Where Else Would She Go?

The call said she was a breeder-surrendered puppy with ectopic ureters. I knew what that meant: she leaked pee.

In the past, she was the kind of puppy that Jody would take up to her house – shielding us from possible heartache if the outlook looked uncertain or grim. But Jody is gone, and an eight-week-old pee girl needs to have her bottom kept clean and dry to stave off infection. I knew that. “Where else is she going to go?” I knew the answer. She had to come home with us.

We have fostered a lot of puppies. She was too small for her age. At eight weeks, she should have been pushing 15 pounds; she weighed in at only 11. She had a bacterial and yeast infection already.

I had a dream that first night. I dreamt that she died.

I reached out and touched the hand of time and knew it was not my friend. We waited for the ultrasound appointment but knew that surgery would be at least 4-5 months away – if the condition was repairable. If it wasn’t? I didn’t want to think that far ahead.

I cleared out the living room and dining room so she would be on washable stone floors. Every supply came out – and more. Mops, buckets, washable pee pads, towels, plastic covered beds, sheets, and gates everywhere. I set my office inside and left one covered couch so I could be close by. It was a small world for her, but a happy one. She ruled her domain, and the big dogs allowed it.

She earned many nicknames: Little Miss Puddles, Miss Pee-a-lot, Tinkle Bell, the Terror of Tinkle Town, and more.

She got her bum washed and dried at last four times a day. At night, we put a diaper on her for an hour – careful not to anger the infection we had beat back – and let her run through the rest of the house. She thought that was a magical time.

Our yard has an open pool, so we set up two enclosures for her in the shade. The big dogs joined her. She loved them.

As often as possible, I took her with me to play in the puppy yard at Homeward Bound. She made friends there.

Finally, ultrasound day arrived. We had been so anxiously awaiting it. The news was devastating and unexpected. Yes – she had an ectopic ureter. But she had only one partially functioning kidney and it was dying.

We had to make a quick decision. It was easy. We brought her home to love her. The weeks we thought we would have turned into only a couple of days – and then a rapid night of decline.

The next morning, we set her free.

Someone said she was just not meant to be – a puppy born with so many obstacles. I knew what they meant, but they were wrong. She was meant to be ours for four short weeks of laughter, joy, and tender puppy kisses. Mabel was meant to be loved.

She left an indelible mark on our chewed baseboards, window sills, table legs – and our broken hearts.

Fly free sweet girl. Fly free.

If the Tables Were Turned

We recently took in two little ones…surrendered shortly after they were purchased (for a pretty penny, I might add), because their people decided they either weren’t dog people, or that a puppy was too much work. One approached us about surrender; we were so grateful that they wanted the best for their little boy. The other was talked out of selling the puppy on Craigslist. Thankfully, they agreed.

In both cases, we were just happy to be able to get them to families who understood the commitment that comes with adoption – or purchase – of a dog of any age.

We have an extensive application process and contract, but it got me to wondering what the dogs would put in a canine contract for people if the tables were turned. It might go something like this:

You realize that I am not a shiny penny or an impulsive decision. You have thought through the choice to add someone to your family, and the time and expense that goes with it.

You promise not to treat me like that fancy bike you got that sits in the garage. I am not a toy to be played with for two weeks and forgotten.

You know that neither one of us is perfect. We all come with some baggage. I will try to leave mine behind if you will do the same and we can make a fresh start together.

I promise to be patient with you when you leave things out that could get me in trouble, and you promise to be patient with me when I chew them up. We will both agree that it is better and safer not to do either.

You know that training is a lifelong commitment – and that it is not just for me. You are half the equation. If you do your part, I will do mine.

If you have little humans, you will remember to watch out for them AND for me and you will help to raise us together with respect and kindness.

You realize that I am not a cat. No offense. But I am not happy living a solitary life. I need human contact and friends to be a well-rounded canine.

If you got me as a puppy or youngster, you recognize that I WILL grow up. And you will promise to still love me when I am old and grey or, heaven forbid, sick, injured or disabled – and need you most.

You commit that if – for any reason – you can no longer keep me, that you will not dump me at a shelter, turn me out, or sell me to the highest bidder. You will take as much care in finding me a good, safe and loving home or reputable rescue as I take in being your loyal, trusting companion.

If you agree to the above, by all means…please bring me home. I would like to be yours. All others need not apply. Thank you.

Mama Always Said

Mama always said you cannot pair orange and pink. She was wrong.

The apricot and pink tulips in the Memorial Garden are a stunning combination.

The birds know…

spring has arrived. Our rose arbor is beautifully rebuilt, and the fruit trees are beginning to blossom.

What I wish Mama had told me was that the alpacas and goats – sent to new homes this winter after Jody’s passing – were the safety plan for the hibernating tortoises.

These beautiful, fifty-year-old creatures had been in Jody’s care for the past several years. When she could not care for them last summer, I looked after them with near daily runs of fresh fruit, greens, corn, and dunks in their pond.

One of their favorites: rose petals. There were four bushes in their enclosure – one for each tortoise. And I made sure that the petals were on weekend breakfast meals.

When they came to wake the tortoises and move them to a new home, they found them dead. I won’t go into it; the tale is too sad. Suffice to say that the hooves of the alpacas and goats protected against marauders. It was a heartbreaking discovery.

This weekend, I moved their roses to the Memorial Garden. I brought with them the four pieces of tortoise art including one heavy stone statue that had long ago lost its head. It was presumed lost but when I picked up the tortoise planter I found it had been stuffed deep inside there long ago. A little gorilla glue should take care of that. If only there were a fix for the dearly departed.

They will be remembered here.

On a happier note: an update on Jody’s garden. A team did come together and in two weeks, amazing progress has been made. The weeds have been beaten back, the raised beds cleared, and the orchard restored. With the jungle cleared, I was able to trace the irrigation system and reset the timers. There is more to do, but we are on the way.

It will be up to the team to determine what to plant: a vegetable gardener – I am not. We will look to donate the surplus to a local food pantry. A small offering of goodwill to the community that has been so supportive of us.

We’ll need that continued support as we are presently swimming in dogs! The expected impact from the pandemic has arrived and their faces are not just Golden, but red, white, brown, black and spotted. Hopefully, we will not see a return to the last recession years when we were taking in 800 dogs a year. But our welcome mat is out and we have LOTS of waiting families.

Winter Skye

Two weeks ago, the asters and Mexican marigolds were still in bloom. Mother Nature can so easily lull Northern California gardeners into false hope of early spring. The narcissus have flowered, the tulips, hyacinths and iris are rapidly making their way. But grey skies and a cold north wind blew in today, with the promise of a hard freeze Monday night.

I was there early for puppy duty. German Shepherd, Annie and her newborns are just visiting. Found stray and very pregnant, she was sent to the shelter. Shelters don’t generally do newborn puppies. Our local GSD rescue pulled her, but reliant on fosters, they had never whelped puppies before. We offered to see her through the birth and their first few weeks before they move to their foster home. Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, our volunteers sat vigil. She birthed six beautiful babies and took to mothering immediately.

Puppy duty at this young age is not hard. It is more about being available to mom for frequent feedings, some cleaning, potty trips and breaks – leaving plenty of time to prepare the garden for the cold ahead.

New shoots and tender perennials are now blanketed in straw.

The sparrows believe it is theirs to nest in.

We began our rescue year with the walking wounded. Broken and fractured pelvises, traumatic nerve damage, one fractured vertebrae; one fractured femur, and a torn ACL. Cars and dogs don’t mix.

My current foster could be counted among them – but his issues are hereditary not inflicted.

At just a few months of age, he was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia. Skye traveled a very long way for our help. He has interest from lots of potential adopters who want to bring him home once fixed – but so far, no one who meets our criteria has stepped up to see him through two FHO surgeries and months of recovery.

So, Skye is hanging out with us. He will have his first surgery on February 10 and his days of torturing his big foster brother Yogi will be over. Despite the abuse, I know where I will find Yogi when we bring Skye home hurting and sad: sleeping right by his side.

Note to potential adopters: four months is a long time not to fall in love with a dog. We are not looking for dog number three – but just saying!

Bundle up your tender fruit trees and plants, my Northern California gardener friends. And to those of you back east – you can stop laughing at us. Revenge is ours. Just wait for February!

Angel At The Bridge

There is a saying: “Wait for them at the bridge.”

It is usually refers to a dog waiting for its faithful human companion(s) at the Rainbow Bridge, where dogs go—just this side of heaven—to run free and play, restored, until they can cross the bridge together with their human again. In this case, it was reversed.

Cannela is the orphaned girl dog of an orphaned man.

Homeless, they lived under a bridge in Mexico – a home that offered some degree of shelter and access to water – but not much more. Whether the man met Cannela before or after Cannela met a car is unclear. The meeting was unfortunate and left Cannela with a broken back and leg.

The man was Cannela’s first guardian angel. He watched over the dog as her broken bones bonded together – not enough to recover the proper use of her hind legs, but enough that she could walk and run a little bit – and wiggle a lot with joy. A happier dog, you have never met.

Death stole the man from Cannela. The dog waited in vain at the bridge for the man’s return until a devastating fire stole the only home Cannela had known.

Somehow, she escaped to the streets. Rumor has it she was picked up and left at the dump. This, I cannot confirm. But the odds of her survival – much less happiness without her guardian angel – were not good.

Thankfully, a second angel stepped in. A rescuer who makes regular trips to the border to save dogs’ lives heard of Cannela’s plight and rushed to her aid. She brought Cannela to Homeward Bound. Thin, flea-covered, lethargic, worrisome. But just a few days of good food and care revealed her happy and adoring personality.

A thorough medical exam and x-rays revealed that nothing could be done about her fused bones. “Just love her,” Doc said. And this is when her third guardian angel stepped in.

Cannela was scooped up by one of our own.

As a permanent foster, all of Cannela’s medical needs will be met for life by Homeward Bound. All the love she needs will be supplied her new family.

Your first angel waits for you at the bridge, Cannela. You will see each other again someday. Just be prepared to share. You have many angels watching over you, now.

All good photos taken by Rob Kessel of Rob and Dog.

Update: Cannela begins swim therapy!

Look Up

My preference for a packed garden has led to some thuggery.

I spent the day cutting back prized but overgrown California fuschias, cerinthe major (honeywort), and even California poppies to allow the verbascum, sea holly, and blazing star see the light of day.

It’s a happy garden that grows so vigorously that it needs to be edited in May!

Sometimes, gardeners get tunnel vision; all we see are the weeds and work.
The same with rescue; the sad stories and hard days can overwhelm.

To be sure, the usual culprits are there in the garden: Bermuda grass and wild morning glory in particular.
But I say ‘look up.’

In rescue, you learn that you cannot dwell on the obstacles and setbacks. You have to look forward to the good that can be done. While our hearts still ache for the loss of our little Rose to Parvo, we have been celebrating the recovery of Lilac. She stayed with us for a bit to ensure that she would go home strong and healthy –

and so she could make up some lost socialization time during her period of isolation.

Post-darkness, she is a gift of sunlight and happiness.

Look up dear gardener – at the magnificent roses, the tall Verbena that towers, and the Daylilies in bloom.

Look up to the brilliant Yarrow, Matijila poppies, and Jupiter’s Beard.

Look forward to the Delta sunflowers, the Dahilias, Agastache, Penstemon, Bee Balm, Rudbeckia, Zinnias, and Salvias. They will be here before you know it.

The weeds, like troubles, will always be there. But it is the good and beauty that deserves our focus.

Happy life, sweet girl.

Among the Flowers

A virus lurked among the flowers.

Not of the pandemic kind. Or even the botanical kind. But of the completely preventable kind that ravages young puppies.

They arrived from a breeder that had been hospitalized. Seven puppies of selling age:
Heather, Iris, Lilac,

Pansy, Poppy, Tulip and Rose.

And two mama dogs. Clover and Dahlia.

Beautiful, fragile flowers. How fragile, we would quickly discover.

At four or five years of age (no one actually tracked her age), Dahlia’s body was wrecked beyond repair. What they noted as a possible thyroid issue was a bladder so enlarged it took up most of her abdominal cavity.

None of the puppies had received their first vaccinations. Unbeknown to us, they had already been exposed to the parvovirus. Within a few days, symptoms began to appear in one – and then another.

Quarantine procedures were initiated. The two were taken to the vet for intensive care. One battled and won. The littlest, dear Rose, was lost. The other five, thankfully, remained well.

It was a devastating time full of rage and grief for the destruction that did not need to be if people would only choose responsible breeders.

Cleared by the vet, Clover and five puppies have found their way home. One baby remains with us until she too receives the all-clear. But she is healthy and strong and is making her understandable displeasure with her isolation known.

In the midst of it, little Zoey arrived.

At 15 weeks, she was surrendered for being “viscous and aggressive.” We know it simply as puppy zoomies. Her first family was clearly inexperienced and unprepared. But we’re so grateful that they recognized they were not up to the task. It gave us the opportunity to get Zoey on the right path to a happy, well-adjusted life. Destruction avoided.

To keep her safe, she came to stay with us where she and our Yogi engaged in epic play. All this girl needed was someone who understands that bursts of puppy energy need to be channeled into positive play and that a tired, well-worn-out puppy is a good puppy.

Her new family with their huge yard, love of adventures, and their high-energy, Border Collie-mix boy, are a perfect fit.

Wins and losses. The work of rescue. We lean in, fortify each other, and put one foot in front of another doing all we can for those who cannot do for themselves.

And in the garden, we will plant special flowers in honor of Dahlia and little Rose so they will know that here, they were loved – and will always be remembered.

Just Set Him Loose

Just set him loose.

That’s what a local shelter told a woman who was trying to surrender a stray, six-month puppy after failing to find tags, a microchip, or its home after posting for over a week.

In the time of COVID-19, if a dog is dangerous, obviously sick, or injured, the shelter will accept – and euthanize it. If it is healthy and safe, and the person is unable to keep it, they (unbelievably) advise setting it loose. In this case, the woman already had well over the legal limit of dogs. A six-month-old, unneutered boy was one too many.

Thankfully, she could not bring herself to do this. Thankfully, we were there.

He arrived on Easter weekend. The team named him Jellybean. I have no doubt that he will be scooped up shortly after he is seen by our vet and neutered. He is absolutely adorable. Someone loved this dog once. Someone spent time housetraining him and teaching him to bring back, leave, and sit. But no one claimed him.

On their website, the shelter states that their mission is “to SAVE LIVES!” I guess the disclaimer should read “in good times.” These are the times that test our commitment and resolve. I hope they don’t ask me for a donation again.

He went from scared to joyful in the span of a half hour with the help of a kind volunteer.

Then, Jellybean and I spent most of the day in the garden.

He is an excellent helper. Attentive,

playful,

and content to be tethered close by as I work.

He does not like the kennel, and looked on as Ivan was adopted…with envy, I think.

Don’t worry little man. This will be you too…soon.

Perspective

A carrier pigeon arrived in the garden in late February. It spent the better part of the day just watching. It was not carrying a written message on its banded leg, but perhaps it foretold what was about to unfold.

The ducks and geese mock us now. Public use areas have been closed due to COVID during the remainder of hunting season. The birds have found plenty of places to feast and fly – unmolested. We envy their togetherness.

The rescue is very quiet.

We have limited our on-site volunteers to two per shift. It ensures that there are teams available to feed, clean, exercise and care for the dogs while protecting ourselves and each other.

I have found a quiet corner in the garden away from working team members to keep the weeds from overrunning the place.

And to get out where it is safe. I usually crave my solitude in the garden.

Strange that I should miss the commotion.

The little boy I wrote about last week – Orbit – has gone to foster.

Remington, too.

They can finish healing there while reducing our volunteers’ chores. Our fosters have stepped up in a big way for which we are grateful.

Solitude is hard for some. If we can find a silver lining in this disaster, it is the forced time to stop our hectic lives long enough to appreciate each other, goodness, and the things that should unite not divide.

“It is only when we silent the blaring sounds of our daily existence that we can finally hear the whispers of truth that life reveals to us, as it stands knocking on the doorsteps of our hearts.” ~K.T. Jong

A friend posted to social media. She was feeling frustrated and penned up. To busy herself, she cleaned her bookshelf where she found a copy of The Diary of Anne Frank. Perspective.

Let the Strong Survive?

Yes. I heard him correctly. A cavalier statement until your child, spouse, or parent fall ill. And yourself? Will you promise not to reach out for help if you need it yourself? Is your attitude limited to the current situation – or does it carry over to cancer, heart disease, childbirth, and more? I am concerned for a world where this kind of thought takes hold.

These are times that test our humanity. And I am grateful to be surrounded by people who regard the aged, sick, and vulnerable with concern and compassion – for humans and animals alike. Without them, there would be no Remington.

A giant of a Golden boy who had been hit by a car. His fractured leg was minor compared to the enormous loss of skin and threat of infection.

His was a case no other rescue would or could take on. But Remington was welcomed by us where his enormously expensive twice-daily, wound-honey bandage changes saved his leg and his life.

At the three-month marker, he is halfway through his healing process –

and finally approved for walks and off-leash time in the yard.

His gratitude and capacity for love are as great as his size. A world without Remington would have been a loss for all.

There would be no Kobe. A big, goofy, Labrador Retriever with a mast cell tumor on his foot.

Hospice would have been one route, but because the metastasizing cancer was still limited to his leg, we opted for amputation to give Kobe a chance at a long, happy life.

His new family cannot imagine life without him.

There would be no Orbit.

This boy came to us recently with a broken jaw. Shelters are overrun now under even more pressure from this damned virus. They do not have the resources to house, much less treat, dogs like Orbit. He stood no chance there. Thankfully, he came to us and underwent surgery to repair his jaw. It will take eight weeks of special care to make him whole again, but the affection he displays is worth every bit of effort. Some waiting family will be grateful that he was saved.

And we would not have known and loved Violet.

Violet lived with us in sanctuary for over a year at the request of her human who could no longer care for himself or her. At the age of 13, with countless maladies, should he have left her behind to fend for herself or dumped her at a shelter to die alone? She – and he – found peace in our care. And when the time came to say ‘goodbye’ – we were by her side. A promise kept.

A garden ruled by your philosophy would be overrun by strong-arm weeds. Gardens thrive through nurturing and care of the hardy and the delicate.

You’re strong. Great. Save yourself. By opening your heart, reaching out, and showing compassion for others because without our humanity – we are nothing.

In My Dream

In my dream, I hear the sounds of thunder. Growling, gnarling, teeth gnashing in a battle to ensure each has their own. Looting and hoarding. Sounds of terror and squeals of alarm. Intimidation and threats. Bodies slammed to the ground.

Awakened. The sounds continue; the smell is unbearable.
Is this our end?
No. It is puppies at play!

Ferocious cubs. Testing out their tiny voices and might on the early path to doghood.

Four Great Pyrenees puppies to be exact.

They invaded our home when their devoted mom had finally had enough of them. When she packed their bags, they were cute little fluff balls. Now they are growing like little monsters – consuming their enclosure – desperate to get out and play.

This is Adele’s litter.

Born in a field. Found by a good Samaritan. Frighteningly, taken to a shelter where the threats that lurk are as great as the elements and predators: diseases.

We whisked them away.

Jody, our leader, kept mama and her babies isolated and closely guarded for their first fragile weeks – protected against dogs and humans with their germy cargo. Life-saving protections.

They thrived.

They exceeded mom’s patience.

And they pushed the cuteness scale off the charts – along with their weights.

They are endlessly poopy, smelly, bundles of fur – so fat, they waddle and are easily tipped by the big dogs.

They are all being treated for icky poo…leaving a trail of sticky footprints wherever they wander…and a mountain of laundry.

Chaos reigns in our home.

My husband loves them dearly but has made clear: four puppies with liquid poo – too much for future reference! (As if!)

Soon, they will be well and ready to go home – and it will be quiet again.

For now, they are a welcome if exhausting diversion from the days’ news and a reminder of all that is still sweet, joyful, and filled with hilarity and tomorrow’s hopes.

And we could all use a little of that right now.

Getting Our Feet Under Us

Mother Nature has been taunting us. Sending daytime temps soaring, then blowing in a light freeze. To boot – a bone-dry, record-breaking February. Not a drop of rain.

As I undertake the annual editing of Asters, I’m glad that I moved summer-blooming perennials in the fall. Apparently, there is an old gardener saying that this helps them get their feet under them.

Someone else needed some help getting her feet under her. Her name is Babe. And she stole my heart.

Babe was destined for China’s dog meat market. Having been used to raise puppies for three years, she was loaded onto a truck with dozens of other dogs and shipped off. Brave activists literally stop these trucks on the highway in confrontations that can get ugly. While eating dogs is not illegal in China, the (barbaric) slaughter of animals without health certificates is. Still, officials look the other way and let these warriors of heart fight it out themselves. Thankfully, Babe’s rescuers were successful. She and many more were pulled from the truck and taken to a shelter where they were quarantined and tested, receiving required vaccinations and health certificates as they waited for a chance at a real life.

Dogs like Babe don’t get adopted in China. It is illegal to keep a dog her size in the city, and there is a bias against anything “used.”

She is a timid girl. Submissive and frightened in new environments. All of this was a lot for her. She arrived in early January with a group of dog and spent another two weeks in communal quarantine where I was one of her caregivers.

At the beginning, she had to be lifted out of her kennel to the yard. She is extremely thin, but her frame is large and heavy.

Over the course of the two weeks, she went from crawling and cowering to full-on play with the group.

When she left the safety of her quarantine for the kennels, it was a setback for her. So she was moved to the senior yard where she lived and thrived in the company of other dogs.

Babe reminds me of our Boris…another one from China.

We weren’t sure he would make it that first morning after his late night arrival. Finding the right home made all the difference. He came by for a photo shoot recently; the transformation is hard to believe.

This is what love will do.

Babe needed a home like Boris’. A loving, patient and quiet home – providing time and stability so she could get her feet under her and learn the ways of a loved family dog.

We found that for Babe recently. And the family says she is blossoming – just like Boris and the plants I moved last fall.