Paid in Smiles

My sister, Debra, is involved in rescue of the feline sort. She is part of a group with a well-earned reputation for its effective trap, neuter and release (TNR) program to reduce the feral cat population in her town back East. A much better writer, she blogs about her work with this all-volunteer community effort, and the joy of living and working with animals in general. (Stealing one of her images…I’m pretty sure she’ll forgive me).


Her program had a tough week – the kind where you find the limits of what you can and cannot accomplish or cure.


Every couple of weeks, we put new recruits through a volunteer orientation.

Volunteer Orientation_DSC_2102

The long-term “stick-around” rate is in the low double digits because they encounter the kind of realities my sister faced this week. Hard work – this rescue stuff. It takes a giant heart that you have to be willing to leave open – while simultaneously protecting, knowing that the work makes an important difference as it did for our Kobe, here.

“Have courage for the great sorrows of life and patience for the small ones; and when you have laboriously accomplished your daily task, go to sleep in peace.” ~ Victor Hugo


I am in awe of the people who remain committed to difficult efforts despite the emotional risk. When I look at these faces, I am so grateful for the humans who return – week after week – to ours. Meet Mary, 12:


And Libby, also 12:


“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And I will not let what I cannot do interfere with what I can do.” ~ Edward Everett Hale

I nearly forgot to update you … sweet Emma, my first surrender intake, went home just two weeks after she arrived. From fear and trepidation…


to happy and excited to begin her new life – you would not recognize her as the same dog.

Emma Going HOme

“Volunteers are paid in six figures…S-M-I-L-E-S.” ~ Gayla LeMaire

Kasey…all 14 years of him. 🙂 Payment made.


Wanted: Dognapper


Height: 5’5”; Eyes: Blue; Distinguishing Marks: Pretty. Bright smile. Infectious laugh. Frequently covered in garden dirt.
Modus operandi: Lurks around rescue office, the temporary home of the sweetest old or rehabbing dogs. Lies in wait. Lures pups to her with baby talk and treats. Snatches them up to add to her growing collection. Known to target any dog liked by our Treasurer.
Criminal Record: Sought in the disappearance of Jenni, Snowy, Ginger and Royce.
Caution: Should be considered armed (with cookies) and dangerous (to office dog lovers).

Meet Anna. The most recent addition to the volunteer gardeners – a front, we’re sure. As a long-time Homeward Bound supporter and well-known dognapper, I suspect she was just looking for a cover.


Before I met Anna, she was already legend for stealing Jenni from president’s office – striking before anyone could even list Jenni as available. You want to be careful not to make off with the president’s favorites too often. By the time I met Anna, she had switched her tactics. In the Fall of 2013, she targeted Summer, a recuperating office dog and a favorite of our treasurer, Judy.


Anna changed her name to Snowy thinking that would mask the evidence, and invited her home with Jenni.


Judy thought Ginger was safe, tucked away in the corner of her office. Not so!

Ginger Going Home_DSC_0080

Anna swooped in and stole her right from under her nose less than a year later. Ginger joined Jenni and Snowy and off they went.

Ginger Going Home_DSC_0072

Now, she’s done it again. To obscure her true motives, she arrives in the early morning under the guise of gardening. Shortly after her arrival in the garden, Anna sneaks away and quietly prowls the office looking for her next mark.


16-year-old Royce – yet another of Judy’s favorites – did not stand a chance! Having spent his life as a service dog, he is remarkably still full of life and pep. Upon his arrival, Judy quickly nabbed him to be her new office dog. Big mistake. He may not hear or see well, but there’s nothing wrong with his sniffer. With a pocket full of cookies – and clearly, limited loyalty – it didn’t take much for Anna to win him over.


Judy never saw it coming. A couple of weeks ago, Royce went home with Anna, Jenni and Snowy. Ginger is with them in spirit, if not in body.


This weekend, she disguised Royce as a gardening dog – flagrantly parading him under Judy’s nose.


Why is this known dog thief allowed to continue in her misdeeds? Ask any of her spoiled rotten dogs. They’ll vouch for her.


Judy surrenders.


A Very Special Going Home


“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh. ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

My favorite days are Saturdays and Sundays, when I can spend gardening time in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden –


and visiting with the dogs. Meet new arrivals Benjamin…


and Zachary.


But our favorite days at the rescue are Going Home days. To catch you up … Joe went home to Russ’ healing care.


Jack hit the jackpot and found three gorgeous girls to love.


Trevor is a ladies man as well and stole the heart of former adopters.

Trevor Going Home_DSC_2820

Cooper is an official foster-failure. His adoption papers were completed this weekend, and his dad was on site for our Volunteer Orientation so he could help other pups on their journeys home.


And “Not-a-Golden” Bella was all smiles as she headed out with her new mom.

Bella Going Home_DSC_3376

But one Going Home this weekend was extra special. I recently shared a post about long-time volunteers Chris and Steve moving to Colorado. They have always taken on our “special cases” – the dogs who remain unpredictable despite dedication and extensive training. Beautiful Sammie was one of those dogs … “who me?”


Her rap sheet meant that she could only be adopted to volunteers who understood her special challenges and needs. Otherwise, she would find sanctuary here with us. Chris and Steve made a commitment to add her to their family; making it a reality took more time they would have liked. She would have visits in their RV on the weekends, but their home was too small to accommodate all of their pups while ensuring everyone’s safety and security. A promise, however, is a promise.

After an arduous trip in an RV filled with special needs dogs, not to mention a harrowing dog medical emergency along the way, Steve made a return flight to Sacramento. On Saturday, he took Sammie for one last walk down the kennel …


into the bath …


with a stop at the garden for pictures and farewells …

Sammy Going Home_DSC_3158Sammy_Going Home_DSC_3152

and then – wait – what? A car? It was as if she instantly grasped its meaning. This was a Going Home car. Sammie’s Going Home car. At last.


“But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep…” ~ Robert Frost

As I write, Steve and Sammie are completing the last leg of their two-day journey to their new home. There, she will have space enough to meet her needs and allow her to live out her life as a loved, family dog.

Promise made. Promise kept.


Happy life, Sammie girl.

With appreciation to photographer, Rob Kessel for his Sammie photos.

Not A Golden


We have a running joke at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue: “Not a Golden!” While our mission states that we help Goldens and Golden mixes, I’m sure you’ve seen in this blog, that “Not a Golden!” can include just a little bit more.


Some are what we call “Fool’s Gold” –


And some are not gold at all!

Lunas Pups_DSC_6955

Sometimes they come paired with a Golden that has been surrendered; Sometimes our volunteers just can’t bear to leave them in a shelter.


When we have the capacity, we’re happy to extend our support to others in need.


“Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible.” ~Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama

Our kindness occasionally extends beyond canines. These recently abandoned kittens that we are trying to find homes for certainly fit the bill. Kitten, anyone?


But these two?


Definitely, “Not a Golden!” You just never know what treasures you will come across when you open up your heart.


“Open your heart — open it wide; someone is standing outside. ~ Mary Engelbreit