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!

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!

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.

Joy Spread. Joy Returned.

“Don’t you just want to take them all home?” new volunteers ask in worry. The truth is, no. My two boys fill my heart and our home. And while we truly enjoy our occasional tiny foster guests, the quiet following the mayhem is blissful. That doesn’t mean that it is easy to say ‘goodbye.’ Adoption days at the rescue are often bittersweet. But our job is to be the bridge on the dogs’ journeys to their own forever homes. If we all filled ours to the brim, there would be no time or capacity to help others.

The hardest part of being a puppy mama is handing them off to their new families. The best part is staying connected and watching them grow up without having to deal with house training accidents, disappeared shoes, or destroyed gardens.

The Giants litter of Summer ’16 returns for reunions every six months –

now all towering over their lanky mom, Molly and dad, Harley who watches from the tennis ball sideline.

Timmy and Wyatt – my February fosters – returned this summer with their sister, Cici.

Journey’s mom stays in touch regularly to share how much my little tomboy is loved.

And now, my puppy worlds have collided – with Bonnie (formerly Latte) of Irish’s Litter

attending puppy class with Yves and Andre of the Doodle litter.

This prompted each to follow the Giant’s litter example and set up a Facebook group page to stay in contact with the families of the litter mates.

Reunions are sweet –

and raucous – with joyful greetings quickly turning into jousting displays of sibling love.

Some things never change.

Siblings seem to pick up right where they left off.

It is a joy to play a small role in a dog’s journey home. Even more so when we receive updates like this one from the couple who adopted Gage, written about here:

“Happy Thanksgiving HBGRR! Forever grateful for your love and kindness to your Fool’s Gold pups! Gage was rescued just before Christmas last year after he and Sadie were pulled by a good Sam from their life chained together. He just spent a week on the central coast watching sunsets (or birds) running the hills off leash and cuddling with his brother Toby! We adore this guy!”

Joy spread. Joy returned.

The Welcome Mat

When our Jackson picked Yogi out for adoption last fall, I sometimes thought our Bella had been reincarnated in him.


The way he cuddles, paws you for pets, refuses to be ignored, hogs the bed, and enjoys gardening with me were wonderfully familiar. But he was definitely his own dog and a bit of a project one at that. On our first few walks, I wondered what I had gotten myself into when he reacted very negatively to select dogs passing by. I’m not kidding. Four paws came off the ground with ferocious barking. It wasn’t aggression. It was insecurity. When he wasn’t doing that – he was hugging my leg for dear life.

Bella was not great with other dogs. As long as we kept our distance, she was OK, but bringing a dog into the house was too much for her. Which meant that fostering – of all but little puppies – was out of the question.

I began working with Yogi immediately. Working on positive association (“look Yogi, nice dog!” / sit / treat) and gradually introducing him to friendly neighbor dogs. When friends came by with dogs unannounced and marched into the house to tail-wagging welcomes, I knew we had made progress. When Rush stayed with us, and Yogi welcomed him so warmly, I knew the progress was good.


Last Sunday night, when concerns at the Oroville Dam about an hour away forced the evacuation of surrounding communities, we made a decision to move the rescue’s friendliest dogs to foster and prepared to evacuate the rest if the call came. So, when my husband and I loaded two five-month-old puppies and two 11-year old Goldens into the car, I admit to saying a little prayer that Yogi would be a good boy. And what a good boy he was.

I knew the puppies would not be a concern; he loved them instantly.


While Jackson just rolled his eyes and moved to the back room, Yogi wanted to jump into their little area and start the play!


Then my husband unloaded Felix and Max, one at a time. Jackson had met them before. In fact, I thought they would be candidates for adoption when we lost Bella. But Jackson was the odd boy out in that threesome, and he selected our young hellion instead. We did introductions on leash in the front yard with Jackson present. Neutral territory. Tails were up, butts were sniffed, and then everyone moved into the house with excitement, but ease.

I kept the big boys separated at first. But after a day, they all decided: enough of that.


And for the rest of the time that Felix and Max stayed with us, everyone was together. Have you ever tried to sleep with four snoring dogs?


Meanwhile, the puppies needed exhausting: Yogi to the rescue!


I’m so proud of this boy. Somewhere along the way, my insecure wildebeest became the kind of dog that would roll out the welcome mat to a dog in need.


We have another big storm bearing down on us and our water-logged levees.
Our emergency plan is tested and ready.
And my houseful of boys has been a lot of work – but an absolute delight.




Yona. An unusual name for a dog. In Hebrew, it means “dove.”

Returned to a rural breeder with the familiar story: cute puppy becomes one-year-old dog with one-year-old dog energy and enthusiasm. The breeder was responsible and ensured that any of her pups would come back to her, if necessary. But her life had changed in unexpected ways and Yona was more than she could handle.

He is insecure and hugs a leg on walks – all 70 beefy pounds of him – until a squirrel comes along and all hell breaks loose. Unaccustomed to car, bikes, and strangers, he is anxious and on alert. He bears scars and scabs on his neck, most likely from the kind of shock collar used for electronic fences in the country. A note in his file says that he has separation anxiety. He is never more than a few feet away – clearly starved for attention.

Having given the signal that our Jackson needed company after the loss of our Bella, and that my husband and I, too, could be ready for Jackson’s sake – the call quickly followed. Bring Jackson to meet Yona.


At first blush, the age difference seemed too great; his size – too large. But Yona, the dove, surprised me. Jackson and Yona played for nearly two hours in the large park at Homeward Bound, with our eight-year-old boy more than holding his own.


So I loaded them in the car for a foster try-out. Back at the house, they crashed together.


And Yona – the country, outside dog, quickly took to the comforts of home.


Play followed in the evening. They slept – apart at first, and then together on the bed (leaving little room for humans!). And in the morning – wrestle mania exploded throughout the house. Why does boy dog play involve so much gnashing of teeth and humping?

He is just a giant puppy, really. After a couple of days, his surprisingly good house manners are showing truer colors. He hops onto the window sill to see out, he puts his paws on the counter, he brings a pillow to me as if to say: “I could. I really could!”

Testing the separation anxiety, the boys were left for first five minutes, then ten, thirty, and an hour. No issues. But when I took Jackson for a walk and left Yona behind – the crying began. We’ll keep testing and working on it, ensuring that he is well worn out first, and making no big deal of comings and goings.

Meanwhile, they are testing each others’ boundaries – and Jackson definitely knows how to draw the line. But with an advantage of nearly seven years and twenty plus pounds on our boy, we just want to be sure that Yona doesn’t squish or thoroughly exhaust Jackson. Three days in, Jackson is definitely feeling his age.



It’s not just how dogs play that makes a good match – it’s how they settle, as well.


I was feeling pretty guilty bringing such a young and handsome pup home for a tryout. By looks alone, he is the type of dog that many adopters hope for. The puppy stuff is normal. But he definitely needs training and patience to help him become a more confident boy and a far better walker. And just maybe, a more mature dog could help to show him the way.

Foster Failure


“I’m a failure!” she exclaimed. “The very best kind,” said we.
On an earlier post, I shared that Kate and her family were fostering Maggie, to give her a soft place to land while she recovered from recent medical procedures.


I am pleased to share this updated capture of our board clearly showing Maggie moving from the Foster to Adopted column.


Which makes Kate an official “Foster Failure!”
Congratulations to all…and happy life, sweet Maggie. We were kind of hoping it would go that way.


The Bridge

Mojo was the last dog of 2014. Dog number 410. Something tells me he won’t be with us long. 🙂


Hunter is the first dog of 2015. He was literally pulled from a Los Angeles shelter after closing on New Year’s Eve. Special elves opened the gates to help set him free and into the waiting arms (and van) of Barry – one of the many angels who help ferry dogs on their journeys home. Hunter (on the left) spent his New Year’s night in foster style waiting for transport. He has yet to arrive on site…hmmm. Another failed foster? Or transport adoption/abduction in the works? It wouldn’t be the first!


Maria, one of our devoted gardeners, is an experienced foster “mom” herself. For the past two and a half years, she provided permanent foster to handsome Beau.


Our permanent fosterers are special angels. They take the dog as their own, while the dog legally remains Homeward Bound’s. The rescue continues to provide all of the medical care the dog needs throughout its life. It is the perfect arrangement for special needs or very senior dogs. Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue alleviates concerns about medical expenses, making it easier for families to say “yes” to a dog in need.

Beau was both a special needs and senior dog. When he went to live with Maria at the age of 11, he already had failing hind legs.


Regardless, Beau went everywhere Maria went, even traveling in a special cart when walks became too much.


When Maria was out of the country on one of her many world travels, her sons and devoted caregivers, Aly and Drew, stayed with him. But his favorite place to be was right beside Maria in the garden.


He was never alone – and utterly adored. When his time finally came, Maria was determined not to have another dog too soon. And then she met Yule.

When our beloved companions leave us, some people wonder how you could open your heart again. We ask: how could you not? The loss of a dog never leaves us. But love has a way of making hearts grow larger.


“Our feet still go around the place the food dish used to be.
And, sometime, coming home at night, we miss them terribly.
And although time may bring new friends and a new food dish to fill,
That one place in our hearts belongs to them…and always will.” ~ Linda Barnes

I showed you how Yule melted into Maria’s hands when he first arrived a couple of weeks ago. He’s a shy boy – and a young one at only two years of age. He’s also a little hard to read in a rescue environment.


Today was Yule’s special day. Maria is wearing her foster hat again.


Whether he ends up staying with her forever, or only for a while, her time with him is a gift. It allows Yule to gain confidence in the security of a home environment, and it provides an opportunity for us to learn much more about him. If he is not Maria’s forever dog, our odds of making a perfect match are better for their time together.


Beau will never be forgotten. Rather, he is honored by Maria as she makes room in her heart – and home – for Yule.

“I am the bridge between what was and what can be. I am the pathway to a new life.” ~ Diane Morgan, A Poem to My Foster Dog

Good News In Buckets

Remember when I was whining about the injustice of the flooded rice fields adjacent to our water-starved garden? Well look at us now!


The area beyond the levy is the rice field. The area in front shows the overflown banks of our pond at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue.

Good News #1: It rained. Buckets and buckets. For hours on end. It rained so long and so hard I thought we might float away.


Good News #2: We did not float away. But we did have some flooding, and we’re left with pooling water everywhere. Every time our pups go out, they get covered in mud. Us too. (Candy was working on manners with new arrival, Tucker. Looks like Tucker: 1; Candy: 0 so far!)


The rain created rivers of water that swept the garden’s walk-on bark paths away.


I spent the day putting down a layer of shreds to soak up the mud and make the place passable.


Good News #3: More rain is on the way, but in more manageable doses this time. We need every drop of it to help put an end to our three-year-long drought.

December_Grey Skies_DSC_0426

Good News #4: Remember scared Missy from last week’s blog post? She went to her foster home. Given that her foster mom has already renamed her Maggie, we’re pretty sure that they will be a foster failure together. We love foster failures.


When they first met, Missy was still shy.


It didn’t last long.


She jumped in the car with no prompting and said “let’s go!” Looks like a perfect match to me!

Pieces of the Heart

This is a story we have heard too many times through these past recession years: good families who love their four-legged family members, but are forced to surrender them due to circumstances beyond their control.


Roxy’s family loved her dearly, but had to move to an apartment and could no longer keep her. Now due to circumstances beyond her control, and through no fault of her own, twelve-year-old Roxy is in search of a new family to love.


Lucky for her, she is being lovingly cared for by foster mom, Michele, and her rescued twin, Murphy. Michele does not want Murphy labeled as a failed foster. Actually, I assured her, she is the failed fosterer; Murphy is a proud alum! Besides, we have a special place in our hearts for failed fosters.


Roxy does not look or act her age. Although she is a little slower getting up these days (who isn’t??), she out walks Murphy and has plenty of energy for snuggling, cuddling and leaning in to steal just a little of your heart.


For people who worry about adopting an older dog, we have two thoughts: first, there are no guarantees in life. Young or old, we never know how many tomorrows we’ll be blessed with. Second, it’s not the length of time that we love, but the quality of time we have together.


“It came to me that every time I lose a dog, they take a piece of my heart with them. And every new dog who comes into my life gifts me with a piece of their heart. If I live long enough, all the components of my heart will be dog, and I will become as generous and loving as they are.” ~ Cheryl Zuccaro

Taking a small leap of faith to open your heart to a senior dog delivers countless blessings. Roxy has put her faith in Homeward Bound that we will deliver a blessing to her very soon.

Dahlias returned

Before I began this journey to rebuild the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden, I had no experience at all with Dahlias. They were the gift of a volunteer gardener and fell into my charge. I watched them blossom through the summer into magnificent plates of color and fell in love.


I dutifully dug them up in the fall; placed them in a box of vermiculite following instructions I had read, sprinkled lightly with water and a little prayer, and then left them covered in the dark, cold garage. Every six weeks or so I would open the box and add a few more sprinkles to ensure they didn’t dry out until this weekend, when I pulled them out of darkness. To my delight and amazement, each “eye” had a tiny shoot springing forth. Today, they were returned to their spot in the garden. With any luck, the Dahlias will spring forth within a couple of weeks.


“Find the seed at the bottom of your heart and bring forth a flower.” ~ Shigenori Kameoka

All sorts of little joys were sprouting forth in the garden this weekend; the arrival of blueberries where thorny blackberries once ruled,


Blooming Honeysuckle and Clematis


Jerusalem Artichoke and Rose Campion…


and multiplying gardeners! Randy and Vonnie were back to check in on their recently planted Butterfly Garden, to continue the attack on the driveway brush, and to take their latest adopted pup, Chelsea to training class.


One of our dog walkers recruited her mother, a seasoned gardener to join our effort. It is a great way for them to have some time together around shared passions, and we could not be more delighted. Welcome Diane!


And our newest recruit, is but a sprout herself. This is Alexandria.


Her dog goes to class on Saturdays, and while she waits, she loves to wander the garden. This week she helped me with weeding and watering while she explained photosynthesis to me at a million words a minute. A gardener is born.

“The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.” ~ Gertrude Jekyll

Finally, this sweet girl, Roxy, and her foster mom, Michele, were a surprise find and a story all their own. More on them to come soon!


Until then…happy week…from the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden!


A flower for every smile

For the first time since I began volunteering at Homeward Bound, the kennels are only half full (a temporary situation, I’m sure.) Despite the reduced workload, the volunteers were out in abundance. I overheard one of them explaining to someone about what draws her here: the joy she feels when she pulls through the gates; the serenity of the country surroundings; the garden; the people – like Michele and Chip who visited with their failed foster, Murphy, to pick out a new foster pup (they have fostered more than 20);


and of course, the dogs.


These are the loved dogs of Homeward Bound…


the ones that have been with us a long while because their special needs make them hardest to place.

We have faith that someday their perfect match will come along. But until that time, we are very happy to love on them.


“If I had a flower for every time you made me smile,
I’d be walking in an endless garden.” ~ Author Unknown

The garden is smiling back at us;


every visit this time of year brings new spring delights in the waking of perennials, trees and grasses from their winter slumber. I was thrilled to find the Mexican Sage finally popping out from its wood sticks, and Campanula making its way skyward.


I am under orders not to make any significant changes until Ina and Maria return. Does editing the Hummingbird bed count as a significant change?


I don’t think so. Wanting some greater structure during the winter, I added a smoke tree bush, dwarf blue spruce, blue fescue, some boxwood and others.

What do they expect, leaving me alone in our endless garden?