Second Chances: Look Back

Working on a special project, I have been looking back at some old photos (if you can call them that) dating back to when I first began volunteering at the rescue. They are pretty bad. I can’t believe I had the audacity to post them. Just goes to show: I’m still capable of growth and learning at my advanced age!

Two volunteers, Chris and Steve, make repeated appearances as they were fixtures at the rescue at the time.

I have always had rescue dogs – but Chris and Steve had a whole different breed of rescue dog: some of the hardest, most unpredictable, and potentially dangerous cases if not handled correctly. The kind of dogs that don’t usually get second chances.

I saw Chris and Steve’s talents with Shelby. I wrote about her here (please excuse the horrible photos). Chris, in particular, spent years earning her trust including something as basic as the ability to touch her paw. Eventually, Shelby was able to go home with them, but hemangiosarcoma stole her just one month later.

They turned their grief and talents toward two dogs in particular: Goldie and Sammie.

Goldie was a bounce-back dog. Adopted and returned, she was described by some (including me) as bi-polar. She would seem fine one minute, until something set her off. She was wary with strangers, had a strong sense of “this is mine,” and was reactive around other dogs.

Sammie was a beauty – but there was something not quite right. She too had a quick on/off switch that went from play to battle in an instant. Like Goldie, she was reactive – but more obviously so – to the point of spinning herself into exhaustion in the kennel.

Only certain people who had earned their trust were allowed to take them out. I was ended up coming to an understanding with Sammie, but Goldie never trusted me – so I kept my distance.

Neither dog was adoptable. The only way they were going home was with a volunteer who understood them, and had the training to keep themselves, the dogs, and others safe. Chris and Steve had an average-size home that was already filled to capacity with rescue dogs. Kennels are not good places for reactive dogs and, as time wore on, I admit to wondering if it would have been kinder to let them go. If we had play groups back then, we might have seen a different side of them. But Chris and Steve had a plan. Unfortunately, it involved leaving the rescue. Fortunately for Goldie and Sammie, it involved moving to Colorado where a much larger home and plenty of outdoor space could be purchased for a fraction of California prices.

Goldie went home first.

And then Steve came back for Sammie. They were simply not leaving without her.

It has taken years for the “Golden Misfits” to find some sense of peace and enjoyment with each other. (Photos courtesy of Golden Misfits)

The significant issues of Goldie and Sammie are balanced by helper dogs, Missy and Tigger (now departed),

and the newest addition: Murphy.

Pork Chop adopted himself to the family shortly after they arrived,

and the ancient but adorable Jessie stayed long enough to thoroughly enjoy the snow.

It seems like each – with the exception of young Murphy – has had a brush with death and a miraculous recovery. It’s a testament to two people who just don’t give up.

Which is why I find myself, once again, nursing this sad, little orange tree back to health!

It was planted in Shelby’s honor years ago. It succumbed to frost in the first winter; came home with me for a year to be resuscitated; was coddled with a special cover in winter #2 to no avail; was reborn again; was replanted in another, more protected area; and was set back again in a late February surprise frost! I swear it has barely grown in all these years. We have lots of apple, pear, and almond trees – but citrus trees are not found in the rescue’s open country for good reason. Still, I am determined that it will live and someday thrive. A tribute to two people who taught me a lot about patience and second chances – and their love for a very special dog.

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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.

10 thoughts on “Second Chances: Look Back”

  1. Totally agree with Denise’s comment. Steve and Chris are two beautiful people that are missed here in California. So glad Chris comes back and visits every so often. With your care I am sure the orange tree is going to make it. (fingers crossed)

  2. It is a shame that the New Media does not put significance on these stories. It shows an aspect of human nature that many people do not believe exists but then … all they read/hear about is generally violence, corruption and stupidity. Great story. Thanks for sharing.

  3. Amazing stories of patience and perseverance. And leaves me hopeful that my photos may look better in a few years too.

  4. Wow! What amazing people Steve and Chris are. Their patience and determination to give these special dogs a second chance is so heartwarming. Hats off to both of them.

    I disagree wth you….your pictures are great! And that tree sounds like a survivor!

  5. Such special stories of love and hope don’t need perfect photos to tell the story! I do hope that little tree begins to flourish and adds to the beauty and warmth of the stories of redemption. I can’t read your posts without tearing up and then smiling! 🙂

  6. I agree with Debra. I would much prefer to see imperfect pics of a sensitive/emotional circumstance … than an award winning photographic work of art that says nothing to me. You are doing great! 🙂

  7. Beautiful and heartfelt, Audrey. What remarkable and kind souls. Though it was a loss for your rescue that these gentlemen left the state, it’s nice to read of their great success.

  8. Chris was one of the first people I met when I started volunteering for HB, and Goldie was one of the first “special” dogs I was privileged to spend time with. To this day, I am drawn to those that need our patience, and am blessed to have learned from Chris and Steve what it takes to truly enable second chances. This is a beautiful reminder of connection; regardless of time or distance; age or experience.

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