New Hope for a New Year

Hope rises from tragedy.

The unexpected strength and resolve of a country attacked by its hostile neighbor. The awakening of some that they have been had and used – and that the man behind the curtain is no wizard at all but a propped-up clown. Torrential rains and flooding gives rise to the possible retreat of three-year drought.

And an Ohio puppy mill shuttered by family misfortune means freedom and new lives for 45 dogs. If you follow us on social media, you’ve read the story. But here it is for the rest of you.

In December, Homeward Bound was part of a coordinated rescue of 30 dogs – 12 of them pregnant – and 15 puppies. Their freedom rides were courtesy of Golden and Labrador rescues across the country. The request to accommodate a very expectant girl came from our rescue partner in Oregon who took a pregnant mom themselves. Her litter of nine is being hand-fed around the clock as the mother required emergency surgery.

Traveling cross country just before a record cold snap, the trip was harrowing for our mom. A beautiful Goldendoodle, she spent her entire four years of life producing puppies in an Ohio puppy mill.

She arrived at dawn on December 22nd, stressed and terrified – unsure what to make of her indoor accommodations. Warmth, heaping bowls of food, clean water, and soft blankets…these were all new to her. She didn’t have a name, so we chose something appropriate for her breed and the season. We named her Snickerdoodle.

Her labor began the next afternoon. Six hours in, we felt sure the babies’ arrival would not be until morning. But as soon as she had a moment’s privacy, the process began. Snickerdoodle was obviously accustomed to giving birth alone. Life in a puppy mill is a lonely existence.

Monitoring her on a remote camera, our president and birthing mom turned right around and returned to be by her side. By 1AM, she had delivered seven beautiful puppies. Waiting another hour, she felt safe that mom was done. However, when I arrived early the next morning, I found nine puppies. I cleaned and fed her and left her room for about an hour. Upon my return, I counted again: 12! Then I literally caught the last, number 13.  

An experienced mom, only the last little one needed some assistance – if only because it was so hard for mom to reach over the other 12. Exhausted, she ate, drank, and slept while the newborn babies created a constant chorus maneuvering for a suckling turn. They were born into a thick blanket of fog.

Two very tiny ones struggled and came home with me for every two-hour feedings. Heartbreakingly, I could not save them. Adversity still followed the others when record rain and hurricane force winds knocked out power forcing their overnight evacuation to our vet clinic that runs, with the kennel, on generator. But mom and the 11 thrive.

A few days later, two more of the breeder girls also came our way. There will be no more litters for these three moms. Each will be carefully placed in loving homes to live long, spoiled lives.

New hope for a New Year.   

Powering Through

Today, I ordered Dahlias for the 2023 garden. I had about given up on these old-fashioned beauties; not native or usual in our typically drought-tolerant Memorial Garden – but they had always been a special blooming gem in the early years of the garden. Between increasing temperatures and the blazing sun of our Sacramento Valley, the army of snails that quickly gobble up tasty first cotyledon leaves, and failed attempts to overwinter the tubers in our climate, I was sure it was time to throw in the trowel. Then I came across a series of articles about starting Dahlias in pots.

In our region, Dahlias ship in late February. By mid-March last year, I had 20 potted in my backyard where I could keep a close watch out for snails, moisture and drainage needs. By the first week of April, all had sprouted. I began succession planting in mid-April after they grew mature leaves less appealing to the voracious snails. Their new home is in the filtered shade of a tree where they receive full sun from sunrise until midday but are well protected from the blazing afternoon sky. I fed them monthly with 10/10/10 organic fertilizer and they get admitted special treatment with an extra drink when the weather turns too hot. The result: they bloomed all summer and into November except for ungodly heat waves in August and September.

A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.

May Sarton

This week, we celebrated the move of our last three Parvo litter puppies to foster. It is the next-to-last step on their journey to forever homes.

Volunteer Pam B fostering the three recovered pups.

It’s the kind of victory that will sustain us for a long time. Hopefully, we will see them all again in a year for a happy reunion.

While we cared for them, we also welcomed a litter of five Golden pups from a Midwest puppy mill supposedly going out of business. Thankfully, they were all relatively healthy and able to be adopted within a couple of weeks. Another triumph.

Sadly, efforts to secure the breeding pair failed. A great loss. With the economy suffering, we are seeing puppy mills and backyard breeders shedding their puppies at rates not seen since the 2008 recession. Unfortunately, these operations are too easily restarted when the breeding dogs are held.

A few triumphs…set against a series of losses thanks to a network of fellow rescuers who persevere.

Stop the purchase of puppies from puppy mills, the retail stores they sell to, and disreputable breeders, and we can put them all out of business for good. It’s as simple as that. Spread the word.

Delivered

When the forecast calls for rain in our parched Northern California – I am always a believer. This weekend – it did not disappoint. You can almost hear the trees and plants breathing in the good soak.

However, when it comes to rescue, I have learned to adopt a healthy bit of skepticism – if only to prepare my heart.

Recently, one of our volunteers connected with a woman looking to “rehome” Golden Retriever puppies on Craigslist. In fact, she of course meant to sell them claiming they were an “oops” litter. Our volunteer was surprised to hear back from the woman several weeks later, asking to surrender the pups…ten in total. It was suspicious that they had gone unsold, but, of course, we said ‘yes.’

I was not there the day they were delivered. The photo seemed to reflect that they were bright and alert. Then someone mentioned that one was worrisomely lethargic. My mind immediately went to Parvo. I’ve been through it before.

We isolated them as we do all puppies. My fear was confirmed the next morning when one puppy was rushed to the vet. The heartbreaking decision was made to let her go. In the final stages, Parvo is very painful and it was the kindest thing. The next day – two more were lost.

Parvo is deadly to puppies. Protection requires four rounds of vaccinations which is why we always caution that puppies cannot go to public places – even sidewalks – until fully vaccinated. The mortality rate for puppies is a devastating 80%.

Strict isolation protocols were put in place with a tiny team to watch over the others. We were determined to save the remaining seven. Under guidance from our dedicated vet, we established two isolation areas – one for those showing symptoms (lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea among them) – and a separate space for those without. Our president personally took all shifts for the three in greatest danger – administering their care and watchfully waiting. The other four progressed well, learning what regular access to food meant and quickly gaining weight.

When it was safe, we sent the four to foster and celebrated the day when the three could be released from their separate isolation. They are now on the rebound.

This is where my skepticism creeps in. We try to give people the benefit of the doubt and to be genuinely grateful for the chance to help, but I suspect that the surrenderer knew what she delivered to us. Honesty might have helped us save more.

We offered to spay and neuter her dogs – something she said she wanted to do but could not afford. We sent her education about Parvo and why future litters were likely to suffer the same fate. We never heard back. After a Parvo litter, homes and yards cannot be used for up to a year after complete disinfecting or removal of surfaces. I grieve for her next litter – those that will suffer the same fate and those that go to unsuspecting families destined for heartbreak.

I have no issue with responsible breeders who truly care for their dogs, puppies, and the families that purchase them. But please help spread the word about how to identify them versus backyard or puppy mill breeders who create tragedies like this. This is a resource you can share.

Our Foster Friends

Before I disappeared for nearly a year, I wrote about our foster Ahsoka. The darling Golden Retriever/Great Pyrenees pup is now the giant Lucy who lives a spoiled and happy life with her mom, Susan. Lucy comes back to visit occasionally and has regular play dates with our foster puppies and their shared companion – Skye, our two-year-old boy.

Susan joined our puppy foster team last February by volunteering to foster an entire litter of German Shepherd puppies and their momma, Annie. She is an excellent puppy mama.

In my absence, I did not chronicle this year’s foster puppies. That weighs on me. I love remembering them here. So let’s catch up.

Roxy’s backyard breeder has decided to take advantage of our location. A posted sign offering Golden Retriever puppies has been permanently affixed near our rescue and he routinely sells puppies out of the back of his truck. The man that purchased her made an impulse buy and then surrendered her to us a couple of weeks later. It seems the family was not on board. His English was limited; all he wrote on the surrender contract was “I love her.” It was easy to understand why.

This incredibly gentle girl, now named Indy, found her home with a great family and four young children.

Hank was purchased from a backyard breeder and surrendered shortly after. This giant puppy, nicknamed Hank the Tank, was overwhelming the family cats and small dog with his puppy exuberance and strength.

He found the perfect home with an active couple living at the lake and in the snow. His giant head and drooping eyes have finally grown into his massive body but along with his rapid growth came a devastating diagnosis of cancer – rare at such a young age.

Thankfully, his devoted parents are seeing him through. After surgery and radiation, he is on the home stretch of chemo treatment with a positive prognosis. Paws crossed. He is in my prayers daily.

Mickey was found stray at three months of age traveling with an unrelated Golden. The shelter sent a photo and said he was a Doodle. Note to self: always ask for a photo to scale. Not that I regret the masquerade for one minute!

Affectionate and starved for people attention, this little Terrier mix was not our typical foster, but the golden heart of his traveling companion definitely wore off on him. He fit right in with our pack until he found his forever home with a mom who is always by his side.

Comet came to stay with us to recover from desperately needed FHO (femoral head ostectomy) surgery – something we had been through with our own boy, Skye.

He was in a very big hurry to run, jump and play but first he needed to rebuild muscle through swimming, gradual exercise, and, eventually, controlled play with our dogs. When he started doing zoomie circles in his pen at 5:30 in the morning, we knew he was ready for home.

He is living his best life with his new family at the lake where he puts all those swimming exercises to regular use.

“No one wants that puppy. Give me a hundred bucks and get her out of here.” Found sitting in a crate in her own filth at a puppy mill in the Midwest, Willow was five months old and not destined for good things. The Good Samaritan that found her drove her across the country to California. Willow was completely shut down – frozen at human touch. The woman, realizing she was in over her head, surrendered her to us.  I carried her off the transport, into my car, and into our home where she was greeted by our three Goldens. It was exactly what she needed. Within a couple of days, all that fear vanished.

We quickly learned why “no one wants that puppy.” Willow has epilepsy. A low dose of medication has kept the seizures at bay, and she found the perfect home with a woman whose own mother also had seizures. She could not be more loved.

Harley arrived with a heart condition: SAS (subvalvular aortic stenosis) with a serious grade. But you would never know it by the way he runs and plays.

Clinical studies show that the invasive surgery some recommend has no impact on a dog’s long-term outcome. Instead, he will be on a beta-blocker for life. How long will his life be? No one knows. Like those athletes you hear about, his heart may just stop someday. Or – like some dogs we have known – he could live to be 10 with good quality care. The most important thing is a life well-lived, full of fun, adventures, and love. We found that for him.        

Mini-Murphy was part of an “unplanned litter” between a Goldendoodle (Golden Retriever/Poodle) and Labradoodle (Labrador Retriever/Poodle). People…there is nothing “unplanned” about an unspayed female dog and an unneutered male dog living together. He was purchased by an older couple (the husband was 81) who quickly realized their decision to bring home a puppy had been directed by their hearts, not their heads. They stated that Murphy is a smart puppy with a good temperament…does normal puppy things…and is delightful and deserves a family that can physically interact with him…”he is the epitome of a joyful, bright, and totally loveable puppy.” They were right about that.

He lives with two active children so they can all get their zoomies out together.

Milo, my foster shadow, was purchased as a gift for a family with six children ages toddler to 16…and another on the way. Needless to say, he spent most of his time in a crate and went outside only on a leash. They knew he deserved better. Despite this less-than-ideal beginning, he proved to be a very well-adjusted puppy who loves dogs, cats, and humans of all ages.

A cuddler who followed me everywhere I went, Milo was especially hard to say goodbye to. He went home with a family and their dog whose hearts needed mending from the loss of another companion. “Now I have two shadows” his new mom wrote. He is where he belongs.

It is always hard to say goodbye to our foster pups – but rewarding to see the joy they bring to others.

So, with apologies to all my 2022 foster kids, we are now caught up.

The Prettiest Bloom

Fall just seems to have melted into winter. A month ago, the garden was in stunning bloom.

Now only a few cold hardy, fog-loving plants have found their bloom – refusing to surrender.

Maria’s garden art signals winter is upon us.

Soon, all will be quiet and grey – but spring bulbs are just a couple of months away. You can’t beat gardening in Northern California. Please pray for rain – it looks to be a long, brown summer.

Someone else bloomed today. Ahsoka was our latest foster. Someone thought they had purchased another of those pint-sized “English Cream” designer Golden Retrievers. After a few weeks of puppyhood, they surrendered with two comments:

“It’s harder than having a newborn baby.” And…”She’s growing REALLY fast.”

One: yes puppies are harder than newborn babies. Both wake in the night, but one will potty on the floor instead of diapers. And one is mobile with razor sharp puppy teeth. It will be a long time before the other is ready for its reign of terror.

As for growing REALLY fast…that might have something to do with the fact that she is mixed with Great Pyrenees! She’s a stunning beauty who will quickly grow to 70+ pounds!

She was much better off with us than in the crate they kept her in day and night. She came to stay for a couple of weeks and had her first taste of freedom. She and our Skye instantly bonded and he helped her with big dog socialization. They are BFFs.

But its best for puppies to learn from other puppies where the lessons are gentler. So newly adopted Ahsoka – now Lucy – attended her first day of puppy school today.

Shy in new situations, she hung with humans and sought out teacher for reassurance at first.

But good friends are hard to resist.

She quickly got the hang of it and was soon joined in all the fun.

It’s rare that we get to see our foster puppies grow up – but Ahsoka/Lucy was adopted by a fellow volunteer, so we – and Skye – will enjoy seeing her blossom and come into her own.

She’s a very special flower in the winter garden.

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.

Catching Up

Dear Across the States Gardeners,

I am so sorry for your cold and snow. Not to rub it in, but I spent the weekend cutting back and clearing out for spring. The danger of frost is now past and the buds on the roses and trees and emerging Daffodils and Tulips signal that a new season is not far away.

The process revealed a plethora of ladybugs –

and blasted Bermuda grass run amuck.

First a final freeze, and then a huge wind blew through last week.

We lost several trees and it picked up our beautiful arbor and tossed it as if it was made of sticks.

It was the very first thing in the garden – long before there was a garden. As if Jody wanted to plant a stake in the overgrown ground and claim it. Built strong and steady by one of “Da Guys” on our facility crew – it sailed but did not break. The legs have been removed and it will be rebuilt, finding its rightful spot soon along our memorial brick-lined path.

The lower trunks of the plum tree that has been threatening failure for the past five years found the ground. Our garden friend, Joey, gave it a professional haircut and hopefully a couple more years of life.

Our baby German Shepherd puppies and their mama, Annie, have found a generous and willing foster to see them through their upraising.

The woman’s dog passed a couple of months ago and she found her home too quiet and empty. There’s nothing like a litter of puppies to fix that! Annie will be so much happier there – and my focus will shift, as planned, to Skye’s first surgery next Wednesday.

It hurts my heart to think of months of rehab for this boy who is so full of life. But it will ensure that he has a long, active and pain-free life. I will keep the end goal in mind and hope he forgives me.

It occurred to me that in my hard-to-write 2020 year, that I had not documented two of our fosters here. The list was not nearly as long as 2019, but lest they be forgotten…

Rubble was named for the place he was found – in a pile of rubble, stray at only 3-4 months of age. This adorable boy with the crooked ears needed a better start to life, so he came home to stay with us for a bit.

I met with his potential adopters when he was ready. It was a meeting unlike any other. They had recently lost their beloved companion. Usually, people instantly swoon and fall in love with puppies but they seemed reserved. I worried that they were not connecting. When they asked if they could go home and think about it, I thought: well, you already know the answer. They left and Rubble and I started packing up to return home. The phone rang. It was the couple. They were on their way back. I was skeptical until I learned the reason for their hesitation: the man thought that maybe he was being disloyal to their departed dog. The woman told him: this is exactly what he would want and what we need to fill the holes in their hearts. And so Rubble became Rebel. He visits our classes weekly and recently graduated to the big dog school! He could not be more loved.

Louie was born blind in one eye. He was raised outside with two other dogs. He was very thin and clearly had to compete for food. When he lost the second eye to trauma – likely over a food discussion – he was suddenly blind. And apparently useless to his people. They left him in a shelter with a the gaping, untreated wound.

Our Doc removed both eyes for his long term health. When he was ready, he came home with us. We quickly saw the food guarding issue – but we also worked with a trainer to get it under control. Other than that, he was a complete love. He adapted very quickly to house living – navigating steps and obstacles with ease. This blind puppy just needed a little guiding.

His potential family was hand-picked. Regan is a young 10-year-old girl who has raised and donated her birthday money each of the last several years to the dogs. Last Christmas, when she came out to deliver her gift, she fell in love with a 12-year-old Golden with terminal cancer who had been abandoned at the vet. Regan convinced her family that Monk needed to be home with them. She lovingly cared for Monk through his last five and a half months of life.

This Christmas, Regan’s parents surprised her and her siblings by bringing Louie – now Murphy – home. It is clear from reports and photos that adopting a blind dog has been a truly rewarding experience for Regan and her family. Fostering one was for us, as well.

And now…we are caught up!

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.

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.

The One That Got Away

On Christmas Day, I returned to the garden.

It has been about a month since I have spent any real time there except to rake and do light cleanup.

That’s what happens when foster puppies come to call.

Little Daisy—now Gabby—was with us for a month. Arriving at only seven weeks, she had already been passed around and surrendered for the birth defect on her eye.

At 11 weeks, she was healthy and fat and strong enough for her surgery.

Her eye was removed as the hairy tissue had grown to cover nearly 90 percent of her cornea and was extending to her lower lid. She sees better now without the constant obstacle blocking her view. She recovered quickly and was home in time for Christmas—her new mama’s bundle of joy (and potty-obstinance!).

Happy life, little girl.

In Northern California, we don’t put the garden to bed for the winter as much as we tidy up.

There is still color and foliage to admire –

but work to be done.

When the blossoms fall, the bees finally retreat enough to find the source of the pesky Bermuda grass. The damp ground Is much more gracious about giving up the fugitives it harbors – abolishing all excuses. As the leaves shed, the structure of the garden comes into view. It’s time to start editing select trees and shrubs being careful to leave basal foliage growth protected against expected frost.

Time is measured by the passing seasons –

and the growth of foster pups.

Lily was one of this year’s foster puppies. One that I never wrote about. Not because she was not memorable – but because she was too much so.

People ask how my husband and I can foster puppies and never want to keep them. We had never been tempted. We see ourselves as a part of their journey. Their parting is bitter sweet but we are excited for their new families. Our house is full of doggie love and we know that keeping one might prevent us from helping more.

But Lily was different.

At eight weeks of age, she was found “stray” in a parking lot with a broken leg and taken to an area shelter. Thankfully, she came to us quickly in time to do surgery and save her leg. The photo I took upon her arrival is heartbreaking.

She recovered at our president’s home until she reached a point where she needed regular swim therapy to help rebuild the atrophied muscle around her still growing bones.

So she came home with us where we could swim her in our pool multiple times throughout the day.

We fell in love immediately.

She gained strength quickly. Too quickly. Before we knew it, she had been promised.

She is the one that got away.

Lily has an incredible mom and dad, and to be honest, a life more full of adventures than we could have provided. She could not be more loved and doted on. That is what we want for all of our foster babes.

Still, I keep her photo on my desktop. And when she came to visit this weekend, I was filled with joy and tears.

She is where she is supposed to be. And so am I. In the garden awaiting the next foster arrival.