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.

Follow-up Friday: Rudy

No, that’s not a football play…or a six-legged dog!
It’s Rudy. Being Rudy.

Rudy came to us in December at the age of 10 months. His mom had to move back in with her mom, and Rudy – who had been a loved, inside dog – had to become an outside dog. In the winter cold. It was breaking his mom’s heart. She knew he deserved better and she asked us to find it for him.

He was quickly adopted – and then returned. It seems that Rudy – still being a big puppy – needed people around to monitor his puppiness. The other thing that Rudy needed was socialization. He had apparently led a sheltered life with few, if any, dog friends. As a result, he wasn’t sure how to properly greet or play.

Rudy was adopted again – a successful placement with people that are around to make him feel comfortable and keep him out of trouble. Best of all, they decided to bring him to Kathryn’s Golden Rule Training at Homeward Bound.

The truth about training, is that it is really for the people. If they can be taught consistency of effort and approach, the dog is sure to follow. Rudy is a fast learner. It’s not the sit, or wait, or down. It’s the lessons he needs to learn from other dogs. Dogs are – paws down – the best teachers of other dogs.

So when Rudy decided to try to have his way with Tahoe – who, by the way, is no slouch –

Hutch was quietly observing from a distance.

Until he decided: enough!

Rudy is constantly trying to see where he ranks in the social hierarchy. And Hutch and Tahoe are pretty clear: you’re at the bottom, pup!

Together, they are teaching Rudy lessons in boundaries and appropriate play.

And Rudy is taking it in stride.

It’s great to see Rudy getting the time, training, and socialization that his surrendering mom wanted for him. I think she’d be proud.

What’s Blossoming

What’s blossoming in the garden? Everything!


A brief and rare April shower brought cooler temperatures and blossoms everywhere.


My wayward gardeners returned, but only one of them to work! Ina tried to hide behind the towering roses,


but she was found and made to toil and tame her rowdy beds.


Maria stopped by – but only for a scheduled playdate between Yule and Scrappy.


Socialization time is (almost) as important for Yule as weeding.


Socialization was the plan for Desta and Cooper as well.


Desta and Cooper are the under-sized Goldens that I wrote about recently. Desta was captured stray, malnourished, and frightened. Cooper was unsocialized and terrified of his own shadow. They have been nursed back to physical health, and found emotional comfort in each other’s company.

But expanding their world is what is needed to get them home, so off to puppy school they went!

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They kept their distance from the wildest of the bunch,

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But gradually inched forward to meet other dogs and humans.

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In the safety of puppy class, they can learn about dog body language,


And people kindness.


Flowers aren’t the only things blossoming this weekend at Homeward Bound.


We go to school

At Homeward Bound we rescue Golden Retrievers, golden mixes and the occasional gold dog masquerading as one or the other. But we serve dogs of all shapes, sizes and spots through our Golden Rule Training program which is available to adopters, fosters and the public. The garden has always been a welcome place to visit on the way to training classes. Thor and Locke –


and Bear and Cooper regularly make their way through the garden before class. It puts them in their happy place.


Lately, the garden has become a destination for training in its own right. Since so many gather here, it is a perfect spot for people socialization training. Sadie visited with us last weekend. She is great around other dogs and gets a lot of hiking and outdoor time,


but people make her a little nervous. When I first walked by, her posture immediately let me know that I was too close and she was uncomfortable.


Our trainers have taught us – avoid eye contact and do not attempt to approach or pet a dog that is afraid. Instead, wait quietly for the dog to approach you – then reward with treats.


It took a little while, but pretty soon Sadie was saddled up to me and turning to mush while my friend Rob took pictures.


Claire is undergoing similar training. Sick as a puppy, she didn’t get a lot of people time – something that is key to a well-adjusted dog.


One by one, visitors approached her in the garden. She is making steady progress. Who says a dog can’t change its spots?


Training, like gardening, is a commitment. It requires patience, consistent effort, and a little bit of faith.


“Properly trained, a man can be dog’s best friend.” ~ Corey Ford