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.

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.


The last puppy is home! Garrett stayed with us for an extra week until his new mom came back from her vacation.

He was a joy to have. Smart. Funny. Playful. Sweet. A bit of a baby who gained some much-needed confidence with the big boys away from his littermates.

He has taken to his new family like water…forgetting all about us like yesterday’s news!

The thermometer topped out at 106 so the weeds were allowed to continue their march. Relative cool returns tomorrow and so will I to uproot the blasted Bermuda grass and free the sizzled garden.

Fifteen dogs are on their way to us, but the lull this week was lovely. After submitting my last work project on Friday, I started organizing old photo files. For the website, we look for a direct eye contact and a happy face. Looking into a dog’s eyes is where people first fall in love. But it is the outtakes that warm my heart and truly capture their personalities.

The brat…

The faker…

The “I thought I saw a kitty cat!”…

The joker…

The “I am safe” look…

And you name this one!

Somehow my teammates managed to get 11 dogs home this week before adopters passed out from the heat. All are special, but a few are especially so.

Casey lived such a sheltered life that he attached too strongly to his mom to the point of fearing all others—including her husband. The situation became impossible. His whole life was uprooted when he was surrendered to us. He gradually accepted a select few into his inner circle; their job was to expand his circle and help him learn how to adapt to new people and surroundings. His adopter has traveled two hours each way to visit him weekly and earn his trust. This week, our team will transport Casey to her so his transition to home is as smooth as possible.

Blackie is the other half of Blondie and Blackie.

These 10-year-old Shih Tzu mixes came to us through a volunteer when their human dad could no longer care for them. We thought they would be gone in a heartbeat, but two videos and one special appeal later, only Blondie had been adopted. They adapted surprisingly well as little dogs in a big dog rescue, but home is where they both belong. Another volunteer took Blackie home this week and will be flying him to his mother who has been searching high and low for a boy just like him.

Little Libby has a fan club. She was dumped in a field in Southern California mostly blind and deaf and covered in mats. She was picked up by animal control and taken to a high-kill shelter. Imagine the terror. She could not stop whimpering. A campaign was launched to secure her release and she was ultimately transported to us where she received good care and medical attention; still, she was inconsolable. Which made her the perfect candidate for our well-known dognapper who scooped her up and quickly became a foster-failure. Libby is now home.

Not a Golden Retriever in the mix and we couldn’t care less. All are deserving of a second chance and a place called home.

The Rules of Engagement

Most of our foster puppies promise to remember us always and then quickly forget when they find their forever homes. How do I know? Many come back for class or reunions. I may get a passing hello, but they are much more interested in playtime with the dogs than visiting with me.

An exception: Baby Sara – now named Jessie. You may recall from a past post, Jessie is the offspring of a Golden mom and a dad of many colors.

She was born and reared feral in a field until a woman living nearby could win mom’s trust. Since Jessie would not leave mom’s side, she had to choice but to be caught too – but unhappily so.

Our volunteers worked hard to socialize her enough for her to come home with us where my Yogi and Jackson completed the job.

She was adopted by a wonderful family and their Lab, Harper. Jessie helped to fill an empty spot in all of their hearts after the loss of their other dog.

Harper is very protective of her new sister. So much so, that if they are in class together, Harper spends all of her time keeping the other dogs away from Jessie. It was not a good example for Jessie, and was not providing the socialization she needed, so Jessie takes her classes solo now. When she spots me…she comes running into my arms and will not settle into class until our greeting is completed with belly rubs and kisses.

She is a little dog who thinks she is a big dog – until she gets rolled a couple of times in play and then she retreats to a corner. So she was delighted to make a new friend this weekend at school: Gracie.

Gracie is a four-month old Golden who—despite towering over Jessie—is also a little leery of the bigger dogs.

They are well matched: Even with those little legs, Jessie can outrun Gracie – but Gracie uses her height…

and weight…to her advantage when she catches up.

Still, Jessie was clearly laying down the rules of engagement.

Dogs are excellent teachers.

Jessie: That’s too ruff…I’m not playing with you until you calm down.

Gracie: Ah come on….

Gracie: You can’t resist me…

Jessie: Nope. Not working.

Gracie: What if I say I’m sorry?

Gracie: What if I am adorable???

Jessie: OK, we can be friends again. Just watch yourself!

It’s so wonderful to watch her grow and blossom.

Her mama would be really proud. I sure am.


The gardening is waking up. After a long, wet winter and many false starts, there are signs everywhere signaling spring’s arrival.

But the bulbs and trees are not alone in their blossoming.

Sara is an adorable little black and white hot-dog of a puppy born in a field to her Golden mom. First noticed around Thanksgiving last year, a kindly neighbor began leaving out food for mom and her dwindling litter of pups. After several months, only Sara remained. She learned to stay close to mom and to be wary of everything. Survival instincts: finely-honed.

Mom started warming up to the neighbor woman. She had been someone’s dog once, and while distrustful at first, she took a chance in hopes of finding comfort and safety. When mom and baby could finally be caught, both were brought to Homeward Bound.

Initially, both were terrified. Mom started coming around after a bit, but baby Sara would not leave mama’s side. Our volunteers did an amazing job of coaxing them out of their shells, spending time with them and making them feel safe. One even fell asleep petting them in their kennel. Human touch is an amazing healer.

Baby Sara is somewhere between 5 and 6 months old. She stayed with mom long past the point when most pups strike out on their own. Mama was beyond ready to spread her wings and find her own future with a waiting family.

So baby Sara came home with me to spend some time at Camp Yogi and begin to learn about the world through the eyes of her foster friends.

It just about ripped my heart out to separate Sara from her mom, but we all knew it was the best thing for both.

There was some crying and whining, but she attached quickly to our dogs and to my husband and me. The hardest part was not coddling her. She didn’t need protection any more, she needed to gain confidence. She got together time and alone time. She got playtime and quiet time. She took to potty training like a pro, jumped into the bed like she owned it, and leapt right into our hearts. She was blossoming: playful and joyful and growing in her independence every day.

This weekend, she met a family of adults and their 18-month-old Lab, Harper. They had all been grieving the loss of their senior dog; Harper was feeling lost. Shy at first, we left Harper and baby Sara in the yard together and watched from afar. Baby immediately started following Harper around and Harper seemed glad for her company. The match was made. Baby left with a smile on her face and didn’t even turn back to say goodbye. On the ride home, she snuggled close to Harper. And the happy updates have been flowing ever since.

A lot of effort goes into planning for spring blooms.

You watch and wait, hoping it will pay off. When it does, it makes your heart soar.

Happy life, little Sara…the brightest flower of spring.

The one that got away

My husband says I should compile a montage of all the puppies we have fostered in the last couple of years. Note to self. I’ll get right on that.

Our latest, Buddy, went and got himself adopted. A beautiful Chocolate Lab, he was surrendered at four months of age for being a puppy.

His people – apparently divided in their decision to purchase him – took on more than they could manage or agree upon. As a result, Buddy was sleeping in the garage and staying outside. They were wise enough to know that Buddy deserved more. It was a kindness to let us help him find it.

Too young to be in the kennels, I brought him home. This was not your average size four-month old. He already weighed in at 47 pounds.

But his heart is as big as his paws, and this love bug quickly wormed his way into ours.

He put both our Jackson and Yogi to the test. It took about a week, but they eventually got him to fall in line. And I figured out that if Yogi and I wore him down, my shoes, furniture, and door jams could be saved.

Regardless of how long we foster a puppy – a few days or a few weeks – my Jackson is always ready to pack their bags. He is an accepting – if not gracious – host. Willing to share as long as he sees an end in sight.

Yogi, on the other hand, grieves his puppies when they go home no matter how much whining he did when they tortured him. Yogi taught Buddy how to watch for squirrels (as if he cared),

and Buddy taught Yogi that all toys belong to the baby in residence.

While Chocolate Labs are prized as hunting dogs, Buddy doesn’t have a single hunting instinct in his body. He crawled on his stomach to meet the neighbor cat, and when I took him to meet ducks and geese, he just sat and watched them.

He has found himself a family full of kids, dogs, and adventures. Everything he deserves, needs, and everything I wanted for him. Instead of “Everready Buddy” they describe him as “chill.”

It took days to remove all the baby gates and pens, and put the house back in order. But I miss the little bugger, his morning kisses, nighttime snoring, and impish ways.

Happy life, Buddy. I hope you’ll stop by to play sometime!

A Tale of Faith and Hope


Once upon a time, there were two tiny sister puppies born with faulty eating instruments. The odds were stacked against them, but a fairy godmother intervened and said: “we can help.” They were named Faith and Hope.


Hand fed and held upright, they put the naysayers to shame and thrived. Sisters bonded through adversity, they developed a deep love.


In a little blind puppy, they found a kindred spirit and formed the three pupsketeers.


They were inseparable – and inexhaustible.


As their little bodies grew, so did their mighty play, draining the life out of their fairy godmother. When offers of adoption came first for one –


and then the other,


they were gladly accepted.
Leaving only one.


Little green-eyed Faith came back to stay with a foster godmother (me) until her adoptive family could be found.

We thought we had it, but then we didn’t. It was something about the right dog at the wrong time.


So said her foster godmother, as well. Although she loved the little girl very much, she had made an important promise to her big dog who had even bigger needs at the time.


So little Faith went to stay with her sister – now named Sophie, and her sister’s handsome (but puppy-annoyed) big brother, Jasper, loved by yet another foster godmother, Cassandra.


Only Cassandra was not so much “foster” as she was “mother.” You see, Cassandra was a “foster failure”; not just once – but twice – having fostered, and then adopted, both Sophie and Jasper. She pleaded: “I can help; let me help.”

The bonds of siblings of eight or nine weeks are one thing; but three, four, five and nearly six months of age? Well, that’s something else.


Each time the girls were reunited, their best happiness was evident to all who looked closely.


And now it is official. A match set.


And Cassandra’s foster failure record is thrice, as it was always meant to be.


Faith and her sister Sophie will live happily-ever-after together – and a grateful Jasper will get some much deserved puppy-free time!


And that is the story of two little sisters whose fate might have been otherwise except for two powerful words: faith and hope.

Faith Tootsie Snuggle

The end. And the beginning.

Who’s Your (Foster) Daddy?

When Marshall first arrived, he was so frightened, he literally slid his body low to the ground under his kennel bed and hid.
In hindsight, we’re pretty sure it was a ploy. The dogs talk, you know. And word has been passed from yard to yard that there is an awesome Foster Daddy who lives next door to Homeward Bound. Getting picked to go with him for “rehabilitation” is like winning the dog lottery. Marshall was determined to be selected, so he made himself look as pathetic as possible. And Marshall can do pathetic pretty well!


It worked, of course. Once there – his true colors came out. Marshall treated humans just like puppies treat each other. He probably never learned any better (yeah…we’re going to go with that!).


Instead of gratitude, Marshall tried to turn his Foster Daddy into a chew toy with tugging, tackling, and flat out conquering.


“There’s not much to like about this guy,” black and blue Foster Daddy muttered in utter frustration. Foster Daddy is pretty darn patient – but this one was a true test.


Good news for Marshall…Foster Daddy does not give up. He exhausted his playbook of training methods: rewards and ignoring, yelps and silence, time together and time outs. It was probably not one single thing, but the cumulative effect of all that turned the tide. Or maybe Marshall finally came to the realization that no matter what he did, Foster Daddy was not ditching him. And then – he was a different dog.


“I’m going to miss that guy,” Foster Daddy wrote. Marshall had hit his second jackpot: a home. And not just any home…a home with one of Homeward Bound’s dog walkers.

_marshall-adopt_750_3938Photo Credit: Rob Kessel

Marshall take note: Foster Daddy and your new Daddy have traded notes. They are both wise to you! So be a good boy…and visit us often.


And don’t forget to say “thank you” to your Foster Daddy.


Note: Foster Daddy is kind of shy…so I haven’t mentioned his name. But if you look closely, you’ll find it. Just sayin’.

Update: Foster Daddy has outed himself. For his post about Marshall and a gallery of photos, visit here.

Teach Your Children Well

A garden is a reflection of its keepers. Tidy and structured;

Botanical Garden_750_6608

casual and carefree;


or untamed and wild.


It inherits our priorities – not by birth, but by effort and example. So too, our children.


“Whatever you would have your children become, strive to exhibit in your own lives and conversation.” ~ Lydia Sigourney

Kate is a dedicated Homeward Bound dog walker. Despite juggling a full life with young children and a husband’s doctor hours, she shows up every Sunday to get the dogs out – rain or shine.


She has an eagle eye for the first sign of a sneeze, limp, or matted ear – and an enormous heart for those most in need. In 2014, she extended it to George. As a Black Lab with insecurities in a place surrounded by sought-after Goldens, she was worried that he would be overlooked forever. So she took him home.


And while he is still unsure when he encounters dogs on his walks, it turns out that he is fine with dogs in his home. Go figure. This, of course, makes him a perfect host for fostering, which he has taken to very nicely following Kate’s example.

Last week, Kate saw that Maggie needed a soft place to land as she recovered from recent medical procedures.


With George and family in tow, an introduction was planned.


It did not take long for Maggie and George to give the “all clear.”


The kids cheered.

Cheering Squad_DSC_0654

Rescue runs in this family. Kate and her husband, Christian, see to it by living the example. The love, respect, and concern for animals that they have inspired in their children is obvious.


Because of that, Maggie is in their foster care today. She has an opportunity to get well in the comfort of home, and to be loved upon while she waits for her own furever family.


Fostering. A gift for the dogs.


A great way to inspire a love of rescue in children.


Our Houseguest

I shared Lady Edith’s story on our rescue blog. But since many of you do not see that (and I am up to my elbows in puppy poop!) I hope you will indulge me with her story and current update.

Lady Edith was destined for a life of making puppies. Too young, too thin, and in need of eye surgery – she was surrendered, instead, to our rescue, Homeward Bound. It changed the course of her life forever.


Despite her slight stature, we could tell something was up. The vet confirmed. A week or so later, she delivered her beautiful pups in the wee hours of the morning following a rare evening of Sacramento Valley thunderstorms. Edith’s mothering instincts came naturally, despite her young age.


She has raised (with much assistance!) four beautiful pups from tiny things…


to rough and tumble troublemakers!


Each litter that we welcome has a dedicated human mom assigned to them. This time, it was Judy who ensured that they were well-socialized – so important in a dog’s proper raising. It also means countless feedings and clean-ups. What goes in … must come out!

Puppy_Yellow_Wk 4_DSC_7851

All of Lady Edith’s puppies have been adopted.


As has Lady Edith – who is being renamed “Lacy.” Her puppies are now fully weaned and exhausting her. Yes, you – little troublemaker!


Before she can have her eye surgery, her milk needs to dry up so we can do her spay at the same time. No more puppies for this puppy. So we are fostering her for a couple of weeks until she is ready.


At only one year of age, she is a puppy herself – with absolutely no house manners. Just like her kids – she poops on, pees on, and eats everything in sight! We will work on those things before she heads to her own forever home where her adoptive mom also waits – anxiously!

Lady Edith_DSC_7638

There, Edith will enjoy a life of play and love – as every young dog should.