We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Program

For the first time in months, I have a weekend without a work project – and without a puppy. Little Journey has found her forever home.

Now named Charli, she greeted her new Mom with a smother of kisses and flat out stole her heart. But she picked the right heart, because this Mom is an experienced dog person and a good leader with kind instincts. Charli has grown kids to play with, a new Dad who is making her steps so she can reach the people bed, and a one-year-old canine cousin named Max who will keep her in her place. She has a big backyard, lives by the lake, and when she is old enough, will become Mom’s running companion. I could not be happier for her – or for her new family.

Another delight: my wayward gardeners have returned as fall has arrived.

Ina finished making the shed immaculate and moved the Lilac tree to a much happier home. Peggy and Steve were back with Mary who was being watched carefully having spent two days in intensive care for eating raisins!

And Maria set the stage for fall with her scarecrows and adorable pumpkin patch.

Anna is permanently excused (until Rose pruning day) for her work as an adoption counselor – and care of her latest charge, Nala.

The garden, meanwhile, is stunning.

Once towering stalks of budding Asters are now bent and beautiful mounds with their purple blossoms covered in bees and butterflies.

The Dahlias have never been larger or continued their blooms so late in the season.

They have thrived in their new home.

And Going Home photos are now staged in front of turning trees – creating loads of heavenly leaf mulch to lighten the clay soil in the beds this spring.

It is time for reveling in the colors of Autumn, raising the beds, and planting bulbs before putting the garden to rest for winter.

And hopefully, a brief hold on puppies!! Happy life, Journey Charli girl!

A Girl Named Journey

How a garden is begun determines everything about how it grows. It starts with a solid foundation of good soil. It requires just the right amount of sunlight, water and nurturing until its roots are firmly planted to support its future brilliance.

Maybe I am a gluten for punishment, or maybe I just love puppies. Either way, I find myself fostering another one. Her name is Journey. And like a new garden, she requires some nurturing to find her forever home.

She arrived the same time as Irish’s litter. An 18-year-old who would soon be leaving for college brought her home as a surprise for his mother. It was an unwelcome surprise, and so, she came to us at the age of three months.

Puppies are always in high demand. One that was already old enough to be home would not be with us long. She went home with a man who fell for her obvious German Shepherd mix – one of his favorite breeds. He returned her less than 24 hours later because she threw up in his car and whined when she got home. This was our bad.

She went home again with a young couple. The husband was in love, but the wife was not really on board from the start. She was returned quickly for being too much work (in other words, a puppy).

The third match seemed like a good fit. But Journey is not your average snuggly, submissive puppy. She is an independent, sometimes headstrong girl. They described her as “defiant.” The wife thought she was not “alpha” enough to handle her. Someone said she resource-guarded. You would think she was Cujo at four months of age.

By her third return, I was on my second batch of puppies. Our president took her home and worked with her. The “defiance” – which was just bad, untrained puppy behavior – disappeared quickly with her firm, but kind corrections. Still, her puppy bites and jumps were off-putting to our other volunteers who had less experience or patience for puppy transgressions. Now five months of age, what Journey needed was what every puppy needs: both love and firmness, consistency of expectation and follow through.

Had I not been so preoccupied with the puppy litters, I would have spent time with her sooner. She was my garden helper for a week.

She responded quickly to corrections and commands. We tested her supposed resource guarding. No issues. But her play with other dogs was atrocious.

So I brought her home to foster thinking my Yogi boy could teach her some better manners.

What a puppy experiences shapes the dog they become. If they leave their mothers or litter mates too soon, they miss out on important dog-to-dog socialization. What Journey needed was an appropriate helper dog to expend her energy and teach her how to play politely with other dogs. My Yogi has issued corrections to the puppies we have fostered – but this little girl had my 70-lb. boy pinned in less than two minutes.

Biting at ears, lips, throat, and boy body parts was not going to get this girl home – and, as she grew older and bigger, would significantly limit her experiences.

There is no one training technique that works for all dogs – much less all puppies. Through trial and error, and the good advice of my fellow rescue volunteers, I shifted Journey’s play with Yogi to games of fetch/chase and tug of war. He’s too fast for her to catch, and a tug toy gave her something safe to bite on. As soon as she escalated, she earned a water squirt. If that failed, she went to timeout. Within two days, their play was dramatically different – to Yogi’s great relief!

By chance, we got a new dog in: a ten-month-old named Jack the Lab (aka Jack the Tank!) who joined Journey in the puppy yard for some play. Within seconds of her misdeeds – he had her pinned!

She delighted in the play but quickly learned that biting would earn her a smackdown.

In puppy class, a beautiful year-old Golden named Oden took a shine to her.

He lets her get away with nothing, and if she tries to be inappropriate with any of the smaller dogs, he body checks her to the ground.

These are the kind of corrections that puppies usually get from their mama dogs and litter mates. For reasons we’ll never know, Journey missed them.

While Jack and Oden issue corrections (nicely), Yogi delivers the love. And increasingly, those sharp puppy teeth are being replaced by kisses.

My goal is for Journey’s next family to be her forever family. My hope is that her life will be filled with journeys – of adventure.

Return to the Garden

“Where will you begin?” she asked.
“At the beginning, I guess.”

This sign was posted over our shed door. The weeds are indeed laughing. Two hours after the last puppy of Irish’s litter was adopted, in rolled the van with six more! I can’t show them to you due to a promise we made to the kind human who brought them to us. She saw that they were in need and intervened. We won’t give her up as she may yet return with more.

Needless to say, my hoped for return to the garden was again delayed. And the weeds took full advantage. The blueberries were overrun, the paths were overtaken, crabgrass invaded, and the garden shed disappeared in a mass of cobwebs.

Maria refused to weed the herb garden bed; she said that it was all to be gone or she was washing her hands of it. I couldn’t bear to see it all dug up and sitting empty; we have months to go before the winter. So it has been reclaimed as a community bed. Let the whining begin.

As the last litter numbers dwindled over the course of a week, I was able to spend a little more time in the garden. Bit by bit, it is getting there. And with our last two little fluff balls now safely home, the garden is mine ours. And the weeds? Well who is laughing now?!

The Dahlias are beautiful.

The blueberries are once again peacefully co-existing with the California poppies and smothered in the pine needles they love.

The grapes are still producing…in September!

And as our rivers are still full from our long wet winter, I am watering, watering, watering to bring the garden back to life.

Now that the weather is beginning to cool, the gardeners, too, are making their return. Maria is planning her October display, Dee cleared out the daylilies,

Rob rebuilt the leaf mulch container for fall,

and Ina cleaned the garden shed!

Puppies are a joy – and they need what they need when they need it. Many of their new families stay in touch and I delight in seeing the pictures of them growing as fast as the weeds in the garden. (This is Mocha with his new big brother.)

I am so proud of them. I miss them a tiny bit. Still, I am happy to be back in the garden.