Learning How to Surf

“Even if happiness forgets you a little bit, never completely forget about it.” ~ Jacques Prévert

Happiness forgot us for a bit. With the loss of Bella, the house feels quiet and empty to us, and to Bella’s “brother” Jackson. From the moment they met, they had been best playmates and friends.


Only a year separated them – and we hoped nothing else ever would. But sometimes, the universe has other plans.

You can’t will grief away; it takes its own time. But wallowing in it never banished it faster. So, while we mourn our loss, we have to put Jackson’s needs first. And today, he needed some happiness.


We took him on one of his favorite adventures – an early morning hike and swim in the river.


And along the way, we met and made a new friend; her name is Riba.


A few years younger than Jackson –


a powerful ocean-trained swimmer,


and a mighty shaker,


she could probably show him up if she wanted, but they were well matched in personality and play.


When the heart is heavy, create good times and new memories, and eventually, happiness will find you again.


“You can’t stop the waves, but you can learn how to surf.” ~ Jon Kabat-Zinn


My Summer With Bella

I read, with sadness and empathy, the stories of the people or their companions that I have befriended here as they journey through terminal illness. I am privileged to share in their passage, however painful, and to support them as best I can. Yet, I have not been able to write about my own journey with my beloved Bella.


Maybe it is because I am a private person. Or perhaps it is because I’m told that my happiest stories help to lift others’ spirits. God knows that we could all use a little of that. More likely, it is because – by writing about it – it would become all too real.

My Bella had cancer. Inoperable, and, despite all efforts, incurable.


My only requirement through treatments: that she be happy, no matter how unhappy I was for her.


And when she stopped being happy – of just being Bella – then it was time.

Today, it was time. After a long and difficult night, she looked at me and said “no more drugs, no more doctors, no more.” And my heart is breaking – for her, and her “brother” Jackson who will be lost without her.


Nine is too young. She got robbed. But still, nine was rich, and full, and wonderful.

My first rescue dog from Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue – a Golden puppy. A rarity in rescue.


And while an adult dog comes with so many blessings, there is nothing like the bond created through potty training, sleepless nights, and half eaten walls – something she never quite grew out of.


Always in trouble from the start, she was smart and willful.


She did everything with complete abandon,


whether it was catching a ball or guarding the backyard from marauding squirrels. So it should be no surprise that her tumor would first appear as a Grade 3.

As a puppy, she was always busy. She could never settle at night. So I would curl up with her on the dog bed and whisper quietly to her while gently stroking her leg and paw until she fell asleep; a ritual that still works – even today.


I left my job a month after her diagnosis. Not because of it, but maybe because I was meant to have this time with her. Without it, her day would have come much sooner. So many appointments and medications and special instructions. I could never have managed it with work. It bought us some time to prepare, accept, and appreciate all the more.


My summer with sweet Bella was a precious gift of time and love. And today – of departure.


Fly free sweet girl. And say hello to Pookie, Bear, Tribble and Valentino.
You are so loved.


Dog Days of Summer


At 10PM, it is still sweltering. The air thick and stifling. Our beloved Delta Breeze has abandoned us. Nothing moves unless it has to. These are the dog days of summer. The sunflower droops,


The Dahlia says “these puny petals are all that I can muster.”


The bees do their work as early as possible in the day,


And everyone would rather perch than fly.


But give a dog a little pool,


Or puppies a spray of water,


And somehow they find a way.


A few more days of century-plus weather.

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Nothing to do but wait it out – and pine for it next winter.


“The magic fades too fast
the scent of summer never lasts…”
― Sanober Khan

Wind in the Willow

The Willow garden bed has always been a magical place. In the heat of summer, light north breezes blow in off the rice fields and into its deep shade, creating an outsize cool and dark refuge in an otherwise blazing landscape. Countless secrets have passed between dog and human on its bench, and a myriad of “going homes” celebrated under its canopy.


Over the past few years, its mighty branches spread beyond their natural border, blocking the light and turning nearby sun gardens into shade. But the sheer weight of its grace threatened to send the entire tree crashing to the ground.


With a heavy heart the arborist was called for a life-saving trim. By the end of the day, half its mighty size had fallen – and darkness was turned to light.

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It’s a difficult week for our little plants to be so rudely awakened. With temperatures forecast in the 100’s, they are mourning the loss of the tree’s dappled kindness as much as the Mockingbirds are grieving the loss of their magnificent perch, and the butterflies their shade.

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Was that a fairy that sent the warrior tree trimmers running and screeching like little girls? No, just a common snake that used to call its fallen leaves ‘home’.

By this time next year, it’s awkwardly exposed limbs will be covered once again. And the tree will be happier and healthier for its overdue pruning. Sometimes, a little light must be shed to appreciate what lies in the shadows.


“I hear the wind among the trees
Playing the celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

In Defense of My Summer Garden


Don’t look too closely at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden, much less my own.


The dahlias are late, the sunflowers are sad, and the weeds are winning. But I have an excuse.


Actually, 12 excuses.


All of them adorable.


The puppy list is long at Homeward Bound, so everyone is sworn to social media secrecy when a litter arrives. And what an arrival!


With all puppies spoken for, and some already home, the cone of silence has been lifted, and you can see for yourself what poopy cuteness has been keeping me from the garden.


They came to us as a result of a partnership with another rescue, Forever Friends Golden Retriever Rescue in Ventura. A hugely handsome dad, Harley;

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a long, leggy mom, Molly;


and their 12 tiny “oops-puppies” surrendered by a woman in ill health, unable to care for them.


Puppies don’t raise themselves. Molly was a devoted and exhausted mom. Dad got himself adopted right away, and made a run for playtime on the coast, naturally! As soon as it was healthy, we weaned the pups and took over the heavy lifting for Molly.

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Keep in mind: what goes in…


must come out,

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and then it must be splattered on everything and everyone in sight!


For the past few weeks, I have arrived every morning to clean them and their mountain of mess – part of a team that watches over them day and night.


And while the garden has indeed suffered, watching these little fur balls grow, thrive – and go home to long-waiting families – makes it all worthwhile. Including sweet Connor who found his home with mom, Molly!

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Six are now home; the rest will soon follow. Then, I will make my way back to the neglected and overgrown garden. Watch out weeds!

A Family Complete

“You have no idea how happy they have made me.”

For those who have followed their story, I am overjoyed to tell you that Lilly and Lucy’s journey is now complete. And while they are beginning a brand new chapter in their lives, we could not have written a better ending to this one.

The family that adopted them had been waiting and searching for a bonded pair after losing their beloved pup two years ago. It took time for their hearts to heal, and then, they wanted to make sure that their children were old enough to respect and care for a dog. Connected through one of our volunteers, they came to meet the girls last weekend. Wisely believing that the entire family needed to be on board with their adoption, they took some time to think it through. Our hopes were answered when the answer came: “yes!” While the kids were under the weather, their mom, Meg, could wait no longer. This weekend, she drove back with her daughter’s friend (a future rescuer, we are sure!) to take Lilly and Lucy home.

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Their foster dad had drafted copious notes about their likes, dislikes, personalities, and behaviors. While all this great information was being relayed, a deep connection was already forming.

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Lilly, in particular, was our concern. She had a history of not connecting to people right away – while Lucy is very adaptable, easy-go-lucky, and gives her kisses freely. But there was a special bond formed between Meg and Lilly from the start, reminiscent of the one that Lilly had for Erika, the woman who rescued her from the streets of Islamabad.

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With notes in hand and the paperwork complete, Meg gently lifted each dog into new travel crates, side-by-side, with a window between them so the girls could see each other. In each crate were new toys and color-coded leashes and collars.

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The drive home was easy, and excited text messages relayed their joy.

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“Our family is complete now.”

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The joy was shared on the other side of the world by two women – their rescuers and original “moms” – relieved and at peace that their girls were safe, loved, and finally home. They did right by Lilly and Lucy, taking them into their homes, nursing them back to health, and loving them knowing the risk to their hearts. And then, they got them to us, so we could help complete another family. An act of sacrifice and selfless love that will not be forgotten.

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“If I had a single flower for every time I think of you, I could walk forever in my garden.” ~ Claudia Adrienne Grandi