Worked Like Dogs

As gardeners, our big game day tradition has been to ditch the guys and spend the day pruning the roses of the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. All 84 of them!


However, when you start to see this…


you know that you are already way behind. With daytime temperatures now in the 60’s…the roses just could not wait for game day this year.

Last weekend, Ina and Maria were out to do some. Anna, Lynn, our youth volunteer, Ara and I worked like dogs to finish them all off over two long days this weekend.


And we have the mountain of clippings to prove it!


I don’t know who is more tired…me, or our garden mascot puppy, Sybil.

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Sybil is one of four from Lady Edith’s litter. You’ll remember their adorableness from the Puppy Pop Quiz post in late November.

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They went home in December and are finally old enough to attend (muddy!) puppy class at the rescue.

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Sybil was delighted to be reunited with her sister, Kensie.

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As the two youngest in the class, you can imagine that this first day of raucous socialization and light training was a little overwhelming – and very taxing!

“Uh-oh! Gotta go!”

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“OMG…He’s killing her!”

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“No thanks. I’ll just sit this one out.”

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Covered in mud, cute Sybil was able to sit just long enough for a couple of shots…

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before sinking into a deep slumber.

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And without further ado…I am going to do the same!

A Christmas Jar for the Dogs


Do you know the Christmas Jar Tradition? It was new to me. I learned that the rescue was a recipient of one this year. It is just a simple jar used to collect spare change each day. During the week before Christmas, you carefully select someone to give it to anonymously.

It arrived with the note in this photo, and a copy of the book “Christmas Jars” by Jason F. Wright (we added cutie-pie, Benson!). The family writes:

Dear Homeward Bound
The Christmas Jar is our favorite Family Christmas Tradition. This year our son chose who he felt we should give it to. You are his choice. He had the opportunity to volunteer at Homeward Bound two summers ago, he learned how to work hard and loved all that he learned from the people who run Homeward Bound.

He is currently serving a 2 year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints. He is serving in Micronesia, on the island of Palau. The island has an overpopulation of dogs. He sends many pictures telling us that he has adopted them ALL!

It touched our hearts to know that we had made such an impact on this young man – and that he carries our passion for rescue forward.

It’s a wonderful new tradition that I’ll be incorporating into my holidays going forward. You can read some of the touching stories from recipients here.

Patience and Perseverance

A few weeks ago, Joe paid a return visit to Homeward Bound. Had he not been with his “Dad,” I would not have recognized him.


His “Dad” – Russ – is a devoted Homeward Bound volunteer who has assumed responsibility for maintaining our yards, parks, and open spaces. He arrives every week to mow, rake, and groom eight acres. The property has never looked better.

Last summer, a new dog in our sanctuary yard caught his attention – and quickly captured his heart. Joe spent his four and a half years in the backyard. He was surrendered by his owners when they could no longer care for him. I don’t know if he was always a fearful dog, or if the uprooting caused him to be in leaving such a sheltered and small world. We placed him with the seniors where he could come and go to the outside yard at will. He chose outside. It’s what he knew.


In June, Russ adopted him. You can see by his “going home” photo just how unsure he was about this new world (and his bath!). Russ will be the first one to tell you that he’s not an expert in helping fearful dogs, but a big heart and a willingness to learn can overcome lack of experience.


Russ needed to help Joe conquer his fear and win his trust. That was the first step in helping Joe become more secure in the world around him. For fearful dogs, this process happens in small increments over long periods of time.

There is a great piece on the Best Friends website about working with former puppy mill dogs who are often fearful dogs. In their rehabilitation, they offer eight words to live by: patience, love, understanding, compassion, forgiveness, calmness, empathy and perseverance. Patience and perseverance probably test our resolve the most.

Tatia is one of our dog whisperers…she has a very special way with fearful dogs including our feral friend, Red. Russ expressed concern to her that Joe had not made greater progress. You can see it in this series of photos:

Joe rushed to Russ when he entered the yard – but then stopped and still approached with caution.


Russ moved down to Joe’s level and waited for Joe to come to him –


And then the face begins to change.


Because Russ sees Joe every day, the progress probably seems imperceptible. But for those of us who have not seen him in months –


the difference is clear.


Joe still has a way to go. A fearful dog’s behavior changes when their emotions change. Tatia’s wise words to Russ: adjust your expectations and let him progress at his own pace.


The joy is in the journey and seeing Joe come into his own thanks to patience, love, understanding, compassion, forgiveness, calmness, empathy and perseverance.


The change is underway. You just have to trust.

A Day of Solitude


“You need a village, if only for the pleasure of leaving it.” ~ Casare Paves

The rescue is my village – and often my haven. But between my day job and my volunteer work for the rescue evenings and weekends, I was reminded that it I have been working seven day weeks for a very long time. We’ve had some joyous times recently – and some very difficult ones. I woke up very much feeling under the weather: mentally- more than physically.

So I slept in very late … and then went where I am always happiest: the garden. My own this time.

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“Home is a shelter from storms — all sorts of storms.” ~ William J. Bennett

If you look on the USDA map, the city of Sacramento where I live, and the rescue – which is in open country only 20 miles away – are both supposed to be in the same Zone 9. But any good gardening site will show you that the city has its own micro-climate which is much more Mediterranean. Protected by trees, houses and buildings, it can rise all the way to Zone 14. It is evident in my home garden, where things are still – or already – blooming.


It has been sorely neglected. So today – the roses were pruned, the last of the leaves were raked, and the soggy messes cleaned up as the next wave of rain settled in. In solitude.


Well … near solitude. The hummingbirds kept me company.


And when the work was done – there was, of course, a (wet) dog or two to return to.


“A village means that you are not alone, knowing that in the people, the trees, the earth, there is something that belongs to you, waiting for you when you are not there.” ~Casare Pavese

Tomorrow is Martin Luther King Day and a work holiday. I’ll likely return to “the village” and get my fix of dogs and memorial garden – with a more restored sense of self. Solitude is sometimes good for the soul.

“Inside myself is a place where I live all alone, and that’s where I renew my springs that never dry up.” ~ Pearl Buck

Foster Failure


“I’m a failure!” she exclaimed. “The very best kind,” said we.
On an earlier post, I shared that Kate and her family were fostering Maggie, to give her a soft place to land while she recovered from recent medical procedures.


I am pleased to share this updated capture of our board clearly showing Maggie moving from the Foster to Adopted column.


Which makes Kate an official “Foster Failure!”
Congratulations to all…and happy life, sweet Maggie. We were kind of hoping it would go that way.


Who’s Your (Foster) Daddy?

When Marshall first arrived, he was so frightened, he literally slid his body low to the ground under his kennel bed and hid.
In hindsight, we’re pretty sure it was a ploy. The dogs talk, you know. And word has been passed from yard to yard that there is an awesome Foster Daddy who lives next door to Homeward Bound. Getting picked to go with him for “rehabilitation” is like winning the dog lottery. Marshall was determined to be selected, so he made himself look as pathetic as possible. And Marshall can do pathetic pretty well!


It worked, of course. Once there – his true colors came out. Marshall treated humans just like puppies treat each other. He probably never learned any better (yeah…we’re going to go with that!).


Instead of gratitude, Marshall tried to turn his Foster Daddy into a chew toy with tugging, tackling, and flat out conquering.


“There’s not much to like about this guy,” black and blue Foster Daddy muttered in utter frustration. Foster Daddy is pretty darn patient – but this one was a true test.


Good news for Marshall…Foster Daddy does not give up. He exhausted his playbook of training methods: rewards and ignoring, yelps and silence, time together and time outs. It was probably not one single thing, but the cumulative effect of all that turned the tide. Or maybe Marshall finally came to the realization that no matter what he did, Foster Daddy was not ditching him. And then – he was a different dog.


“I’m going to miss that guy,” Foster Daddy wrote. Marshall had hit his second jackpot: a home. And not just any home…a home with one of Homeward Bound’s dog walkers.

_marshall-adopt_750_3938Photo Credit: Rob Kessel

Marshall take note: Foster Daddy and your new Daddy have traded notes. They are both wise to you! So be a good boy…and visit us often.


And don’t forget to say “thank you” to your Foster Daddy.


Note: Foster Daddy is kind of shy…so I haven’t mentioned his name. But if you look closely, you’ll find it. Just sayin’.

Update: Foster Daddy has outed himself. For his post about Marshall and a gallery of photos, visit here.