To You, Who Surrendered


I met you only briefly. I didn’t want to. I knew instantly that you represented the hardest part of rescue for me – surrender. But there was no one else there, so I could not avoid you.

There is great joy in the work we do – and some parts that are really difficult. My heart is pretty strong. But to see a newly surrendered dog in a yard, pacing back and forth, searching – it is too much for me. I try to avoid it.

Where did my human go? I’m not sure where I am. Come stay with me. Waiting by the gate. Eyes hunting. The car drives off. Alone. Where are you going? These are nice people; they are kind. They speak softly and have treats. But where is my human? What is this place? Who are these other dogs? A kennel? I have a home. I’m scared. Don’t leave me. What happened? Did I do something wrong?

The process used to fill me with anger for the dog left behind. Now, people in your position fill me with sadness – for what you left behind. You clearly did not want to say goodbye. Your life changed in ways you didn’t expect or plan. You thought you could manage, but it wasn’t working. You knew you were neglecting the dog you had loved for so long. You made the heartbreaking choice. You try to be upbeat and brave for him. One last toss. One last hug. But when you leave, you can barely see the road – your eyes are so flooded with tears.

I want you to know that your boy was adopted. You raised him right; you did a good job; you loved him well. It was clear he would not be with us long.

His new family is overjoyed. He has two beautiful girls who will dote on him and play with him. They have waited a long time for your beautiful, perfect boy. They don’t know how they got so lucky.

We told you it would be alright. We kept our promise. He is safe. He is home. He will be loved. The look in his eyes says he has not forgotten you; he will not forget you. But he will be cherished and he will find that he loves his new family as well.

You remind me that the right thing is sometimes the hardest thing. Your surrender was ultimately an act of love. I hope this brings you some peace. I wish you well.

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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.

29 thoughts on “To You, Who Surrendered”

  1. I was thinking a similar thought today as I saw a beautiful pair go home with their new family. The couple was just beaming and so happy to have the perfect doggies!! I petted them and said good bye to them and said “Aren’t you lucky dogs” and the couple said, “We’re the lucky ones”.!!

  2. A beautifully written expression of what so many of us at the rescue feel. Thank you.

    PS: to whomever picked out the large wind chime behind the multi-colored Adirondack chairs in the garden, thank you for your brilliant choice, and for 20 minutes of zen tranquility today. : )

    1. Thank you for your dedication, Selim. Given your “house-full” at the moment, I suspect that 20 minutes of quiet were well earned!

      And we have Jody to thank for the wind chime. That spot in the garden is my “church” on Sundays.

  3. We had to surrender three family pets and find a home for two horses when we made our cross country move eleven years ago. It was a sad, emotional, and very hard time. I was that sobbing woman driving away and hoping they found loving homes. So happy this story had a happy ending. 🙂

  4. As I wipe away the tears, with the lump still in my throat, I look at my three “fur-babies” and silently promise they will always have a home with me. I can’t — and don’t want to — imagine what circumstances would cause someone to surrender their beloved pet. At least when the dog is surrendered to you, they have a good chance of finding a new, loving home. When they are surrendered here, they are more likely than not pts. And THAT makes me very angry. I find it very difficult indeed to forgive a person who leaves their dog at the shelter because “I just don’t want him any more”. It breaks my heart for the dog — or cat — and makes me wonder if that same person would surrender their human child to an orphanage as well. If something were to happen to me, my hubby, or both of us, I would hope that our pet sitters would take my girls in at least temporarily until we could take them back.

    1. You bring up an important point – people forget to plan for their pet’s future when we cannot be there due to illness, injury or worse. It is important to put those plans in place and revisit them at least a couple of times each year.

  5. I have a hard time understanding giving up your pet – we’ve been through a lot in the last few years and our bottom line was we’d give up everything else but the pets if we needed to. …but, we also understand that sometimes the best thing is to find them a home before things get worse. I’m glad rescues help to look out for these pups.

    Monty and Harlow

  6. Thank goodness you are there to help these beautiful animals. We also have groups like Golden Retriever Rescue here in Australia who take care of and rehome surrendered pets. Reinforces my commitment to bringing a preloved golden into our home whenever we are in a situation to do so. Our girls are nearly nine years old and have a few good years left yet. I like having two dogs and have always had goldens. We cannot know what turmoil people go through before surrendering a much loved pet. I certainly hope I never find myself in such a situation. Joy

  7. Beautifully written, its depth of emotion goes very deep and heart felt. Thank you for all that you do in bringing closure, secured surroundings and new life – this circle will be repaid many times over.

  8. This is beautiful. My mom put me up for adoption because she thought she was doing the right thing. I have always been able to relate to the dogs I have picked up for Homeward Bound because I know their family is trying to do the best for the dog, just like my mom tried, and I know the dogs don’t really understand what is going on. Thanks for putting all the emotions of this experience into words so perfectly.

  9. My heart is breaking into a million pieces and at the same time it is filled with such respect for owners who–in the face of such difficult circumstances–make the tough decision for their pets, such admiration for rescue groups like Homeward Bound, and so much happiness for the families who find lasting love and forever friends in the dogs you save. Missed your beautiful photos and reading about the wonderful work you do while we were on vacation. It’s good to see you again. 🙂

    1. Looks like you and Miss Harper Lee had wonderful breaks – but I know it must feel good to be home again. Thanks for your kind words – and welcome back!

  10. Sometimes the hardest thing for people to do is what is in the best interest of the dog. I am always happy when they contact us, because I know the golden will be safe and loved ….and in the end find a wonderful home!

  11. Oh we remember the dog’s side of the story when we adopted Maggie. She was brought into a yard and did not come up to us. She ran her heart out and then laid down across the yard from us. She got up and went to look down the drive way — where are my humans??? And still didn’t come over to us. Janet came back to see us and asked if we had made up our mind that others were waiting to see Maggie. We said “not yet” and hoped it wouldn’t be too long. Maggie had not accepted us yet. She ran some more, laid down and we called her over. She came up to us with a short greeting and laid down right behind us. Janet came back to see us again and we told her that yes we wanted Maggie — she had chosen us. She was very quiet on the way home, did not eat much for a couple of weeks, and now it’s Maggie’s house. And we have been so lucky. Thank you Homeward Bound and thank you Audrey for your story. I cannot imagine the pain of giving up a much loved pet.

    1. And thank you for having the patience and wisdom to allow Maggie to adopt you! She could not have found a better home. 🙂

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