All In A Day

All in a day…

A motley duo transformed and made as beautiful on the outside as they are within.

A one year old boy is surrendered, and then reclaimed because his people could not be without him with the understanding that a dog is a member or the family and a promise is a promise. Kids (human or canine) take time to grow up. Patience, perseverance and consistency are the keys. You get out what you put in.

Three Golden girls were spared a life of puppy-making and will, instead, enjoy a life of love and play.

A good Samaritan went out of his way (and wallet) to convince a neglectful and abusive owners to sell him the dog they left chained in the yard.

Before bringing him to us, he took the unbelievably trusting and forgiving Labby boy to the river and showed him that good people do care.

Three grateful Goldens saved from the streets (or worse) traveled more than 6,000 miles to begin a new life.

Three masquerading teeny tiny tots made their way to our Golden Retriever rescue (and my foster home)

because our favorite breed is rescued.

And one hundred and twenty roses were pruned and prepped for a new season thanks to the best-ever gardening crew (only a few are captured here).

Countless little miracles – all in a day.
Find your passion and jump in. Even the muddy water is fine.

Fragility and Resilience

“Life is fragile, like the dew hanging delicately on the grass, crystal drops that will be carried away on the first morning breeze.” ~  Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche

Sometimes, the most fragile-looking things have the greatest resilience.

A spider’s intricate web is designed to hold its maker, its prey, and a chandelier of droplets ten times its weight.

This tiny frog is everywhere in the garden in the middle of winter, finding shelter and warmth under leave piles and overturned pots.

I wish the same resilience for Taylor – a new arrival.

He looks like a very young dog, but is actually a three-year-old, emaciated boy. His story is not yet written.

We’ll need to determine if there is an unmet physical or emotional need – or if his well-meaning people were just unsure how to help him. Thankfully, they turned to us.

It’s clear that Taylor has put his trust in us, as well.

The garden is quiet and still – in anticipation of more rain and cutting back later in the month.

But the inn is filling up fast; the annual post-holiday flood of dogs. So “going homes” are in order to clear some space. Congratulations to Riggs, Charlie, and Rudy.

Happy lives, all!

Hope is a Road: Amelia’s Story

“Amelia is loose at Lake Tahoe. Can you post for help?” Amelia is a six-year-old “English Cream” Golden Retriever and retired breeder dog. And not from a responsible breeder. We see too many of them. They have spent their whole lives living outdoors and making puppies. They arrive shut down, fearful, and unsocialized. They connect with other dogs, but not quickly or easily with most humans. It can take weeks, months, and in some cases, years for them to overcome their past experiences.

Amelia had been adopted just five days prior. Sometimes, when people fall in love with a dog, they listen only with the hearts. They underestimate what they are reading in the file, being told, and even seeing before them. They are in love. But you could see it in Amelia’s face on her adoption day.

She was going to need a lot of time and TLC before she would trust.

Given a momentary open door before being leashed – Amelia took off. On one side was heavily wooded and mountainous terrain populated by cougars, coyotes, snakes, and bears. On the other side: a very busy highway. The date: just a week before the July 4th fireworks when an already spooked dog could be scared into even further harm. The longer she was out, the greater the risk.

The word spread like wildfire. Local shelters, vets, online sites, road crews, and community members were alerted. A team of dedicated Homeward Bound volunteers was assembled. We’re family. And when one of us goes missing, we kick into high gear.

We were blessed to have local volunteers who knew the terrain and the challenges. One, Mike, had been on the hunt for Murphy, the dog that disappeared into the Tahoe National Forest in 2012. Incredibly, she turned up at a campground 20 months later. A miracle: that’s what we needed for Amelia.

They set out blankets with her smell, cooked bacon to attract her, and left tempting meaty treats in a humane dog trap. But all they attracted were other animals. Sightings would be reported early in the mornings, but as soon as she saw people, she would flee. This went on for a week of 17 hour search days while overnight temperatures dropped to the low 30’s. As the 4th of July grew closer, the nights colder, and the Tahoe roads more crowded with tourists, her situation was becoming desperate.

Amelia’s social media post reached more than 40,000 people. But here’s the thing: it only takes one. The one special person we connected to was a proven dog trapper who had returned over 50 dogs. And he lived just minutes from Homeward Bound. Brian volunteered his time, trap, and secret lure (puppy chow), and made his way to Tahoe to share his expertise just as hope was waning. It had been two days since Amelia was last sighted.

A couple days after Brian’s visit, Mike and Charley got up before dawn.They set the trap  in the area where Amelia was last spotted, filled it with the puppy chow and left to wait from a distance to avoid spooking her. As they drove down the road, Mike spied Ameila peaking out behind a pile of logs. They pulled over. She skulked by them warily looking right at them. With all the patience they could muster, they held still, waited and watched as she made her way in the direction of the trap. After what seemed like an eternity, they went to check. And there she was!

Before 7 AM on July 3rd, the word went out: Amelia is found! She was thin and dirty, but in surprisingly good shape given her ordeal.

Her rescue team surrounded her with their dogs knowing that would give her comfort, and within hours, they returned triumphantly to Homeward Bound.

Amelia was excited and comfortable in the company of her dog friends.

The usually standoffish girl seem to recognize that these – her rescuers – were good, trustworthy people.

After a bath and a meal, exhaustion set in.

Understanding that Amelia’s needs were greater than first believed, she was returned to our care. Our only question was: which of her rescuers would become her forever family? None wanted to let her out of their sight again.

Jana was part of her search team and has been a volunteer with Homeward Bound since the beginning. She had lost her beloved McKinley not long ago and had adopted Trixie – another shy girl who was rapidly gaining confidence – and regaining her health – with Jana’s loving care. Jana had planned to adopt a friend for Trixie when she returned from her previously scheduled two-week trip.

And so it was agreed. Amelia stayed with us for a bit where she could be under watchful eyes and close to our vet given her ordeal until Jana returned.

This week, Amelia and Trixie became sisters.

And we have a pretty good feeling they are going to be very good for each other.

Happy life, Amelia. It’s been a long road – but you are home.

While we are grateful to all that joined the effort, these individuals went way above and beyond: Mike Stram, Deb Safford, Denise and Charlie Lohner, Jana Hook, Gina Heise, and Brian Burke, the tracking expert.

“Hope is like a road in the country; there was never a road, but when many people walk on it, the road comes into existence.” ~ Lin Yutang

Buster’s Little Miracle

“He’s going to break your heart,” they said. Buster was an emergency transfer from a local shelter. He had been found stray and unable to use his back legs. His fate, if he stayed at the shelter, was clear. Homeward Bound – on Independence Day – was his last chance.

His transport angel said he looked like he had given up. She thought he would just sleep on the long journey to safety. But after he was lifted into the van and they got underway, he used every ounce of strength he had left to crawl to her side.

He saw the Doc upon his arrival, and because we don’t just give up, started him on meds even though his legs showed significant neurological issues including the apparent loss of sensation. Carolyn and Lori set about removing the foxtails covering his belly and then put him in a dog wheelchair for a trip to the pool where he was outfitted with a doggy life jacket. He had been out for days in 100+ weather. The water would feel fine.

Lori and Buster. Photo Credit: Rob Kessel

After an assisted float, an exhausted Buster was carried back to the office on a stretcher. “Office Dog” is a highly coveted designation and Buster must have been pretty happy with all the attention having booted another dog from the appointed position.

Sometimes, small miracles happen when dogs know that they are finally safe. With nearly everyone departed, Lori went to get some towels. When she turned around, look who she saw standing at the door and staring.

He walked like “a drunken sailor,” she said – but he walked!

The next day, he walked his way to the pool for another assisted swim, and then a roll in the yard. By the weekend, he was swimming life jacket-free.

We don’t know his true age, but he is a senior citizen for sure.

Lori has been out daily to get him in the pool in hopes of strengthening those back legs. Now, he only gets this “assistance” when she has put him through the paces.

Who knows what brought him to that abandoned place or what his life was like before? Who knows if this is a short-lived miracle or a hoped-for second chapter?

But he is a gentle, sweet soul; kind to other dogs; and clearly enjoying the company of loving human friends.

Buster may still break our heart someday – but not before filling it with joy.
Little miracles do happen – in safety.

And Toto Too


We prune to encourage new growth in the spring. It’s an art and a science. And while roses are pretty resilient, you still take great care because, sometimes, you can go too far.

In December, odd couple Cody and Rusty arrived. We nicknamed Rusty, Toto, for his resemblance to Dorothy’s little friend.


Rusty is 7; Cody 10.

Cody portrait graciously loaned by Rob Kessel

Surrendered when the wife developed allergies, they were inseparable. It was easy to know. On the rare occasion that they were briefly apart, Rusty let out blood-curdling screams that sent all of us running to investigate.

We work very hard to keep bonded pairs together. Like our mud-covered friends, Toby and Noel who went home together this weekend.


Still, the odds of finding one home for this mismatched pair were slim – to none? When a family fell in love with little Rusty, we reluctantly gave our OK, knowing that it would dramatically improve Cody’s odds. As it did. He was adopted very shortly after.

But then Rusty came back. He was miserable without his buddy and screeching for him incessantly. When a call was placed to Cody’s new family to inquire – might they, would they, could they be interested in adopting Rusty, too? – the response was “actually, we’re not sure Cody is such a great fit, either. Maybe they should be together.”

Cody was returned Saturday morning – rejoined with his beloved Rusty to squeals of joy. We had pruned too far.

Nature knows what is needed. You just have to use care and have faith. Which is why, not a half hour after Cody was returned, a wonderful couple arrived in search of a pair; a Golden, and a lap dog. What are the odds? They said ‘yes’ to Cody…and Toto, too!


While their new family grew larger, our roses grew smaller.


Six gardeners with clippers and one relentless man with a wheelbarrow managed to prune over 100 roses in the Memorial Garden.


And just in the nick of time. The Daffodils, Hyacinth, Narcissus and Rosemary signal: spring is near.


But Cody and Rusty could have told you that. Their new season has already arrived. Happy lives, you two!

After the Rain

After the rain…


and before the deluge…


moments of beauty –


the company of dogs,


filthy, muddy play,


and a banner weekend for getting dogs home.


There were absolutely no appointments on the board when I arrived early Saturday morning, and then they came, one by one.


Thankfully, we had a full complement of adoption counselors on hand because – by the end of the day –


eight dogs had found their forever families.


In this mix is a very special story; an unexpected little miracle. Our volunteers will recognize it, but the rest of you will have to wait a bit – just to make sure it sticks. Keep those paws crossed and I will bring it to you soon.

Until then, keep bailing –


And thank the heavens for rain in California.


Desta’s Week


A lot can happen here in a week. The roses can come into bloom,


Bees can find heaven in lavender again,

Bee_Lavender_ DSC_4399

Grape leaves sprout from dormant canes,


And dogwoods –


and dogs – can blossom.

Desta was a stray found gorging on cat food left outdoors. A Good Samaritan captured and brought the clearly emaciated “puppy” to Homeward Bound’s vet. The “puppy” turned out to be a one-year-old, growth-stunted Golden who had clearly had an encounter with something unfriendly – most likely of the moving vehicle type.


Her skull is concave in spots as a result, and her limbs were pencil thin when found. Her tummy was engorged – the result of eating all that cat food. The tasty treats can wreak havoc on even a healthy dog. Desta required immediate care.

There’s no way to know how long she was out there on her own, but it had to be a while. Our Doc fixed her up and called us. She arrived last weekend, weak and terrified.


We bathed her and began loving on her, but had to carry her to the garden. She was too terrified to walk on a leash.


We put her within eyeshot of Cooper, an 11-month old that had been surrendered to a shelter for exhibiting some of the fears you usually see in feral dogs. He too could be a runner.


As it turns out, they were each others’ best medicine.

Alone, they were frightened little pups that would probably bolt at the first opportunity. Together, they could be brave.


We let them play together in the sunshine until they both collapse from exhaustion.


Part of that play includes socializing them to humans and just look at the progress in just a few days!


A lot can happen in a week.

Dog Kidnaps Heart


Benson is an adorable Golden who arrived with a hot-mess list of ailments that would turn anyone upside down!


The poor boy had both hookworms and Clostridium (a bacterial infection) which led to puddles of diarrhea. He also tested positive for heartworm. Triage was in order.

We dealt with the hookworms and Clostridium first (because no one is a fan of cleaning up runny poo!). Then, we needed to put some weight on him before beginning the heartworm treatment. While all of this was going on, Benson earned the coveted office dog spot where he could be closely monitored.

Regular readers are familiar with the office dognapper – aka, my gardener buddy, Anna.


Soon, I began noticing that my gardener was disappearing, and my camera was loaded each week with images of Anna and Benson.


So it was no surprise that Anna showed up on Sunday with her Jenni and Royce (16!) for a meet-and-greet.


With a thumbs up, the red-heads headed home together – where Benson has found a comfy and quiet spot to rest while he finishes his heartworm treatment.


It seems this wormy boy has wormed his permanent way into our dognapper’s heart.


Lucky Boy!