That Special Feeling

Given time and the opportunity, a garden will tell you what it needs. It’s part experience and part observation. You learn not to rush to conclusions – even when all hope appears to be lost. Given a chance, most plants will make a comeback from even the harshest mistreatment.


Look for the signs, and they will tell you what they need to thrive. Wait long enough for a space to speak to you, and it will blossom right before your eyes. So it is with rescue.

Jody, our rescue’s co-founder and leader, dreams of being a garden whisperer. If she had more time to devote to it, she could get there. At present, her insight into plants is more hope than reality. When it comes to the hearts of dogs and people, however, she is rarely wrong. With years of experience, she has made countless matches by watching, waiting and listening. So when Selim began volunteering at Homeward Bound and was in the thick of that “I want every dog” phase – she kept telling him, “No, no. Not yet.”

In March 2013, Homeward Bound received a call from a valley shelter about a dog they had picked up that was in horrible shape. I don’t have to tell you the fate of most injured animals in shelters if not for rescue organizations. Thankfully, great partnerships exist to save lives. Jody left immediately to retrieve him.

This gentle creature had been attacked by dogs and torn to bits. Bite wounds covered his body; he was emaciated.


We’ll never know the true circumstances behind the assault. He had either crawled away or had been dumped to die. His wounds were covered in debris, and his ear was literally hanging by a thread. Our Dr. Codde took him directly to surgery. She sewed his ear back on, treated his injuries and cleaned his wounds. Jody brought him home and took him under her wing to heal. She named him Gatsby.

A few days into his recovery, one of our long-time volunteers, Tatia, took him out to the park to sit quietly and rest. After all he had been through he had every reason to be fearful. Yet he climbed up onto the bench, into her lap, and put his head on her shoulder.


She had a special feeling about his future, so she made sure to request photos of his “before.”


Jody says, “I knew he would be a special placement. I don’t hurry those; I need to feel it. Selim has a caring nature and a very big heart. I had plans for Selim and Gatsby.”


It was good that Selim had waited; he fell hard. Before he could get a “yes” however, his wife’s agreement was needed. This would be a big undertaking, requiring that they both be on board. A perfect match is never made out of pity, but out of love and commitment. Vicki had been through a lot herself, including two battles with leukemia. Maybe she saw some of her own journey in Gatsby; a special connection to another in need. She didn’t hesitate. With both women in accord, Selim and Vicki took Gatsby home, where he became “Stanley.”

“He looked like a little boy and his dog when they took him home that day.” ~ Jody


It took time, care and patience to heal Stanley’s wounds and rebuild his body – but his heart was unscathed thanks to the compassion that surrounded him upon his arrival. Selim’s pictures capture his transformation, which is nothing short of amazing.


Stanley’s canine companions at home are Maggie, a sweet 11-year-old girl, and one of her puppies, Mojo, a youthful 8-year-old boy. Stanley views Maggie as his personal chew toy, but – in all fairness – sometimes Maggie instigates the ruckus. Stanley and Mojo either chase each other like the wind at Folsom Lake or simply snuggle and nap. They’re all good pals, living the lives dogs should lead.


Mojo also has four biological brothers and sisters from his litter living in the neighborhood. They frequently enjoy the company of Daisy, Daphne, Buddy, Belle and their lovely humans.


While gardens bounce back, traumatic events like Stanley’s can leave more than physical scars – they often leave emotional ones that can make a dog fearful. Through loving care and kindness, Stanley put his horrible encounter behind him to find joy and comfort in canine companionship again.


Selim, Vicky and Stanley paid us a visit last week and had a chance to reunite with the team. Tatia was overjoyed to see him again.


If not for Homeward Bound, this amazing dog would surely have been lost.


Thanks to Selim and Vicki, he is home – happy and healthy. They gave him some time, watched for the right signs, and had a special feeling about this boy: It’s called “love.”


Selim has graciously shared a link to Stanley’s photo album. You can view it here. Thanks, as well, to photographer Rob Kessel for documenting Stanley’s earliest days with us so we would have this remarkable chronicle of his journey. His album can be found here.

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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.

30 thoughts on “That Special Feeling”

  1. Bless your heart. What a job for healing both physically and emotionally. To re socialize this poor baby could not have been easy.

  2. What a beautiful beginning for Stanley :o)
    Thank you so much for offering him and all the others a beautiful and loving filled life. There is no feeling than to love, nurturer and care for a Golden in need. Stanley, You are a beautiful Angel ~
    Thank you again for all your parents love.
    This is why I will continue to rescue.
    To Stanley and all your other Goldies, xxxoo

    Thank you.


  3. Words cannot express the joy that comes with a rescue story like this. Happy Tears flowing for Stanley, and all the angel humans who did this. Please give Stanley huge hugs from this HB and golden lover in Kentucky.

    1. He is amazing. Such a wonderful and forgiving heart. Sometimes we all get a little lost in the darkness. Stories like Stanley’s remind us of our capacity for goodness. 🙂

  4. Oh my gosh, I am so filled with love and gratitude right now for all of you at Homeward Bound including Selim and Vicki. Stanley has some very special Angels in his life. He has an amazing heart filled with love and forgiveness. Stanley is certainly a very special dog. I think Selim and Vicki are the real lucky ones to have the opportunity to have his love.

  5. Audrey, thank you for writing such a beautiful tribute to our amazing boy Stanley. You write with great eloquence, and you captured his journey well in words and images. I especially want to thank you for generously sharing your time, talent, creativity, and passion with all of us in the extended Homeward Bound family. It’s a special gift to us all.

    It was a pleasure to finally meet the person behind all these beautiful, poetic, moving blog posts. You are awesome!


    1. You’re pretty awesome yourself, Selim – and Vicki as well! Thank you for providing the love and support that sweet Stanley so very much needed.

      It’s a gift to be part of our amazing, extended Homeward Bound family.

  6. Oh, sweet Stanley, dear heart – not a dry eye at the Tompkins home, reading this! Thank you, Homeward Bound and Selim and Vicki, thank you from all of us!

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