Surrendering, For Love

“I feel like a grief counselor,” she said. ‘She’ is our rescue President, Jody, speaking to me about handling surrenders.

As I explained in a previous blog, surrender was the part of our effort I abhorred. I was judgmental toward the people and sad for the dogs they left behind. I came to understand that things happen beyond our control and that a second chapter is often in the dog’s best interest, long-term. But my concern was for the dog, and – except in rare circumstances – not really for the human.

Sophie’s surrender changed that for me.

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“Hello. I was just wondering if you had a golden female named Sophie there as of yesterday??? We are her family and had to give her up for adoption a few days ago.”

I manage social media for the rescue – increasingly, this is how people communicate with us. She went on to explain that she was in the middle of a difficult divorce. With five children, life was changing dramatically along with their home. Sophie would no longer have a yard, much less her beloved pool. “I felt it was in Sophie’s best interest that we gave her a chance to find a loving family that would give her what we could not at this time. Our family is seriously hurting, and we miss her so much. All I am asking is if we could be notified when she finds her new family so we can be more at ease. Thank you so much.”

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Over the next couple of weeks, we communicated often. I reassured her that Sophie had arrived safely, that she had seen our vet, and that our team was taking great care of her.

Sophie was a model visitor. She adapted quickly, was absolutely no trouble, and had clearly been raised well. But she always had a searching look in her eyes. I did not share that part. Sophie waited, patiently.

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“Are you able to let me know when she is adopted so we can be more at peace? As you can see, we have had her since she was born, so it’s very hard for us right now,” she wrote, attaching photos of Sophie as a puppy. “A loving family, that’s all I want.”

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As I suspected, our president hand-picked Sophie’s new family. One with kids, security, stability, lots of love – and a pool. The new family was beyond generous, sending photos and an update for me to relay to Sophie’s original family. They shared her enthusiasm for swimming with all the kids, and a special relationship that was blossoming for both: “My daughter and Sophie have really bonded and snuggled all day Monday and slept together on the floor. She is settling in great.”

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“So happy to hear,” her first mom wrote back. “Homeward Bound was a great idea. I am glad I made the right decision.”

You can approach rescue from anger or pity, but neither contributes meaningfully to creating change. Action, empathy, and education matter. When Jody speaks to someone who is surrendering their dog with a sincere heart, she absorbs their grief and guilt and lets them know that – someday – they will be in a position to make a life-changing difference for another dog. She’s been at this long enough to see them return and do exactly that.

Certainly, there are clueless people you wish you could prevent from ever having another animal. But most are simply in a difficult and unplanned circumstance. That they have sought out a rescue instead of dumping a dog at a shelter, should be commended, not scorned.

I don’t think that dogs forget – but they can move on. Sophie lost her searching look. She found a perfect friend to help her begin a new life chapter. And a family found peace with their difficult decision.

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Rescue changes us. Consider me a grief counselor – in training.

Seasons surrender

The season is definitely upon us.

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It seems like it happened in an instant. One day the garden was bursting forth – and the next, the leaves were falling, the buds were smaller,

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and the bold colors of summer were replaced by a palette of oranges, blues, purples and browns.

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Summer surrenders to fall.

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I’ve written about surrender before. To me, it is the hardest part of rescue, and something I will never get used to.
More and more, the garden has become a place for families to say their final farewell.

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The garden was always intended as a place for farewells and fond remembrances, so I suppose it is fitting that families spend their last few moments with their beloved dogs in a quiet, secluded corner of it. Today, it was a father and son saying a tearful goodbye to their pup. No pictures. It would not have been right.

And then, Ben & Jerry – two more arrivals later in the day.

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I did not meet their family. I know these two will be scooped up right away. Still, I cannot imagine what goes through a dog’s mind and heart when their whole lives change in an instant.

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When I was young, we never had an opportunity to say ‘goodbye’ to our pets. Our parents made a decision – and one day they were gone. I can’t even remember what we were told. Maybe I choose not to. Proper goodbyes – no matter how hard – are important for us humans. I wonder what the dogs know.

“If there ever comes a day when we can’t be together keep me in your heart, I’ll stay there forever.” ~ Winnie the Pooh, A.A.Milne

I am glad that we are here for them at Homeward Bound. I am grateful to everyone who supports our efforts. And especially so to the families that give these special dogs a new season of their own.