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

Forever One: The Giants Litter


“Like branches on a tree we grow in different directions yet our roots remain as one. Each of our lives will always be a special part of the other.” ― Anonymous

Last year at this time I was one of the “puppy mamas” to a litter of 12 adorable Golden puppies that came to our rescue with their mom, Molly, and Dad, Harley.

They were only three weeks old when they arrived; I wrote about it here.

We named them the Giants litter – for the favorite baseball team of their transport angel – and, as it turns out, prophetically about their gigantic size!

I watched them make their first exit from the whelping box, cleaned their poopy messes, taught them to play in the kiddie pool,

and joined my fellow volunteers in helping them on the right path through those critical socialization weeks.

And then, you have to say ‘goodbye’ – and they scatter like the wind.

A couple of them return regularly for “school” (if you ask me, it’s more for play). And many stay connected with their own Facebook group.

They had a small get-together at about five months which I was lucky to capture.

But last weekend, a full-blown party was planned to celebrate their one-year birthdays!

Molly and Harley put in special appearances with six of their pups. Molly…


And pups.

Not bad considering three of the pups went back to our partner in the rescue, Forever Friends Golden Retriever Rescue in Ventura.

There were hugs,

a little too familiar greetings,

and the usual shenanigans between siblings.

Some things never change!

They have different names now – so keeping track of them is very much a game of “who’s on first.” But when I yelled, “Puppy, puppy, puppy!” something kicked in and they all came running.

They have their mom and dad’s height, curls, and wonderful dispositions. They all got along beautifully. A testament to the benefits of proper socialization through early puppyhood – and the patience and skill of their adopting families.

I am hoping that they can stay connected. The bond between them is something special.

Until we meet again, my puppy friends! May each year be better than the last.

Life is Good…Today

Sweet Spring.





“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.”

Sweet Lindsey…


and Gunner.




and fleeting? We cannot say.

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

May they bloom like little miracles.

“Life is good…today.”

The Welcome Mat

When our Jackson picked Yogi out for adoption last fall, I sometimes thought our Bella had been reincarnated in him.


The way he cuddles, paws you for pets, refuses to be ignored, hogs the bed, and enjoys gardening with me were wonderfully familiar. But he was definitely his own dog and a bit of a project one at that. On our first few walks, I wondered what I had gotten myself into when he reacted very negatively to select dogs passing by. I’m not kidding. Four paws came off the ground with ferocious barking. It wasn’t aggression. It was insecurity. When he wasn’t doing that – he was hugging my leg for dear life.

Bella was not great with other dogs. As long as we kept our distance, she was OK, but bringing a dog into the house was too much for her. Which meant that fostering – of all but little puppies – was out of the question.

I began working with Yogi immediately. Working on positive association (“look Yogi, nice dog!” / sit / treat) and gradually introducing him to friendly neighbor dogs. When friends came by with dogs unannounced and marched into the house to tail-wagging welcomes, I knew we had made progress. When Rush stayed with us, and Yogi welcomed him so warmly, I knew the progress was good.


Last Sunday night, when concerns at the Oroville Dam about an hour away forced the evacuation of surrounding communities, we made a decision to move the rescue’s friendliest dogs to foster and prepared to evacuate the rest if the call came. So, when my husband and I loaded two five-month-old puppies and two 11-year old Goldens into the car, I admit to saying a little prayer that Yogi would be a good boy. And what a good boy he was.

I knew the puppies would not be a concern; he loved them instantly.


While Jackson just rolled his eyes and moved to the back room, Yogi wanted to jump into their little area and start the play!


Then my husband unloaded Felix and Max, one at a time. Jackson had met them before. In fact, I thought they would be candidates for adoption when we lost Bella. But Jackson was the odd boy out in that threesome, and he selected our young hellion instead. We did introductions on leash in the front yard with Jackson present. Neutral territory. Tails were up, butts were sniffed, and then everyone moved into the house with excitement, but ease.

I kept the big boys separated at first. But after a day, they all decided: enough of that.


And for the rest of the time that Felix and Max stayed with us, everyone was together. Have you ever tried to sleep with four snoring dogs?


Meanwhile, the puppies needed exhausting: Yogi to the rescue!


I’m so proud of this boy. Somewhere along the way, my insecure wildebeest became the kind of dog that would roll out the welcome mat to a dog in need.


We have another big storm bearing down on us and our water-logged levees.
Our emergency plan is tested and ready.
And my houseful of boys has been a lot of work – but an absolute delight.


Puppy Truths

These are the irrefutable truths of puppies in the rainy season.
1. Mud and poo are indistinguishable.


2. The dirtier the puppy, the more aerodynamic.


3. Clean is fleeting.


4. Towels are not for bathing; they are for playing.


5. Puppy adorableness always trumps puppy stinkiness


6. Pockets are for picking.


7. Resistance is futile.


8. And saying goodbye is so very hard to do.


Happy life, Cici! See you at the Reunion Picnic in May!


In Defense of My Summer Garden


Don’t look too closely at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden, much less my own.


The dahlias are late, the sunflowers are sad, and the weeds are winning. But I have an excuse.


Actually, 12 excuses.


All of them adorable.


The puppy list is long at Homeward Bound, so everyone is sworn to social media secrecy when a litter arrives. And what an arrival!


With all puppies spoken for, and some already home, the cone of silence has been lifted, and you can see for yourself what poopy cuteness has been keeping me from the garden.


They came to us as a result of a partnership with another rescue, Forever Friends Golden Retriever Rescue in Ventura. A hugely handsome dad, Harley;

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a long, leggy mom, Molly;


and their 12 tiny “oops-puppies” surrendered by a woman in ill health, unable to care for them.


Puppies don’t raise themselves. Molly was a devoted and exhausted mom. Dad got himself adopted right away, and made a run for playtime on the coast, naturally! As soon as it was healthy, we weaned the pups and took over the heavy lifting for Molly.

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Keep in mind: what goes in…


must come out,

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and then it must be splattered on everything and everyone in sight!


For the past few weeks, I have arrived every morning to clean them and their mountain of mess – part of a team that watches over them day and night.


And while the garden has indeed suffered, watching these little fur balls grow, thrive – and go home to long-waiting families – makes it all worthwhile. Including sweet Connor who found his home with mom, Molly!

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Six are now home; the rest will soon follow. Then, I will make my way back to the neglected and overgrown garden. Watch out weeds!

Worked Like Dogs

As gardeners, our big game day tradition has been to ditch the guys and spend the day pruning the roses of the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. All 84 of them!


However, when you start to see this…


you know that you are already way behind. With daytime temperatures now in the 60’s…the roses just could not wait for game day this year.

Last weekend, Ina and Maria were out to do some. Anna, Lynn, our youth volunteer, Ara and I worked like dogs to finish them all off over two long days this weekend.


And we have the mountain of clippings to prove it!


I don’t know who is more tired…me, or our garden mascot puppy, Sybil.

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Sybil is one of four from Lady Edith’s litter. You’ll remember their adorableness from the Puppy Pop Quiz post in late November.

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They went home in December and are finally old enough to attend (muddy!) puppy class at the rescue.

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Sybil was delighted to be reunited with her sister, Kensie.

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As the two youngest in the class, you can imagine that this first day of raucous socialization and light training was a little overwhelming – and very taxing!

“Uh-oh! Gotta go!”

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“OMG…He’s killing her!”

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“No thanks. I’ll just sit this one out.”

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Covered in mud, cute Sybil was able to sit just long enough for a couple of shots…

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before sinking into a deep slumber.

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And without further ado…I am going to do the same!

Puppy Pop Quiz

Sugar and spice…and everything nice.

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Except the poop. Puppies are adorable.

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It is hard not to fall in love with each and every one. But matching the right puppy to the right family makes all the difference for dog and human.

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Our latest brood was delivered by Lady Edith. She has gone to her new family and will have her long-awaited eye surgery this week.

Her pups are all spoken for; their anxious families wait. But before we send them home, we wanted to complete their puppy assessments using the Puppy Aptitude Test developed by Jack and Wendy Volhard.

Each litter we are graced with is assigned a human “mom” who watches over them, cleans up after them, and most importantly, socializes them – so critical in a dog’s early weeks. This time, the honors fell to Judy.


The test assesses personality and temperament, which will help their new families provide the environment and nurturing they need to be well-raised dogs. This is not a pass or fail test  – and no – you cannot cheat off the teacher, either!

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It measures social attraction to dogs and people,

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confidence, dependence or independence,

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willingness to accept commands or follow,

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retriever instincts and prey drive,

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touch, sight and sound sensitivity.

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Born during a thunderstorm, raised by a good mama dog and devoted human, our pups are pretty unfazed by loud sounds, sudden movements or being handled. But certain personalities do emerge.

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Puppies with a strong desire to lead or play very rough need experienced dog people with a commitment to training and exercise to bring out their best selves.

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Shy or frightened pups need patient people in environments that are calm and stable.

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Go-along/get-along pups are best suited to first-time dog owners, families with children, or older people.

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And when the test is over…

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everyone gets a well-earned nap!

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Want to learn more about the Puppy Aptitude Test? Visit www.volhard.com.

Dog Tired

This is how tired I am. Dog tired.

But it’s the best kind of tired. This weekend, we put more than 200 bulbs in the ground and pots for spring –

and planted a Redbud in honor of sweet BoBo.

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BoBo found his forever home with Rob of RobandDog

and started him on his journey of rehabilitating those dogs most in need.

Six pups went home including one-up/one-down Tessa with her new friend Ringo,

And Barnaby who is being renamed “Barney” as in his new Dad’s favorite TV character, Barney Fife.

Adding to the chaos was a visit from Santa!

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Each year he makes a special trip to Homeward Bound to take pictures with all the dogs who have been adopted –

and those who wait.

Because we don’t have a chimney in the senior sanctuary, and because some of the senior dogs can’t walk all that way to Santa – his elves were enlisted to lend a hand. Look … I can fly!

All-in-all, it was an exhausting and perfect pre-Thanksgiving weekend reminding us to be thankful for the new families of our furry friends,

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and our family of devoted volunteers who make it happen.


Circle of Life

In rescue, you become accustomed to seeing – and accepting – the circle of life. Sometimes it is hard, and sometimes it is joyous. This weekend was joyous. Attending training class was Sophie (formerly Daisy) – reunited with two of her pups, Finn and Posey.


You may recall this beautiful girl who was surrendered to us with her four newborn puppies last spring.


She looked exhausted and a little lost then. It’s hard enough to raise puppies, but to do so in a new and strange place following a medical emergency must have been overwhelming. Done with her life of mom duties, she changed her name – and her appearance. She looks relaxed, happy, and very much-loved.


Thanks to Sophie, these adorable little fluff balls…


have grown into the rambunctious and happy teenagers – on their way to becoming canine good citizens.


The Memorial Garden gave us another ‘circle of life’ offering…a delightful surprise. About a month ago, I wrote about the Gulf Fritillary butterflies laying eggs in the passion-flower vine. Two weeks ago, the vine was covered with spiny caterpillars.

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Emerging from their chrysalis…


the entire garden has come to life with new Fritillary butterflies,


leaving their home base to fly from flower to flower,


sampling each as if to discover “do I like you?”


They quickly settled on the Sage and Lantana –

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while the Buckeye said “leave the Rudbeckia to me!”

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“Amidst the worldly comings and goings, observe how endings become beginnings.”
– Laozi (Lao Tzu)

Happy new beginning to Sophie,


and drinks are on the house pretty butterflies!


Back to Reality


Back from an adventurous week on Kauai and returned to a whirlwind of work and house guests. Among them was my sister, Beth and her husband, Gordon. Their stay was brief, but good – with a request to see Homeward Bound and the Memorial Garden which they have known only virtually.


We made our way there Friday, where the garden is beginning to look a lot like summer…

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and the puppies put my sister through her paces. Yes, those are razor sharp puppy teeth hiding behind all that cuteness!


Sunday was puppy aptitude test day,


which apparently involves umbrellas (something we have little need for!) –










and naps! Puppy tests are exhausting!


These little monsters are spoken for, but we have three remaining from the litter that was left in a box and delivered to our door. They are adorable 100% mix-breed, nine-week old pups named after the Lion King characters. Mufasa:




And Rafiki.


Other guests included Allie, a rescue, who is about to be enrolled as a therapy dog for our local Lend A Heart organization…

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And Sedona, the Homeward Bound alum of Martha and Randy.


Needless to say, I got little work done – which is just my speed right now! I’ll be back to my old self soon (I think). I may even sneak in a few more pictures from Kauai if you’ll indulge me. Until then … mahalo. It’s good to be back in the garden.