Joy Spread. Joy Returned.

“Don’t you just want to take them all home?” new volunteers ask in worry. The truth is, no. My two boys fill my heart and our home. And while we truly enjoy our occasional tiny foster guests, the quiet following the mayhem is blissful. That doesn’t mean that it is easy to say ‘goodbye.’ Adoption days at the rescue are often bittersweet. But our job is to be the bridge on the dogs’ journeys to their own forever homes. If we all filled ours to the brim, there would be no time or capacity to help others.

The hardest part of being a puppy mama is handing them off to their new families. The best part is staying connected and watching them grow up without having to deal with house training accidents, disappeared shoes, or destroyed gardens.

The Giants litter of Summer ’16 returns for reunions every six months –

now all towering over their lanky mom, Molly and dad, Harley who watches from the tennis ball sideline.

Timmy and Wyatt – my February fosters – returned this summer with their sister, Cici.

Journey’s mom stays in touch regularly to share how much my little tomboy is loved.

And now, my puppy worlds have collided – with Bonnie (formerly Latte) of Irish’s Litter

attending puppy class with Yves and Andre of the Doodle litter.

This prompted each to follow the Giant’s litter example and set up a Facebook group page to stay in contact with the families of the litter mates.

Reunions are sweet –

and raucous – with joyful greetings quickly turning into jousting displays of sibling love.

Some things never change.

Siblings seem to pick up right where they left off.

It is a joy to play a small role in a dog’s journey home. Even more so when we receive updates like this one from the couple who adopted Gage, written about here:

“Happy Thanksgiving HBGRR! Forever grateful for your love and kindness to your Fool’s Gold pups! Gage was rescued just before Christmas last year after he and Sadie were pulled by a good Sam from their life chained together. He just spent a week on the central coast watching sunsets (or birds) running the hills off leash and cuddling with his brother Toby! We adore this guy!”

Joy spread. Joy returned.

With Gratitude

“For each new morning with its light,

For rest and shelter of the night,

For health and food, for love and friends,

For everything Thy goodness sends.

For flowers that bloom about our feet;

For tender grass, so fresh, so sweet;

For song of bird,

and hum of bee;

For all things fair we hear or see,

Father in heaven, we thank Thee!” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

For the community I have found, for the generosity that makes our work possible, and for the many pups who have touched my heart this year – I give thanks. I wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving.

Puppy Love On Loan

Sometimes the universe has a twisted sense of timing. We received a request for urgent help a couple of weeks ago. While a Golden lover was picking up her new puppy half the country away, she got word that her senior heart dog, Sully, was failing – and fast. She rushed home with the still unnamed puppy in tow to receive the prognosis we all dread: she had some time – but little of it. And while her boy could go home for hospice care, an eight-week-old bundle of puppy energy was not exactly what the doctor ordered.

At a time that is supposed to be filled with new puppy joy, there was only overwhelming sadness, chaos, and guilt. Puppies that have recently left their litter need reassurance, time, and patience. But her heart and focus were understandably with Sully, ensuring his comfort and trying to make the most of the time they had left together. Emotionally and physically exhausted, she knew that the best thing for all would be to find a short-term foster for the puppy. My fellow Homeward Bound volunteer connected us, and two hours later, the little fuzz ball was home with my Yogi and Jackson.

I had been warned that she was a bit “vocal” (read “screamer”) when left alone. I guessed that a large part of that was leaving the litter. My boys were just what she needed to make a successful transition – the role that her big brother Sully was planned to fill for her.

Yogi, as usual, was her instant playmate – while Jackson adopted his more aloof stance.

She dished out her tiny terror in unrelenting waves on Yogi,

but she looked up to Jackson. When it came time to snuggle, it was Jackson she sought out. With a mixture of disgust and resignation, he reluctantly surrendered to her charm.

Mom stayed in constant touch, and along the way little girl acquired a name: Shaye.

Rather than test her night-time vocal cords, we set up a crate in the bedroom – a fostering first for our temporary puppy residents. The bedroom is usually reserved for Yogi and Jackson as their safe and quiet zone. But I value my sleep, so the boys were sacrificed. As long as Shaye could see them both nearby, she went right in, settled – and slept through the night. What kind of puppy is this?

We quickly saw what a special girl she was – and despite our best intentions – she crawled right into our hearts.

In so many ways, she reminded me and my husband of our sweet Bella as a pup. A total joy spreader. Maybe the universe knew that her new mom would be in extra need of that.

Mom got the time she needed to say ‘goodbye’ to Sully – and we got an extra special dose of puppy love.
This parting was just a little harder than the others. Come and visit anytime, sweet Shaye.

Autumn is the Hush

“I’m not ready for winter” is the refrain I hear as the fog sets in and the volunteers don their winter wools. But I am. Or nearly so.

The garden is putting on its final show – a glorious crown to a long, hot summer.

As if it saved up all its energy for a final encore, displaying its growing maturity in tall drifts of purple, orange, pink and gold.

By the end of the month, the raising of the beds will be complete,

the dahlias lifted, the bulbs installed for spring, and the remaining leaves turned to mulch. Then, the garden and I will both be ready for a long rest.

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” ~John Steinbeck

Reading about wildflower seeds, I tried an experiment and set some packets of wild Columbine, heirloom Poppy, and butterfly mixes in the soil and simply stomped them into the ground. If nature can self-sow, why not help her along?

“Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell—some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power.” ~Northern Advocate

With so many “going-homes,” even the kennel is quieter with room in the inn. It goes in waves this way. Enjoy it while you can; linger longer with each pup until the next transport arrives. You will hear no complaints from them.

“No spring nor summer’s beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face.”
~ John Donne, “Elegy IX: The Autumnal”

If the tempo of summer is allegro – fall, despite all of its chores, is adagio. A slower pace. A gradual letting go. A last romp in grassy fields and golden sun before the rains and mud.

“Autumn is the hush before winter.” ~ French Proverb

Everything In Its Season

I love the velvety purple stalks of Mexican sage. It heralds fall; its amethyst hues offset by the season’s golden leaves. A perennial in most gardens – but not in our Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. It is too wet in winter, and too hot in summer. The clay soil and baking sun are too much for this tough, but not quite tough enough, sage.

The first three seasons, I moved it to different spots in the garden hoping I would find just the right home for it to thrive. But no amount of pampering made a difference. It was magnificent in fall and gone by spring, never to sprout again.

Now, I treat it as an annual. I find a spot where it can be spectacular while enjoying and enhancing the company of others.

And when it is finished blooming, I thank it for its beauty, plant spring bulbs over it, and bid it a fond adieu.

Despite our best efforts, some things we love are not meant to be with us for long. I think that only makes them more precious.

Lindsey was our miracle puppy. Born an insulin-dependent diabetic, she should not have seen a few weeks much less nearly a year.

“She’s going to break your heart,” our Doc said. It is a kind way of saying ‘let her go.’ If Lindsey had been in pain, we would have seen the wisdom in that. But while Lindsey was a perpetual tiny girl…

she was happy and loved and fawned over until she left us as suddenly as she came to us – passing quietly away in the night.

Cavanaugh is 14.

Karma, only eight.

Both were left in shelters with terminal medical issues. For both, their time is likely measured in weeks, maybe months, but not years. Both were deserving of a much better ending. So they came to us and we were told, “just love them and spoil them.”

This is one of the most important gifts we can offer. Without any expectation that they will see the coming spring, we can be there for them when they need us most.

Karma will be going home this week. We call it hospice foster, matching special needs dogs with extraordinary angels who know that it is not the number of days that count, but the quality of our time together.

It’s hard to love them so when you know the time is short. Still, because the time is short, it is impossible not to love them even more.

“Every blade in the field, every leaf in the forest, lays down its life in its season, as beautifully as it was taken up.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

Dogs, like people, do not come with expiration dates. Love while you can. Live every day. Give what you are able knowing that you made a difference. You never know how something beautiful will be reborn.