The Lab Lift

Behind human failing—due to health or incapacity—you can often find animal suffering. This was the case behind a recent large-scale rescue.

In Oregon, a backyard breeder struggled to care for his wife with dementia. I don’t know if the situation was ever better than we found it but things had obviously gotten out of control long ago. When he passed, there was no one to care for the dogs or the other animals on the property. A plea for help went out. Our team responded, arranging for extra transport to bring all 19 beautiful Labrador Retrievers to safety.

It was the largest single intake of adult dogs in our history (I believe) and a monumental task for our volunteers and our devoted vet, Dr. Codde.

All but two had been kept in outdoor kennels without protection from the elements. They weren’t abused – but they were neglected. It was impossible to know how many litters some of the girls had birthed and weaned.

They had probably never seen a vet or had a dental, much less a bath. The food clearly went to expecting girls. The rest were rail thin and all were full of worms, fleas, and filthy ears.

They had never known collars or leashes and were terrified at first not knowing our intentions. As Labs do, they showed remarkable resilience. With one exception, they were well-socialized to other dogs. Maybe it was the cookies and food, but they pretty quickly figured out that humans were okay to be around, too.

Baths and vet exams took all day long. Deworming, dentals, skin treatments, pedicures, and spay and neuters were in store. Minnie appears to have had the most litters. We had to remove her teeth and we found mammary cancer. We removed that too, but it has metastasized and will return at some point.

Georgia’s ear was so badly diseased that we had to perform a TECA (Total Ear Canal Ablation) – removing the ear canal. She is recovering well.

The rest are now all in good health. Twelve are officially adopted and have adjusted beautifully.

Four are home as foster-to-adopt given their extreme shyness and their lack of experience living in a home. One, North, is waiting for his forever people to come and find him.

Here’s the thing. The neighbors had to know. Anyone who purchased a puppy had to know. How this was allowed to go on for so long is beyond us. How these dogs could be AKC-registered shows an appalling lack of oversight or concern by that organization.

Soap box time. This situation could have been reported and ended long ago providing help for the humans and the dogs. Neighbors could have intervened. Had anyone purchasing one of the hundreds of puppies produced by these dogs followed one simple step, the dogs’ circumstance might have been discovered.

When you purchase a puppy, please require that you be invited to meet the mother and puppies at the breeder’s home. See where and how the dogs are kept…inside! Learn how they are cared for and how the puppies are raised. Nothing short of raising these dogs as part of the family will do. For the breeding dogs, it ensures safety, health, and care. For the puppies, it means vital socialization and a healthy start to life.

All responsible breeders abide by and support this practice. Anyone who does not is likely running a puppy mill operation. Your support of them perpetuates dogs’ misery for years on end.

These 19 Labs will all have wonderful second chapters. Even Minnie.

Who knows what became of those who came before them.

Education saves lives. Please help others to understand the importance of this one simple practice. Need more information? Here is our guide to choosing a responsible breeder.

And here’s a look at their first experience with freedom.

A Winter Rose

It doesn’t happen often—but often enough to wonder. Dogs that are long-time residents of the rescue—the ones with special behavioral or medical needs who wait for angel adopters—find their way home only to pass unexpectedly just as they have found love. Not that they aren’t loved by us. But there is a difference between being loved and cared for by volunteers and being a chosen special someone and finally being home. It is if—wrapped in that security—that they finally fully relax and let their guard completely down. And in that vulnerability, cancer strikes or hearts fail.

Our hearts go out to their adopters who opened their hearts and homes only to be robbed of precious golden years. And yet, they keep coming back to us to risk it all again. “How lucky that they finally got to experience home,” they—and we say…and believe.

It sometimes happens in reverse. At 10 years of age, Bear survived the Camp Fire and the stress of makeshift accommodations before being surrendered to us.

Without a home, the family had no way to keep him. It wasn’t that his body didn’t show his age: his hind legs were weak and strange lumps and bumps hung off him everywhere. But his demeanor was happy and his old soul was sweet.

One of those lumps concerned our Doc more than the others. Bear took a happy ride to the vet “talking” all the way there as his mom had told us he was wont to do. It’s a German Shepherd thing. Under a gentle, anesthesia-induced sleep, she discovered that that we were too late. The invader had already burst. Bear had given us no clue.

This time, we are the ones feeling robbed. We did not know him long, but you could not love him if you met him.

The first roses of the season are bright and fresh and last and last. But the short-lived last roses of the season—in their frailty—are some of the most beautiful.




Here’s to you, sweet Bear. A winter rose beyond its bloom.

And all of the others we have loved and lost too soon.

Puppy Love On Loan

Sometimes the universe has a twisted sense of timing. We received a request for urgent help a couple of weeks ago. While a Golden lover was picking up her new puppy half the country away, she got word that her senior heart dog, Sully, was failing – and fast. She rushed home with the still unnamed puppy in tow to receive the prognosis we all dread: she had some time – but little of it. And while her boy could go home for hospice care, an eight-week-old bundle of puppy energy was not exactly what the doctor ordered.

At a time that is supposed to be filled with new puppy joy, there was only overwhelming sadness, chaos, and guilt. Puppies that have recently left their litter need reassurance, time, and patience. But her heart and focus were understandably with Sully, ensuring his comfort and trying to make the most of the time they had left together. Emotionally and physically exhausted, she knew that the best thing for all would be to find a short-term foster for the puppy. My fellow Homeward Bound volunteer connected us, and two hours later, the little fuzz ball was home with my Yogi and Jackson.

I had been warned that she was a bit “vocal” (read “screamer”) when left alone. I guessed that a large part of that was leaving the litter. My boys were just what she needed to make a successful transition – the role that her big brother Sully was planned to fill for her.

Yogi, as usual, was her instant playmate – while Jackson adopted his more aloof stance.

She dished out her tiny terror in unrelenting waves on Yogi,

but she looked up to Jackson. When it came time to snuggle, it was Jackson she sought out. With a mixture of disgust and resignation, he reluctantly surrendered to her charm.

Mom stayed in constant touch, and along the way little girl acquired a name: Shaye.

Rather than test her night-time vocal cords, we set up a crate in the bedroom – a fostering first for our temporary puppy residents. The bedroom is usually reserved for Yogi and Jackson as their safe and quiet zone. But I value my sleep, so the boys were sacrificed. As long as Shaye could see them both nearby, she went right in, settled – and slept through the night. What kind of puppy is this?

We quickly saw what a special girl she was – and despite our best intentions – she crawled right into our hearts.

In so many ways, she reminded me and my husband of our sweet Bella as a pup. A total joy spreader. Maybe the universe knew that her new mom would be in extra need of that.

Mom got the time she needed to say ‘goodbye’ to Sully – and we got an extra special dose of puppy love.
This parting was just a little harder than the others. Come and visit anytime, sweet Shaye.

Autumn is the Hush

“I’m not ready for winter” is the refrain I hear as the fog sets in and the volunteers don their winter wools. But I am. Or nearly so.

The garden is putting on its final show – a glorious crown to a long, hot summer.

As if it saved up all its energy for a final encore, displaying its growing maturity in tall drifts of purple, orange, pink and gold.



By the end of the month, the raising of the beds will be complete,

the dahlias lifted, the bulbs installed for spring, and the remaining leaves turned to mulch. Then, the garden and I will both be ready for a long rest.

“What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” ~John Steinbeck

Reading about wildflower seeds, I tried an experiment and set some packets of wild Columbine, heirloom Poppy, and butterfly mixes in the soil and simply stomped them into the ground. If nature can self-sow, why not help her along?

“Over everything connected with autumn there lingers some golden spell—some unseen influence that penetrates the soul with its mysterious power.” ~Northern Advocate

With so many “going-homes,” even the kennel is quieter with room in the inn. It goes in waves this way. Enjoy it while you can; linger longer with each pup until the next transport arrives. You will hear no complaints from them.

“No spring nor summer’s beauty hath such grace
As I have seen in one Autumnal face.”
~ John Donne, “Elegy IX: The Autumnal”

If the tempo of summer is allegro – fall, despite all of its chores, is adagio. A slower pace. A gradual letting go. A last romp in grassy fields and golden sun before the rains and mud.

“Autumn is the hush before winter.” ~ French Proverb

Puppy Reunion

Who says that we don’t get paid at an all-volunteer rescue? Remember my subjects from Puppy Truths?

Cici was adopted right away,

but you might recall that two of them, Timmy and Wyatt, came home with us for a bit last winter when we thought the rains and flooding would never quit.

My Yogi was happy to keep the little monsters company.

It’s still unclear who the bigger puppy was!

Recently, all three returned to Homeward Bound for a reunion.

It’s one of the bonuses for our unpaid work: welcoming back our charges to see what kind of canine citizens they have become.

And look how they have grown!

At almost 10 months now, they are still full of spit and vinegar…

still adorable…



and when you yell “Puppy, puppy, puppy!” they still come running!

Cici is Angel now, and Wyatt is Elvis (it suits him!). But Timmy is still Timmy – through and through.

They were surrendered to us because each had low-level heart murmurs – small enough not to change their quality of life or longevity – but just enough that three lucky families got to call them their own.

Lucky people.
Lucky puppies.
Lucky me for the chance to spend time with them.

“You make a living by what you get, but you make a life by what you give.” ~ Author Unknown

A Rescue Tale

This story has been embargoed for what seems like forever. I could not wait to report the full happily ever after.

It began in mid-December, when someone who has long been connected to our rescue saw something out of the corner of his eye as he drove down the road. Instead of continuing on, he stopped. He found two dogs, a German Shepherd and a German Pointer, tied to each other in the mud. The weather had been alternating between rain and freezing. Their only shelter was a dilapidated fruit crate. With only three feet of chain between them – only one dog could raise itself above the muck.

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Our rescuer spoke to the owners. They claimed the dogs had been dumped, separately, in the surrounding country and they took them “in.” The story took twists and turns as they spoke, but the bottom line was that they would give them up. That was all he needed to know.

He and his wife set about contacting rescues. Relying on foster care, their inns were full so close to Christmas. They worried about bringing the dogs to a shelter given the Shepherd’s age. Given their breeds, they didn’t automatically think of Homeward Bound, but when our president got wind of it, she said “we’ll take them.” They were quickly transported to safety.

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The Shepherd, Sadie, had a microchip; the owner on record did not return our call.

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Gage had no identification. Our vet put Sadie at 13, and Gage at 6. We had been told that Gage had been joined with Sadie about a year ago.

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The dogs had bonded through adversity despite the difference in their ages. Still, their needs were very different. Once freed, Sadie worked hard at keeping up with Gage who ran like the wind. At 13, a leisurely walk was more her speed.

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Whenever we can, we keep bonded pairs together. But in this case, we felt that potential adopters would be looking for two very different kinds of dogs and that could significantly reduce their chances. On Christmas Eve, Sadie went home with former adopters who had been searching for a special, older dog to pair with their senior Golden. They fell instantly in love with her.

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Gage was temporarily lost without her. I had taken him for a walk while Sadie was being adopted. To watch him search for her when we returned was heartbreaking. But he got extra loving and lots of play time from our volunteers who discovered that – after expending his energy – this adorable boy wanted nothing more than to climb in your lap and cuddle. Gage’s rescuers visiting with him:

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We also learned that Gage didn’t have a single hunting instinct in him, which is probably why he was dumped. He walked right by bunnies and kitties, and the sound of gunfire from nearby hunters sent him running for safety.

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Over New Year’s, one of our volunteers brought her neighbors out to meet Gage. This special family was already involved with Pointer rescue, and were the adoptive parents of two beautiful (human) girls. They had recently lost one of their Pointers. While they weren’t sure if they were ready, they found Gage’s story compelling.

Hiding in the adjacent yard so he wouldn’t see me, I watched and listened, hopeful, as Gage chased the girls around the Park. The family had a vacation planned and could not take him immediately. We crossed our paws, and they returned last week with their dog, Toby, for an introduction. Toby is a big Pointer mix without a care in the world. His boundless energy put Gage a little on guard. We sent them home for a trial week to make sure all would be well. And after a few days of figuring each other out – it was.

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Gage was officially adopted this week. He and Toby are now playmates, and sleeping mates – in the bed, of course!

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What a life Sadie and Gage will have now – because someone stopped and asked instead of driving by. It’s a small thing that can turn anyone into a rescuer and give a gift that makes a world of difference in the life of a dog – and quite possibly, yours, too.

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