Because They Need Us


It has been a hard week. To lose not one – but two – of our long-time rescue residents and the companion of a devoted volunteer as well.

Balou was a special boy who never got over the loss of his human.


He was profoundly sad, with trust and mental health issues.


He was beautiful, deep and unpredictable, and so we knew he would be staying with us. He felt safe here.


Reacher was adorable and adored.

_reacher_DSC_1780-X3 (1)

Imagine a gigantic bunny stuffed in Golden Retriever costume, rolled over, belly up, with paws flopping every which way just waiting for his rub.


He went home and came back twice due to his severe separation anxiety. We couldn’t believe no one could see past his issues to his wonderful self. But we were very happy to care for him as long as he needed to stay with us.


His stay was both too long and too short. Cancer took them both.

That dreaded c-word seems to dog us lately, afflicting too many of the fur kids from our extended Homeward Bound family. Too much at once.

“There is sorrow enough in the natural way
From men and women to fill our day;
But when we are certain of sorrow in store
Why do we always arrange for more?
Brothers and sisters I bid you beware
Of giving your heart to a dog to tear.”
~ Rudyard Kipling

Are those tears falling from the sky?


No. Rain. A sudden, soaking, blessed California rain providing a cool, revitalizing drink for our thirsty plants, trees and souls.

Lion's Tail_DSC_8383
St. Francis_DSC_8388

A reminder that there are still unexpected joys in even the most difficult times.


This weekend, there were quiet chats, remembrances, and hugs – but most importantly – there were people.


Amazing people who show up despite broken hearts to walk and feed


snuggle and train –


and teach dogs how to get up on the furniture –


because they depend on us.


For as long as they need us – we are here.


Sometimes joined together by sorrow – more often, joy.


Honoring those we have lost by treasuring each day with those who need our care – at Homeward Bound.


Reacher photos courtesy of Rob Kessel

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.

29 thoughts on “Because They Need Us”

  1. Beautiful post! My sister-friend also lost her long-time companion an adorable and very loved yellow lab named Sophie… The whole family is mourning the loss and taking one day at a time to get used to living with the absence.

  2. Oh, my heart broke one picture at a time. The work you do for your goldens inspires me so much. The rewards must be great, but so is heartache I suppose. Stay strong, and thank you for sharing this lovely tribute.

  3. Oh brought tears to my eyes as I related to so much of what was shared. Balou reminds me of my Dash who is slowing down but still going strong for 11 years. Adopted from HB 10 years ago.

  4. So sad to lose those dear to us; yet their spirits live on in our hearts and minds. And the rain – or tears from the heavens – that is so desperately needed refreshes all it touches. Thank you and everyone there for loving and caring for all those “pups” and each other!

  5. I’m so sorry for your loss. That must be the hardest part of rescue work. In late 2012 I fostered then adopted Rusty and Ginger — two of the sweetest creatures God ever put on this Earth. Unfortunately, we didn’t have much time together. I lost them both to cancer in December, within two weeks of each other. I was consumed with sadness, but so grateful that they had come into my life at all. My many memories of our short time together are working hard to mend my broken heart. As soon as that happens, I will return to add to my family once again.

    1. I remember them well. Thank you for loving them. I’m sorry your time together was so short. When you are ready…we’ll be here. 🙂

    1. I know that “sigh” – I have two approaching that age at home and their sugar faces make me smile – and sigh, as well. Time goes too fast.

  6. What a lovely tribute to two gorgeous dogs. Our Ray was a “challenge” when we adopted him and after two years with us, he has become the most lovable 75lbs that I have known. He’s far from perfect but then, isn’t that like all of us? He’s still a work in progress but then, aren’t we all? For anybody reading this who is contemplating a perhaps difficult adoption, please think it through carefully however, if you have the patience, the time, are prepared to ask lots of questions and listen to the answers, then you will have a wonderful companion. They just need consistent love, attention and understanding but then, isn’t that like all of us?

    1. I needed to hear these words from you. I have a difficult recent adoption that I’m dealing with. He has separation anxiety, and your words encourage me to continue working through this confused time in his life.

      1. Hi Ria: We can relate totally as we are at this time working on separation anxiety and crate training. Patience would seem critical with both these issues so just take it one small step at a time. If you have a moment to check out our Blog, you’ll probably find lots of similarities with your dog and our beloved Ray! 🙂

    2. Thank you for your patience and kindness with Ray. Our little Bear dog was one of those “challenges” – but boy, did she leave a hole in our hearts when she finally left after a blessedly long life. Words of wisdom. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Oh, what soulful faces….too beautiful. Bless these two that went on to Heaven. Cancer is so frightening. Our Bear (a HBGRR alumni) has been fighting cancer for over two years. Max his companion (also a HBGRR alumni) takes good care of Bear.

    1. And they will be proudly featured in our May Newsletter. It will be posted soon to Homeward Bound’s website. Thanks for sharing their story with us – and for loving them so well.

  8. Every time we don’t think we can have our heart bear such sorrow at the end, we find another spot to make room for one more and start that cycle of unconditional love all over again. They are worth both the joy and the sorrow. So glad there are places like yours for those who cannot find their forever home elsewhere.

    1. None of us (two, or four, legged) come with expiration date tags. Best to love as much as we can while we are here. The cycle of life. Thanks for your kind note, Kat.

  9. Loved your blog ( thoughts ). I can so relate to it ( have lost several of our rescues ( fosters & adopted dogs.) My sister & I have a soft spot for taking care of the older dogs that no one seems to want! They should allbe cared for & loved. Praying for comfort & peace that passes all understanding for those going through this time of sorrow.
    Many blessings for you & all those that have a heart for our furry friends !!

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