Surrendering, For Love

“I feel like a grief counselor,” she said. ‘She’ is our rescue President, Jody, speaking to me about handling surrenders.

As I explained in a previous blog, surrender was the part of our effort I abhorred. I was judgmental toward the people and sad for the dogs they left behind. I came to understand that things happen beyond our control and that a second chapter is often in the dog’s best interest, long-term. But my concern was for the dog, and – except in rare circumstances – not really for the human.

Sophie’s surrender changed that for me.


“Hello. I was just wondering if you had a golden female named Sophie there as of yesterday??? We are her family and had to give her up for adoption a few days ago.”

I manage social media for the rescue – increasingly, this is how people communicate with us. She went on to explain that she was in the middle of a difficult divorce. With five children, life was changing dramatically along with their home. Sophie would no longer have a yard, much less her beloved pool. “I felt it was in Sophie’s best interest that we gave her a chance to find a loving family that would give her what we could not at this time. Our family is seriously hurting, and we miss her so much. All I am asking is if we could be notified when she finds her new family so we can be more at ease. Thank you so much.”


Over the next couple of weeks, we communicated often. I reassured her that Sophie had arrived safely, that she had seen our vet, and that our team was taking great care of her.

Sophie was a model visitor. She adapted quickly, was absolutely no trouble, and had clearly been raised well. But she always had a searching look in her eyes. I did not share that part. Sophie waited, patiently.


“Are you able to let me know when she is adopted so we can be more at peace? As you can see, we have had her since she was born, so it’s very hard for us right now,” she wrote, attaching photos of Sophie as a puppy. “A loving family, that’s all I want.”


As I suspected, our president hand-picked Sophie’s new family. One with kids, security, stability, lots of love – and a pool. The new family was beyond generous, sending photos and an update for me to relay to Sophie’s original family. They shared her enthusiasm for swimming with all the kids, and a special relationship that was blossoming for both: “My daughter and Sophie have really bonded and snuggled all day Monday and slept together on the floor. She is settling in great.”


“So happy to hear,” her first mom wrote back. “Homeward Bound was a great idea. I am glad I made the right decision.”

You can approach rescue from anger or pity, but neither contributes meaningfully to creating change. Action, empathy, and education matter. When Jody speaks to someone who is surrendering their dog with a sincere heart, she absorbs their grief and guilt and lets them know that – someday – they will be in a position to make a life-changing difference for another dog. She’s been at this long enough to see them return and do exactly that.

Certainly, there are clueless people you wish you could prevent from ever having another animal. But most are simply in a difficult and unplanned circumstance. That they have sought out a rescue instead of dumping a dog at a shelter, should be commended, not scorned.

I don’t think that dogs forget – but they can move on. Sophie lost her searching look. She found a perfect friend to help her begin a new life chapter. And a family found peace with their difficult decision.


Rescue changes us. Consider me a grief counselor – in training.

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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.

27 thoughts on “Surrendering, For Love”

  1. This was a heartbreaking story with a wonderful happy ending. I am so happy for Sophie. I hope her first Mom feels better now. I hope I never find myself in a position like her, ever. God Bless Sophie, her new family and her original family.

  2. “You can approach rescue from anger or pity, but neither contribute meaningfully to creating change.” So true…good reminder. Glad for Sophie and for all involved.

  3. What a sad/wonderful story. I cried in the beginning and the end. Thank you for sharing it with us. I’m so happy for Sophie and thankful for Jody’s hard work finding her the perfect new home. What a kind original owner to do the right thing when she had to.

  4. I have tears welling up. What a painful story of a sweet dog and two remarkable families.

    It’s amazing how we grow as people when our assumptions are disrupted. It’s happened to me too. I’m always humbled. xo

  5. A good reminder that there are often two sides to a story that are worth listening to …. I have had a post percolating for awhile regarding our most recent adoption, who was a surrender at the humane society. Your post inspires me to try and finish it in the next couple weeks as I find time.

  6. I had to put the phone down several times to wipe away tears. Especially when I saw that searching look in Sophie’s eyes in those first few photos. But, when I saw the happy smile on Sophie’s face in the last photo, I totally lost it. I am so glad she has bonded with her new family! I know I’d be devastated if I would ever have to give up my girls, so I can somewhat imagine how Sophie’s original family must have felt. Thank Jody for me for hand-picking Sophie’s new family. And Audrey? Life is a growth process. You’ve grown tremendously through this chapter. And so have I. For you see, I felt the same way about all people who surrender their dogs. Your story has given me back my faith in at least a small segment of humanity. (I still have difficulty with the clueless ones who shouldn’t have a pet at all.)

  7. Oh my goodness, another one of your goosebump stories with a sweet happy ending. I never saw a pup with such sad eyes as those first couple of shots so to see her snuggled up with her new family is wonderful. Two families working through an experienced counselor to make sure that Sophie adjusts well is a true example of how your organization works. Applause to you all. 🙂

  8. A heart-wrenching read, beautifully told and photographed. I’m so relieved for the happy ending for Sophie. I know her first family must still have an ache in their hearts, missing her. Thank you for this post, Ogee.

    1. They do, indeed, Melanie. But they are also very relieved to know that she has a wonderful new home given the painful decision.

  9. What a beautiful sentiment and thankfully a good outcome for Sophie. The first thing I noticed in the earlier photos was that longing, seeking look in her eyes. Although she is now presumably happy I often wonder about the capacity dogs have to remember and experience some sense of melancholy, perhaps in a dream if not during lucid state. Thanks for sharing your thoughts on surrendering and Sophie’s story.

    1. I think dogs definitely remember, but they have an amazing capacity to forgive and to live in the moment, too – which allows them to move on. Something we wish they could pass to us. Thank you for our comment.

  10. Most stories here make me smile. This one made me cry. My heart breaks for this beautiful pup and also for her original family. I can’t imagine having to make a decision like this. Thank God they did though because Sophie was very lucky to find a loving family to take her in. She looks, if not happy, content. Very happy for her first family that they can feel better about having made the decision they had to make. It has to be a relief. God Bless all of you that work to make miracles like this happen.

    1. She is very happy in her new home. Which does not mean she didn’t love her first people. Dogs have large hearts – with room enough for all of us.

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