more of your blog. Again..wonderful and congrats! ~Dennis

    1. Thank you, Dennis! I’m glad we got introduced through Freshly Pressed 🙂 I’m looking forward to spending some time with your poetry…as soon as I get caught up! Wow.

  31. So happy reading this story, and that dog’s wonderful face says it all.I hope everyone reads this and your group gets acknowledged broadly for the work you do. There are so many hard working dedicated people in animal rescue who see the potential beneath the caul of neglect. Keep at it. And if anyone is interested, here is my story as a first time guinea pig foster parent…

    1. Ahhh…thank you. Our hope is that Rainier’s story will bring more folks (like yourself) to rescue or adoption. There are so many great animal friends waiting to be loved.

    1. Shocking or no – the world is full of homeless friends (of all species, including human). It takes so little to make such a huge difference. We were so happy to be there for him.

  32. The world is a better place thanks to your efforts! Keep it up, so many will follow in your tracks. And let us know what becomes of Rainier!

    1. We’ll keep you posted! And yes…we hope that others will be inspired. It just takes a little to make a big change in the life of a dog.

  33. Reading this blog made me cry.

    Im guiltresponsiblening my dog, but i didnt abondon just anywhere in the street and half dead…
    You see, over a year ago I quit my Job and needed to go back to my home town , i didnt have enough money to pay for his transportation..
    The air fare wase quite expensive, including his cage ( anyway his a large dog
    Half labrador ang siberian husky) and because his so big he needs to be put inside a.very secured cage , they recommended me to buy a kopel cage for him. Over all it would cost me 13000 php transport him from manila to cagayan de oro , philippines
    I decided to temporarily leave him under the caring hands of a very good friend of mine.
    Riza has a stable job , a kind soul, loving heart , and she lives together with her special brother ….
    Though its so hard for me to leave my precious Jem but I dont have any choice that time…
    I realy did my best to save to get him back but I was financialy broken before the previous year ended.
    Riza told me that he already reached his fullblown height and that.she loved.him so much…
    Riza also that Jems been the official budy of her brother.
    Last time i saw Jem was this febuary when Riza was online on skype and she let me watched Jems while on video call…
    Though i know that his life is good there in Rizas tending,
    Then part of me still saying “im such a iresponsible momy”

    1. You were a very responsible mom…and for that, we thank you. Life circumstances change beyond our control some times. Transporting a dog by plane can be very dangerous. You found him a caring home where he is loved. There is no greater gift under the circumstances. I’m so sorry you had to part – but so grateful that you did the best thing for him.

      1. Thank you so much not I dont feel that guilty though… pls do continue your great advocacy…
        Some day might be sooner or later I will also build a shelter for street dogs and cat…

  34. what a beautiful young man – i hope he finds a family that deserves him – he is special indeed and of course you and your partners – are even more special. lovely story. i need kleenex….

      1. But of course. I cry at anything to do with animals. I adopted a tripod puppy and I – her brothers and I adore her. I love dogs and wish I could save all that need saving.

  35. Thank you for being there for Rainier and all the dogs you save! Thank you for caring for those who can not care for themselves. You are so very much appreciated! God bless all of you!

  36. SO Heartwarming to know there are Kindhearted people who are will to go the extra mile to help mistreated animals like “Rainier”! I have rescued many pets in need and I know how much goes into what you do! Thank you! I will look forward to updates on Rainier!

  37. This is so beautiful. We got a malnourished little kitten last fall that we originally that was a she and “she” turned out to be a HE too :] We love our little kitty and will never regret taking him in. This beautiful dog is so fortunate to be cared for by you. God bless.

    1. Funny little beasties. Had it happen with Guinea Pigs once myself…figured it out when two turned into 6!
      Thanks for visiting!

  38. Hopefully you are aware of the true value of your awsomeness! I have a special weakness for the e-lists. Thanks for stepping in!

  39. so happy for HIS second lease on life! i can’t believe how poorly animals are treated in one instance and then thankfully, there are folks like yourself who show what it means to truly care. hoping the best for rainier! 🙂

  40. In Florida, we have a terrific organization, similar to yours, called Florida Little Dog Rescue. My current four-legged BFF, Blaine (not my choice of names, but, it fits him) was rescued from animal control in condition similar to Rainier’s. Still a puppy, about 16 months old, when found, he would have been euthanized unless FLDR took him in and
    “fixed him up”. He lived in a foster home for 5 weeks until my daughter got a Facebook post with his photo, upon seeing which we had to bring him home. We love him and can’t imagine a day without him. Thanks for everything you do for them. They deserve it.

  41. What a beautiful story. The kindness of volunteers was surely felt by this lucky dog. I have three Boston Terriers–one is a rescue named Lucy. It was months before she would let me pet the top of her head. Now she feels safe and loved, and part of our family. Thank you for your amazing work, and congratulations on being Freshly Pressed! 🙂

    1. Thank for for visiting and your nice note! It takes a long time with some pups…but the rewards are so worth it. To see a dog moved from fear to trust is an amazing thing! Thanks for loving them all…but especially Lucy. 🙂

    1. I’m so sorry for your loss. No matter the length of time we have together – it is never enough. She’s waiting for you over the rainbow bridge.

  42. My lab mix was a rescue from a shelter. He was tied to a dumpster with a broken leg. He is the most amazingly kind and smart dog in the whole world. He changed my family’s life forever. This job that you do is a tough one but it makes a difference not only for the dogs, but for the people too. I will make sure to check out this shelter next time I adopt.

    1. Thank you for rescuing him and providing such a loving home. There are some very difficult days…but people like you make it all worthwhile.

  43. Wonderful for him to find his way to you guys – terrific work 🙂 There should be more of you!
    BTW I think your photo of the clipped hair looks like a chicken exploded 😉

  44. This is definitely a testament to the centres purpose, more so of the volunteers with the option to go home, but decided to aid a distressed animal, a great example of dedication.

  45. Bless all of you for everything you do! Give that special boy big smooches and hopefully I will be able to visit HB soon!

  46. I cried when I read Rainer’s post how can people be so cruel to a helpless animal. Thank for caring enough to rescue this dog and give him a safe haven, blessing to you all. I will be highlighting Rainers plight on my blog later today you can find it at God Bless you all and a big hug to Rainer.

    1. Looks like a wonderful rescue! It is amazing to see the good work of so many around the world! Thanks for visiting and for sharing! 🙂

  47. SO glad to hear he was rescued. I am also really thankful that the shelter here does a more thorough exam than the one Rainier was rescued from. He was so lucky you guys found him and saved him.

  48. Oh my heavens! Stories like this one make my heart melt. I sure do love my own pups and I am so happy there are kind people like you to restore life to sweet dogs!

  49. What a great story. I wish all of the transformations could be so immediate. Thank you so much for all that you do.

  50. This is truly an amazing story! All the people that helped Rainer are wonderful people! I’m filled with joy to know that he was blessed to fall into the hands of the ones that helped him! Such a great post!!!

  51. Wow, thank goodness for you wonderful people! Good luck finding Rainier a new home. He’s already in a better place and hopefully that continues to improve.

  52. As a humane investigator, I appreciate your work. You’re the other half of the formula: the recovery. We could not be successful in what we do without examples and people like you. Thank you.

  53. Thank you for what you do. We only have a litter about every other year but when we do we thoroughly screen our “adopters” and tell them we will ALWAYS take the puppy or dog back (no questions asked) if they cannot be kept for any reason. Two years ago we got a seven year old back, no questions asked. We did not place her, we kept her. JD

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