As Long As There Are Dogs

We have had four full fall seasons since we began our effort of building a Memorial Garden for the dogs and volunteers to enjoy. The garden continues to evolve as foundation plants mature, and the more temperamental succumb to our ongoing drought.

Season One was full of overflowing Zinnia’s and Dahlias.


Season Two was the year of Rudbeckia, huge Mexican Sages and gigantic mums.


Season Three delivered towering Sunflowers and Amaranthus.


Missing this year altogether are the Dahlias, Amaranthus and beautiful purple Basil which never took hold. The Rudbeckia and Zinnias passed through half-heartedly; the Mexican Sage, herb garden and mums are but a shadow of their former selves.

“Despite the gardener’s best intentions, Nature will improvise.” ~Michael P. Garofalo

Still, we have some constants: the roses,


Ina’s magnificent Asters with divides now populating the entire garden,


our faithful Yarrow,


flowing Fountain Grass which somehow survived the winter,

Fountain Grass_DSC_7440

the return of tiny frogs,


Maria’s harvest-inspired decorations…


And dogs. Always dogs.


Going home this weekend: Jenny,




and Marley.

Marley Going Home_DSC_7588

As long as there are dogs that need to go home, there will be a fall garden at Homeward Bound


in one form or another.

Something Got Your Goat?

When four years of drought turns suburban meadows into potential tinderboxes,


it’s time to call for help.


Curious and agile,


these bucks, does, and kids will eat just about anything.


As a result, the adorable natural lawnmowers have become a favorite for clearing dry brush on California hillsides and uneven terrain without the threat of sparks.


They have been busy at work for over a week in the preserved open space behind my work. These acres of meadow, oak trees and a bone-dry creek are bordered in the distance by suburban homes. A fire here would find plenty of fuel.


With their four-chambered stomachs, goats have a preference for weeds,


woody shrubs


and the occasional tree –


making their week here a feast fit for kings (and queens).


Their horizontal, slit-shaped eyes are designed for spying predators,


And when they require assistance,


it helps to keep a trusty dog nearby.


There are over 300 different breeds of goat … more than a few of them at work here.


Billy goats: conservation grazers doing their part in drought-stricken California.


If We Could Talk To The Animals

“If we could talk to the animals, learn their languages
Think of all the things we could discuss…”

People who love animals are often guilty of channeling their furry companions, putting tiny-human words to their every animal expression. Working in the Homeward Bound garden, I sometimes carry on entire conversations with dog walkers speaking in the first-dog-person of their canine companions.


Carla is one of those dog-channelers. She writes the dog profiles for our rescue, Homeward Bound.


I learned from her and our photographer, Rob that a connection can be made almost immediately through an expressive photo and a story – told from the dog’s perspective.


People fall in love with the look of a dog; that’s Rob’s job, and he does it beautifully. But physical attraction is not enough to make a good match – for dogs or humans. Dogs don’t keep secrets, and neither does Carla. She believes in putting it out there, warts and all.

“You can call me Max, but I probably won’t come! Do you know what they call a two-year-old boy with very little training? MAX!” ~ Max


Speaking for them, she helps people connect with a dog’s journey…

“I am a ten-year-old girl, and I am here because Divorce said dad had to leave and couldn’t take me with him and then Divorce said that mom had to work a lot of hours and didn’t have time to take care of me. So I told Divorce that I was going to Homeward Bound for a fresh start.” ~ Lola

explains their pasts…

“I am a three-year-old boy looking for a fresh start. I am what you call a “stray”; I was picked up with no visible means of support and no one ever came to post my bail. Maybe it’s my lack of training or the fact I jump up on people or maybe it’s because I don’t’ like cats. So now I am hoping that my new family enjoys training and will forgive my shortcomings.” ~ Denver (now adopted Bailey)


and helps potential adopters understand how they can support a dog with challenges.

“Alright, I have had some issues with other dogs. I can go for walks…which I love to do…and not bother another dog. It’s just sometimes, when you are wrestling and romping with another dog, things get said and I take it personally and well…it’s all down hill from there!” ~ Jenny


Reading a bio, talking to our assessment team, looking at a photo – she has a way of seeing into a dog’s soul and giving voice to their hopes.

“My owner died, and I swore I would never love again, it just hurts so much to lose someone you love. My problem is that all I know is unconditional love, and my idea of love is up close and personal! I am going to need an experienced dog owner who will also understand my very sensitive nature.” ~ Marley

And she does it without a hint of pity – because our dogs don’t need pity; all they need is understanding and loving homes.

“If we could walk with the animals,


talk with the animals,


Grunt and squeak and squawk with the animals,


And they could squeak and squawk and speak and talk to us!” ~ Dr. Doolittle Lyrics, If I Could Talk To The Animals


A Heart That Sees

When our entry beds were sketched and planted, it took imagination to see what they would become.


But in that dirt were the seeds of this towering symphony of purple, white, and silver.


“It is only with the heart that one can see rightly. What is essential is invisible to the eye.” ~ Antoin de St Exupery, The Little Prince

Victor came to us in the fall of 2014 from an area shelter. Surrendered at the age of 10, he was a hot mess of chronic ear infections and flea allergy dermatitis. He had literally scratched and rubbed his coat away from the constant itching.


Most people would have a hard time seeing past his scabs to his sweet personality and the potential he had inside. Barbara, however, sees with her heart and not her eyes. She took Victor home knowing his challenges. Add to the list, Vestibular Disease, which struck about a month later. The disease causes sudden loss of balance and disorientation that might be mistaken for stroke. While symptoms often resolve in a couple of weeks, it can result in permanent head wobbling or tilt. Welcome to Victor’s 45-degree world!


When he came for a visit yesterday, I did not even recognize this furry, fluffy boy. Only the angle of his gaze would give it away.

A garden teaches us to see potential beyond what is visible to the eye. With imagination, work, and love, its shape takes form and its true personality comes to life.

“At the heart of gardening there is a belief in the miraculous.” ~ Mirabel Osler

Victor’s miracle was as simple as one woman with a heart that sees.