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!


Happiness alights

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The garden is aflutter with butterflies. The Monarchs…the White Cabbage…and Fiery Skipper…


and the Gulf fritillary or passion butterfly.


Usually these Gulf Frits can be found gorging on the Lantana and verbena…

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but this weekend, it’s all about the passion-flower.


This is where they will lay their eggs – because their larva feeds exclusively on the passion-flower vine that covers our arbor.

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Before long, there will be spiny caterpillars covering the arbor…the beginning of the transformation from larva to winged beauty.

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But more than butterfly transformations are underway here.

Abigale was picked up as a stray on the 4th of July. No one ever claimed her from the shelter, which may have been just as well. Overweight, covered in mats with a brewing infection on her underside, she was likely a neglected outdoor dog.


So frightened was she by her ordeal, we couldn’t even go near her to put on a collar. For her first week, she stayed outside in a covered yard refusing to allow anyone near her.


Gradually, our volunteers made their way to her side, and gradually, she came to trust them. Which is how we learned that she loved balls, and water, and kids, and other dogs. This weekend, Abigale found her way to her forever home…a family that could always be counted on to come looking for her if she ever got lost.

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But the most dramatic transformation was in the fortunes of Caitlyn.


Her cauliflower ear and these words in her file: “removed from her home for her own safety” – say it all. She was checked out of the shelter as a boy. But a thorough exam and bath later, we discovered their error. Thus the name Caitlyn.


This malnourished, teddy-bear-faced GIRL had obviously been through a lot. Amazingly, her disposition remained forgiving and loving.


She went home this week as a foster with one of our long-time volunteers.


By all accounts, things are going wonderfully and we are crossing our paws that she will be reclassified soon as a “foster-failure.”

Neither Abigale nor Caitlyn probably ever knew that their new-found happiness was possible.


“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond your grasp, but which, if you will sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” ~ Nathaniel Hawthorne

What a joy for us to be a tiny part of it.


“Beautiful and graceful, varied and enchanting, small but approachable, butterflies lead you to the sunny side of life. And everyone deserves a little sunshine.” ~ Jeffrey Glassberg

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Happy sunshine, Abigale and Caitlyn.

Thanks to photographer, Rob Kessel for lending some photos of Abigale and Caitlyn.

Why Heaven Made Dogs

“If Heaven made him — earth can find some use for him.” ~ Chinese Proverb


As our garden matures, it has found purpose beyond beauty. Our compost now makes soil. Our passion vine feeds caterpillars –


that turn into beautiful Gulf Fritillary butterflies.


Nature has a way of creating purposeful pairs…Monarchs and their symbiotic relationship with Butterfly Weed;


Birds and their perches;


Lizards and turtles?


Apparently in our garden – if no where else. Spring needs Fall;


Bees need flowers;


And dogs need homes. Among others, Daphne and Delilah found theirs together this weekend…


And Indy, too.


And why did heaven make dogs?


“Dogs come into our lives to teach us about love, they depart to teach us about loss. A new dog never replaces an old dog; it merely expands the heart. If you have loved many dogs, your heart is very big.” ~ E. Jong

Doing our Part

Our garden not only provides a welcome place for rescued dogs – it supports them through donations for commemorative bricks in our Memorial Garden Path and plaques on our Garden Wall.

This is Sally.


This young, puppy-faced dog has already had a lifetime of breeding. Those days are over. Pampering and TLC are our orders for her moving forward.


But pups are not the only creatures helped by our garden.

Monarch butterflies have a symbiotic relationship with Milkweed – their host plant.


A female monarch lays its eggs on a sprouted milkweed plant. The eggs hatch in four to five days producing tiny yellow, black and white banded caterpillars which feed solely on Milkweed. After three weeks of voracious munching, the caterpillar enters the pupa stage and gradually changes into an emerald-green case ringed with golden dots. After five weeks old, the transformation is complete and it emerges as a butterfly.


Two or more summer generations might be produced in the North before the migration begins for over-wintering in the South. Their principal winter vacation spot is Mexico, with some finding warm refuge in Florida, Cuba or Southern California.


Today, Monarchs are disappearing in huge numbers. Their habitat is being lost due to development, overuse of herbicides, climate change and roadside clearing programs. Once common, this beautiful butterfly is on the verge of collapse. We can all help by creating Milkweed “way stations” – which is exactly what we have done in the Memorial Garden.


While it is a perennial, hardy for zones 3-9 – the Milkweed we planted last year did not reappear. So we reinvested and have installed a couple dozen more plants in small patches throughout the garden.


The brilliant Gulf Fritillary, which flourished in our area until the 1960’s actually became extinct in our region.


For reasons unexplained, it made a reappearance around the year 2000. Its host plant is the Passionflower vine – which graces one of the entries to our garden.


The Gulf Frit has a particular taste for the nectar of Lantana, Mexican Sunflower and apparently, Verbena.


It’s no surprise that it has found a welcome home here.


And then there are the bees. Colony collapse is threatening honey bees everywhere. Honey bee pollination is critical for tree nuts, berries, fruits and vegetables. The loss of Honey bees threatens crop production and other species who depend on it as well.


There are many theories surrounding the cause of the disappearing bees, but little certainty. We can support them now by improving their health and habitat – and reducing the things known to be hazardous to both. Give up or severely limit the use of pesticides. If you must use them – avoid applying during mid-day hours, when honey bees are most likely to be out foraging for nectar and pollen on flowering plants.


Plant bee-friendly plants – those that are good sources of nectar and pollen such as bee balm, coneflower, goldenrod, aster, borage and sunflower.


Finally, there are those that we unintentionally support in the garden. Bunnies, lizards, snakes and birds are welcome guests – as long as they keep a respectable distance or don’t eat more than their share. The birds – which have been knocking off the grapes and gobbling them up – may be pushing their luck this year.


They better watch out. I bet we can find some bird-dogs around here somewhere!