2017: A Look Back

“Write it on your heart that every day is the best day in the year.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

New Year’s Day is not an end or a beginning; it marks another chapter of this thing we call life. Sometimes, you have to take a look back to appreciate how far you have come. I hoped to have compiled a video review by this date; so many projects – so little time. But its absence does not diminish how special the year was.

Gage and Sadie, found chained to each other in the muck, are living full and rich lives in loving homes.

January and February brought the much-needed return of rain after five years of drought – and with it, floods – and fosters.

We learned the importance of play groups in the dogs’ well-being and assessments. The training we received has changed so many futures.

Amelia was lost in the woods of Lake Tahoe – and miraculously found thanks to the efforts of our dedicated volunteers. She is transformed in her new home thanks to a very patient human mama and a canine sister leader to teach her courage and trust. Now, she travels the woods – with her sister – happy to stay by mom’s side.

Buster was our 4th of July miracle boy. The dog that could not walk – but did and does. He delights us every day.

Jakey was our special heart dog. Lost before we could fulfill his promise. But so loved.

Gunner, and Lindsey – tiny angels who were not supposed to be. Their lives were too short, but they were filled with love and joy.

There were too many special adoptions to count. These come to mind: Sparrow, Chief, Milo, Mac-aroni, Squish Buddy, Eddie, Nico, Riley, Mason & Ariel, Alfie & Chini, Copper & Kiwi, Missy, Porsche, and Mojo, too.

And the puppies…so many puppies:

Timmy, Wyatt, and Cici


The Creams

Bonnie and Clyde

Laverne and Shirley

Irish’s litter of eight

The Doodle Boys

A girl named Journey

And now…can it be…

Yup. Six adorable Chocolate Labs who arrived before Christmas.

Guardian angels watched over us.
Our friend Tatia went to work on Mosul Dam in Iraq and came home safely.

Our team leader, Judy, met another in a long series of challenges, greeting it as she greets everything – with optimism and sheer determination.

And our top dog learned to down and stay – the hard way. But all is well.

Our faces became more black, brown, and spotted – but each heart was filled with gold.

Here’s to completing second chapters for the pups who will ring in the New Year with us – and the hundreds more we will meet in 2018.

Happy New Year! Thank you for spending 2017 with me. I’m grateful for you all.

Wishing you hope

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all….
~ Emily Dickinson

My hope for your holiday and the New Year:
Kindness. Civility. Generosity. Patience. Possibility.

Wishing you all the joys of the season. May they not be forgotten in the New Year.

This is What You Shall Do

I try to keep politics off these pages but, increasingly, I feel as if I live in an alternate reality.
The daily news confounds me.
Disavowing science and banning its words.
Ignoring clear and present dangers while creating divisions between us at home.
Setting our history back decades – maybe more.
Have we forever lost sight of who we are and the compass that guides us to common ground?

Words for our times from some time ago:

“Other states indicate themselves in their deputies … but the genius of the United States is not best or most in its executives or legislatures, nor in its ambassadors or authors or colleges or churches or parlors, nor even in its newspapers or inventors … but always most in the common people. Their manners, speech, dress, friendship…their good temper and open handedness—the terrible significance of their elections—the President’s taking off his hat to them, not they to him…

This is what you shall do;
Love the earth and sun and the animals,

despise riches, give alms to every one that asks,
stand up for the stupid and crazy, devote your income and labor to others,
hate tyrants, argue not concerning God, have patience and indulgence toward the people,
take off your hat to nothing known or unknown or to any man or number of men,
go freely with powerful uneducated persons and with the young and with the mothers of families,

read these leaves in the open air every season of every year of your life,
re-examine all you have been told at school or church or in any book, dismiss whatever insults your own soul,
and your very flesh shall be a great poem and have the richest fluency not only in its words but in the silent lines of its lips and face and between the lashes of your eyes and in every motion and joint of your body.”

― Walt Whitman, Preface to Leaves of Grass

Dog Lessons from Gardening

After six years at the rescue and a lifetime of furry companions, it seems to me that the mistakes I have made in the Memorial Garden mirror the mistakes we sometimes make as pet parents. Here are a few dog lessons learned from gardening.

Acting impulsively.

When we began the garden back in 2011-2012, I was so anxious to get it started that I went to the nursery repeatedly and loaded up the truck without a real understanding of the plants’ new home, how they would pair, or what they needed to thrive. I look back at the pictures of early plantings and sigh; so many were lost. It was a waste of time, effort, and money not to mention the sacrifice of their poor plant lives.

Bringing home a new dog companion should not be based on a whim – or on pity – but a well-thought-out decision based on your lifestyle and level of commitment. Gardens bounce back from our mistakes. Dogs – not so much.

Choosing based on looks not fit.

Walking through a nursery, it’s so easy to be enticed by a gorgeous plant in full bloom. The question is: do you have the right environment and dedication to its long-term care? Will you be there when it flops and needs to be divided? If it requires extra feedings, or watering, or pruning to be its best – will you make the time?

Don’t fall for a dog based on looks – especially a young dog. Think hard about what its needs are now and will become over time. Don’t overlook obvious issues that you are not prepared to address.

Ignoring instructions.

Plant labels, reference books, online resources; the information is there at our fingertips. Failure to research, or worse – ignoring the plain facts presented – is a recipe for gardening disappointment.

Not all dogs come with information. Little or nothing may be known about a dog coming from a shelter. But you can read about breeds or consult with your veterinarian to understand what dog type is best for you as a start. If the dog is a rescue dog, there should be a behavioral assessment at a minimum. Learn all you can before making your commitment to understand if the dog’s personality traits and needs are a good fit for your own.

Not preparing.

There is more to gardening success than sticking a plant in the ground. You have to consider your plants’ unique needs and prepare the soil in advance. Think holistically about the garden’s needs: match environment with best companions that will grow together over time.

Preparing your home and gaining the support of the entire family is essential when bringing home a new dog (that includes considering the feelings of the fur friends that are already there). Your kids who say they will take responsibility: really? Do you have the space and security for your new friend to safely run, play, and thrive?

Right Plant; Wrong Place.

Even the best soil, sun, water may be wrong for a particular plant. A native, drought-tolerant plant placed in an enriched bed perfect for flowering roses will quickly perish from over-feeding and over-watering.

Great dogs are surrendered all the time because they found themselves in the wrong home. Taking the time to think things through will save them – and you – heartache down the road.


Those tiny starts need room to grow. Good company that is well-spaced can provide companionship – even needed protection – but failure to give those roots enough room to grow will stress all.

Bringing a new dog home without a proper introduction or the quality time to devote to each is a recipe for unhappy relationships. Pragmatism is as important as your big heart and good intentions.


A garden takes time to mature. It requires encouragement, editing, and constant refining as it reveals itself over time. Notice something struggling? Don’t give up too soon. Review its needs. Has something changed in the environment? Is a shift in your care required? Does it just need some time? Patience is almost always rewarded.

Did you bring home that perfect dog that found itself homeless through no fault of its own? Lucky you! But that dog wasn’t born that way. Someone put a lot of time and effort into making it so. Expect that any dog will require some degree of training – and that training will require patience and time to take hold. What you get out of a dog is a direct reflection of what you put in. And it does not happen overnight.

Seeking perfection.

A garden is a living, breathing and ever-changing thing. Learn to live with imperfections. Without them, there would be no growth.

Dogs, like people, are also imperfect. Work on the things that matter; accept the things that don’t. Love them regardless.

Trying to do it all yourself.

I have learned so much from my fellow gardeners. They inspire and challenge me, and keep my skills moving forward. Asking for help and input ensures a speedier and better outcome, and creates a community of support.

Even the best dog whisperer benefits from shared experiences and lessons learned. Because each dog has had different life experiences, what works for one dog may not work with another. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The time spent in training will strengthen the bond between you and your dog – and maybe even other humans.

How Did It Get To Be So Late?

“How did it get so late so soon?
It’s night before it’s afternoon.
December is here before it’s June.
My goodness how the time has flewn.
How did it get so late so soon?”
~ Dr. Seuss

The Calendar says “December.” I knew it was coming; even wished it so. But it arrived so quickly.

The valley fog has set in.

We had our first real rain.

The leaves have nearly finished falling; the beds are all raised; the bulbs – nearly 500 of them – are all planted.

The Dahlias are lifted and stored for the winter. And the best indications of the season’s close are my aching knees, the tired bees…

and the stack of garden magazines by my bedside for inspiration. For gardeners – winter is for imagining. Sometimes, our plans are larger than our reality. And sometimes, not.

Last October, the front entry was a barren stretch of dirt.

The weeds had been killed off. The ground covered with cardboard, leaf mulch, and dirt mixed with compost to “cook” for the better part of a season. Some tiny starts were installed late in the fall so their roots might grow strong before spring (Ceanothus, Lavatera, Smoke Tree, Lupine, Iris, Crepe Myrtle, Barberry, and Iceberg roses).

This was the design that I thought might take two or three years to reach maturity.

In the spring, I added Lavender, Asters and Miscanthus grass divides. And one season later, the bed exceeded all of my expectations.

The bed has created a perfect surround for the remembrance tree that our president and her father crafted with the original tags of dogs who have come through our doors on their journeys home.

In the garden, I have learned the benefits of patience. If you can clear a bed, fill it with good soil and nutrients, and let it rest for a season, the reward may be more than you imagined.

So it was with Ariel and Mason.

These two very special senior citizens – a bonded pair – have been waiting a long while for their forever home. They were both of advanced age and in need of medical attention when their human passed. Destined for a shelter, their odds were not good. An area partner intervened and recognized how much they needed each other. Placing this mismatched pair would take some time…something we could, thankfully, provide to them. We thought we found the right place once, but a little misunderstanding about the purpose of chickens put a quick end to that.

Still, they kept the faith and waited patiently. This week, they went home with a longtime volunteer. We could not have picked a better human for them if we had imagined one all winter long.

Happy lives to you two. We sure are going to miss you around here!