Holding On To The Things You Love

Somewhere between work, volunteering, and changes to how WordPress manages the Reader and sharing, I ran out of blogging steam. Or maybe just words.

Fresh inspiration abounds, but not everyone wants to read the stories I might share. The self-imposed push for happy stories feels less authentic and gradually, probably less relevant to readers, as well. Blogs are time-consuming beasts, and when you feel like no one is listening, it is easy to become discouraged.

Along the way, I also absorbed the duty of dog photography for the rescue. Not the storytelling kind; photos for inclusion in their bios to help them on their way home. It’s a joy that can start to feel like a grind, turning something I love doing into something that feels more like work. But I was reminded this week of why I started this blog in the first place, and the importance of documenting the dogs’ faces and stories – regardless of who might be visiting.

A friend had taken home a dog five years ago. Bentley developed seizures and cancer and was lost to her too soon. The only photo she had of him was taken on the day they said goodbye.

This was before we photographed every single dog at the rescue. Many go home before they ever make the website where photos are required. Now, a photo accompanies each dog’s electronic file. Not the kind of mugshots you get at a shelter. A portrait. Or the best portrait possible.

There was nothing of Bentley in our archives but I found him easily in my blog. Then I went back to my original photo files and was able to provide my friend with more captures from a much happier time. It was the way she wanted to remember him.

I began this blog to document the restoration of a rescued garden and the rescued dogs who travel through it. The garden is grown,

but the dogs keep coming. Each face and story is unique and worth knowing.

This blog is my way of saying: You were here. You were loved. And you were helped on your journey to the best of our ability. Most importantly, you are remembered. Even on weeks when I cannot find words.

In keeping with this thought, I bring you Napoleon.

He went home last fall as a permanent foster dog. That means that Homeward Bound will ensure his medical care for life. Important, because he has inoperable masses in bad places. As far as he and his people are concerned, he is adopted. It is amazing what their TLC has done giving him fresh life always marked by a goofy smile.

And while he still looks amazing, I saw changes in him this weekend when he visited. So I thought I should capture him and place a current photo here where he can always be found and remembered.

“Memory is a way of holding onto the things you love, the things you never want to lose.” ~ From the television show, The Wonder Years

And that is all the motivation I need.

With a look like this…

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

For every shot that makes it –

there are dozens more that go into the recycle bin.

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

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

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

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

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

They can be devilishly frustrating.

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

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

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

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

A blessing indeed.

Dogs at Play

When my former foster, Buddy went home, it was with an older sister and then one-year-old Zeke who you may remember was being fostered for his military mom while she was deployed.

Zeke was reunited with his mom in October, which meant Buddy had lots of excess energy to burn. We call them zoomies. What better place for him to do that than in Saturday morning dog class at Homeward Bound?!

Here, the gnashing of teeth and games of chase always end in friendship.

Buddy is a lover, not a fighter—even when his advances are spurned.

Still, you might not think so from his reunion with Roo.

The last time Buddy and Roo met in the ring, so to speak, Buddy was only a puppy. While technically still a puppy, a lot has changed in height and weight.

These two are as evenly matched as the big dogs—and each gives as good as he gets…even with a referee.

But it is all in good fun.

We humans could learn a lot from dogs at play.

Rough and tumble as they may be, they respect each other’s boundaries and when one says enough, the other almost always complies.

“How others treat me is their path; how I react is mine.” ~ Wayne Dyer

Raining German Shepherd Dogs

Winter finally arrived – in March. It has been raining buckets of water, hail, mud –

and lately – German Shepherd Dogs.

The AKC does dogs no good service by listing them as among the favorite breeds. When Goldens hit the top of the chart, a wave of abandoned and surrendered golden dogs followed. German Shepherd Dogs have been making their way up the list and now rival Labrador Retrievers for the top spot. So guess what? The shelters and “found” pages are full of them.

And, increasingly, so are the fields near Homeward Bound. We have found them wandering loose dumped on the levies – and even staked outside our doors.

Kathryn’s training classes are filling up with them. That’s good. They are getting the training and socialization they need.

My husband’s co-worker found this one wandering the streets.

At less than a year old, he’s still a puppy. Apparently tied up somewhere, he had chewed through the lead that was still tightly wrapped around his neck. Her son – a fan of Superman – named him Clark.

She couldn’t keep him, but she wasn’t about to take him to a shelter, either. So she held him safe until the connection was made to Homeward Bound. We’ll work with our German Shepherd rescue friends to get him to a good home.

The Mulberry trees in our garden are strong, fast-growing, and blanket us in merciful shade on hot summer days.

But their roots invade our beds, their berries leave stains everywhere and give the doggies purple poo, and they require constant pruning to stay tidy (which they do not receive).

German Shepherds are smart, loyal, and very capable working dogs. Like our Mulberry trees, they have characteristics that make them sought after. They are also adorable fluff balls as puppies. But they are not for everyone.

Highly sensitive, they want to be with and protect their person – sometimes to a fault.

This is Addy. She’s not at all sure about me.

But she courageously put herself between her Dad and two loose, attacking dogs.

German Shepherds need continual training and socialization to humans and other dogs. They are energetic and require mental and physical activity or they will act out in boredom and frustration. They shed pillows on a daily basis. And they do everything with intensity – be it play or prey.

German Shepherds are beautiful, intelligent, devoted dogs – for the right person.
Choose the right tree for your garden.
Choose the right dog for your life.

Follow Up Friday: Just Add Love

Taylor was the eighth dog of 2018. You may remember his arrival. At three years of age, this Golden Retriever weighed just 40.8 pounds. He was emaciated and scared, but he instantly clung to our people.

Within minutes a tiny grin appeared. That was his true heart shining through.

There was nothing medically wrong with Taylor. Why he was so thin is still a mystery to us. We know he was kept in a kennel during the day – which we understand was long. But the surrendering reason was that he had killed a chicken. Perhaps he was hungry.

The line on the surrender form says: What would be the ideal home for this dog? The answer: “Someone that will love him.” Maybe that was a clue to his past – or perhaps, just a genuine wish for his future. Either way, it was fulfilled in the form of one of our volunteers. Taylor had seen enough of a kennel, and it wouldn’t be the best place for an obviously nervous dog that desperately needed to gain weight. So he went home with Jessica as a foster. As if.

A month later, he has gained ten pounds and is well on his way to full health. All he needed was love.

Most importantly, that tiny hint of a grin has turned into a full-blown smile.

Taylor is now Roo – named for the adorable, bouncy, baby kangaroo featured in Winnie the Pooh.

He’s goofy and playful like a puppy instead of a three-year-old.

From the moment Jessica and Taylor met, he was destined to be a foster failure. Taylor has indeed found “someone that will love him” – forever.

“As soon as I saw you, I knew an adventure was going to happen.” – A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

Follow-Up Friday: Journey Now Charli

My Yogi had a play date recently with our former foster and his protégé, Journey. Her name is now Charli – and it suits her, but I have a hard time re-training myself. She is forever Journey to me.

She has grown, but not too much.
She is loved (that can never be too much).
But in one way, she has returned to her old self.

It seems that our Journey Charli has fallen back into her old habits: greeting her friends with tugs and pinches and take-downs.

We spent a good amount of time working that out of her, and I thought that her much larger visiting canine cousin would keep her in line.

But it seems that even he has given up delivering the kind of correction that Charli needs.

I suggested that she come back to class with her mom, and I hope she does. Her mom is completely smitten with Charli – I’m so glad for that. But her last dog was extremely reactive and she desperately wants to have a dog that can play with other pups. I could tell that she was a little embarrassed by Charli’s behavior. Not that Yogi is any angel. Set loose in the house, he immediately jumped up and helped himself to the human treats on the counter! Way to humiliate your mom, boy!

In school, Charli and her mom would be surrounded by people who know all about her play style and how to administer a time out when needed. Mom would get reassurance, as well. Everyone in class has been through something that made them shrink at some point.

What Charli needs is practice with dogs that are happy to issue corrections in a safe environment – and consistency until a more socially-acceptable play style truly becomes second nature to her.

I hope to see them in school. Charli has shown us that she has it in her.

“Believing takes practice.” ~ Madeleine L’Engle