New Beginnings

The first time I saw Spice, she was cowering under her Kuranda dog bed in the tiny space between it and the floor. Her leash was attached, and would remain that way for some time as she was impossibly shy and would bolt when approached.

She was part of a group of dogs surrendered from a breeder. At one year of age, she had no idea what it meant to live inside or with people. All she knew were other dogs and the safety of a single pen. Her evaluation said “frightened; shy; no idea what to do with a toy; has had no socialization to people; best to go to a home with other dogs.”

She made tiny baby steps forward with select human friends going ever so slowly in the hopes that she would learn to trust.

It can happen, but in the kennel environment, it takes much longer.

Lisa is one of team leads. She has a very special way with the dogs; part dog whisperer, part “let’s go!-er.”

Where others coddle, Lisa confidently expects. She sizes up a dog and when she believes it can do more, somehow, it starts believing it too. She was the first to get a collar on our once feral, River.

At one year of age, he had been living along the river’s edge for who knows how long. Finally captured with a Ketchall, the animal control pole, he wanted nothing to do with anything going over his head or around his neck. A collar and leash were his ticket out of the outside enclosure to indoor comfort. Thankfully, he arrived in the late spring when the weather was good.

Lisa earned his trust enough to allow his face to be pet, starting from the nose. When she sat with him to do this, he would close his eyes. One day, during this session, she waited for his eyes to close and just slipped on the collar. He could have backed out as he had done with so many others, but he allowed it. Perhaps it was the fluidness of her gesture or her sheer determination that caught River off guard, but on the collar went and so began his rehabilitation.

So it was no surprise that Lisa packed up our shy girl and brought her home. There, big Golden teddy bear Dakota could guide her

and little Kiki could help her to be brave.

They were joined by Mamacita and Babycakes—two Chihuahuas that were dumped in the fields near the rescue and wormed their way into Lisa’s heart (and car) as pretend fosters

—and Forrest, a very special needs boy.

This unlikely pack was obviously exactly what Spice needed because the next time I saw her – she looked like this.

Inside every winter lies the beginnings of spring just waiting for its right time and opportunity to blossom.

One year later, Spice’s whole life and happiness have changed for the better because someone believed that she was capable of more.

She’s rolling in the new year as a completely different dog.

There is no telling what a fresh start, love and companionship will bring to our rescued dogs in 2019 –

and I can’t wait to see. Here is to a year full of new beginnings.

All I want for Christmas?

I wasn’t exactly looking for a puppy for Christmas, but when one arrived about a week before, how could I not bring it home to foster?

Surrendered at 14 weeks, Leo is an adorable yellow Lab puppy. His people purchased him and figured out within a week’s time that they were not cut out for puppy raising. Having a really bad feeling about the breeder, they thankfully brought him to Homeward Bound instead of returning him. He checked in on Friday morning and was loaded into my car by Friday afternoon, headed for Camp Yogi. And then the fun began!

He took to my Yogi and Jackson immediately.

He slept in his crate through the night.
He went potty where he was supposed to.
And then my husband foolishly remarked: “He must be the easiest puppy we have had yet.”
Leo had played us well.

Shortly thereafter, Leo’s true personality came bursting through. He is one of the busiest, bounciest, flying-highest puppies we have every fostered.

He turned on the gas stove; he stole things off the counter; when he couldn’t reach, he used Yogi as a ladder.
He had zoomies of epic proportion, and tantrums to match if they could not be exercised (exorcised?) out.

A tired puppy is a good puppy, and we were able to keep him tired enough to weather the hurricane –

until he went in for his neuter surgery and Doc said “no jumping or running for 10 days.”

I managed 48 hours before surrendering to his will.

Forewarned, the in-laws cancelled their Christmas visit and we prepared to spend the long holiday weekend playing, chasing, and keeping the house from burning down.
And then: a Christmas miracle…

‘Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house
A creature was stirring, ‘beware’ said my spouse!
When out on the lawn there arose such a clatter,
I sprang to my feet to see what was the matter.
When what to my wondering eyes did appear,
But a miniature tornado on a barking, whirling, tear!
As leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with an obstacle, mount to the sky;
He was chubby and plump, a right crazy little elf,
And I laughed when I saw him, in spite of myself;

He cuddled and cooed, to a family he wooed,
And got himself adopted; he is truly quite shrewd!

And I heard him exclaim, ere he drove out of sight—
“Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!”

Merry Christmas, little Leo. You tested, tormented and exhausted me – and flat out stole my heart.
Happy life, little boy!


With a look like this…

Some curses are blessings in disguise. Last fall, I inherited responsibility for taking the dog’s photos for their website profiles. A lot more work, but simple enough? Not so!

For every shot that makes it –

there are dozens more that go into the recycle bin.

I try to get the dogs shortly after they arrive so we can share them as quickly as possible with the team and expedite their going homes. Those first couple of days can be an adjustment for the dogs resulting in sad faces. Some of those looks tug so hard at the heart that they help them get home immediately…like Talulah.

But what I really hope to capture is the dog’s true personality, be it playful, rowdy, sweet, or silly which often means revisiting them over the course of a week or so.

Adorableness is easy-just stick a puppy in front of the lens.

But in sussing out their true selves, I get some of the strangest, goofiest, and loudest looks!

A good assistant is highly recommended. Squeak-makers, tennis balls, and treats are required. Getting at dog eye level means mud and wet are part of the deal. And you had better learn quickly just when to step out of the way lest you get run over.

They can be devilishly frustrating.

I can’t tell you how many times tongues have been stuck out at me.

It is impossible not to smile back at a face like this.

It is time-consuming work, but incredibly rewarding. I get to be one of the first people they meet and watch their personalities transform.

And as their frequent “going home” photographer, I get to bookend their time with us.

A blessing indeed.

A Winter Rose

It doesn’t happen often—but often enough to wonder. Dogs that are long-time residents of the rescue—the ones with special behavioral or medical needs who wait for angel adopters—find their way home only to pass unexpectedly just as they have found love. Not that they aren’t loved by us. But there is a difference between being loved and cared for by volunteers and being a chosen special someone and finally being home. It is if—wrapped in that security—that they finally fully relax and let their guard completely down. And in that vulnerability, cancer strikes or hearts fail.

Our hearts go out to their adopters who opened their hearts and homes only to be robbed of precious golden years. And yet, they keep coming back to us to risk it all again. “How lucky that they finally got to experience home,” they—and we say…and believe.

It sometimes happens in reverse. At 10 years of age, Bear survived the Camp Fire and the stress of makeshift accommodations before being surrendered to us.

Without a home, the family had no way to keep him. It wasn’t that his body didn’t show his age: his hind legs were weak and strange lumps and bumps hung off him everywhere. But his demeanor was happy and his old soul was sweet.

One of those lumps concerned our Doc more than the others. Bear took a happy ride to the vet “talking” all the way there as his mom had told us he was wont to do. It’s a German Shepherd thing. Under a gentle, anesthesia-induced sleep, she discovered that that we were too late. The invader had already burst. Bear had given us no clue.

This time, we are the ones feeling robbed. We did not know him long, but you could not love him if you met him.

The first roses of the season are bright and fresh and last and last. But the short-lived last roses of the season—in their frailty—are some of the most beautiful.

Here’s to you, sweet Bear. A winter rose beyond its bloom.

And all of the others we have loved and lost too soon.