Late Summer’s Tiny Gems

After a blazing hot summer, the garden is in that in-between moment when the summer riot turns tiny and quiet until the fall steps forward in all its glory. You have to look closely in a sea of green for the garden’s little gems.

Hummingbird-loving Cuphea ignea.

Butterfly favorites Jupiter’s Beard,

Lantana,

and Butterfly Bush.

The purples and pinks of Pentas,

Penstemon,

Chives,

And Cosmos bespeckle the beds – their large drifts long gone.

Dainty Veronica tries to stand tall,

while bright Rudbeckia hides under the White Orchid tree to escape the hot sun.

Only the Dahlias and Sunflowers dare to be bold.

And if you look very, very closely – you might just find some other tiny little gems hidden in the garden.

But that is a story for another week. Stay tuned.

Rescue is Only The Start

When we set out to save this Memorial Garden from returning to the earth, we had no idea where the journey would lead.

It was a mission of rescue, re-creation, and re-envisioning.

Today – it is this.



But a garden is a living, breathing thing.

It changes over time; plants grow and morph; and once-happy companions need to find new homes. Like our Dahlias – recently relocated –

because their once-full-sun setting…

has been cloaked in shade.

Or this graceful rose, wild and tangled in its old spot…

now supported and delighted in its new home.

Rescue is only the beginning for our dogs, as well.
The work only starts with pulling a dog from a shelter, taking in a stray, or assuming responsibility for a surrender.
Some of our dogs come to us already blooming; they just need to be replanted (Seru!).


Others require training and TLC to bring out their best selves (Jackson!).

While we work through that process, transformations take place. They grow, become more confident, and come into their own (Chief!)

Sadly, sometimes, these are the dogs that wait. For all of their readiness, people have a hard time letting go of the dog’s past and embracing its future (Nico…adopted today…we told you it would happen, boy!).

When a plant outgrows its space, it sends gentle signals at first.

Eventually, it will struggle – deprived of the very things that made it grow so strong and well.

I hope these special pups will not lose hope or faith as they wait for that special someone who recognizes that all they need is a new start and new place to call ‘home’ (we’re working on it, Riley!).

Our work for this garden is a gift.

So too is our volunteers’ work to grow the potential of these pups into the great dogs they can and have become (Nick and Nora!).

Rescue is only the start.
‘Home’ is the ending.

Of Gardens and Rescue Dogs

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What a garden needs is time,

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patience,

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love,

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nurturing,

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hope,

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and room to grow.

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What a rescue dog needs…

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time,

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patience,

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nurturing,

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hope,

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and room to grow.

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“One of the greatest virtues of gardening is this perpetual renewal of youth and spring, of promise of flower and fruit that can always be read in the open book of the garden, by those with an eye to see, and a mind to understand.” ~ E.A. Bowles

The greatest virtues of rescue dogs are the same.

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In Its Season

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I have reclaimed my refrigerator. As any West Coast gardener knows – this is not about household tips. It’s about spring bulb planting.

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Daffodil bulbs can safely go into the ground in November at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. Many even return when left to “over-summer.” But tulips, hyacinths, and others require special treatment. In our warm Valley, there is no such thing as cold storage. So the bulbs are lifted in very late spring and stored in the refrigerator – much to my husband’s disgust. New additions join them for about six weeks of pre-chilling before planting (which means very little room for Thanksgiving leftovers!). Then, in December, as the nights approach freezing, they finally make their way out of the fridge and into the ground. Actually, pots above the ground.

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We learned the hard way just how yummy tender tulip bulbs are to burrowing bunnies.

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More than 500 Daffodils, Tulips, Iris, Hyacinth, Muscari, Iris, Chionodoxa, and Scilla – some gifted (thank you Lynn and Greg!); some saved – are now safely in their winter garden spots – leaving ample room in the fridge for Christmas cookie dough. A mission accomplished over a couple of beautiful Fall days.

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As rain is (hurrah!) on the horizon, I accomplished most of the annual raising of the beds this weekend, as well.

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Water is graded away from the kennels and toward the garden at Homeward Bound. Best for the dogs – but not so good for our drought tolerant plantings.

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To keep them from drowning, the beds – which have been well dog-trampled throughout the season – get raised each Fall with a mixture of compost and soil before they settle into winter slumber under the untrimmed remnants of Fall blossoms and fallen leaves. Nourishment for a bountiful spring.

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Fall is as busy in the garden as spring – only the chores have a deadline determined by cold and rain.

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Work done. Eyes dropping. Back aching. Time for a hot bowl of soup and a snuggling dog.

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“Every blade in the field, every leaf in the forest, lays down its life in its season, as beautifully as it was taken up.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Finally Fall

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The rain came – and with it fall. Finally, fall.

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Signaled by merry frogs,

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and colored by asters,

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sage,

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and Maria’s festive decorations.

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We caught the tail end of the horrible storm wrecking havoc in the Pacific Northwest. The best part. Even the poppies are reborn with cooler weather and a fresh drink.

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I’ve been hard at work on the creation of a new bed: an extension of our entry way gardens to replace a section of weedy grass and surround Jody’s beautiful metal tree – adorned with the dog tags of those who have come this way on their journeys home.

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What is now:

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What will be:

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In the wind and rain, we even managed a few adoptions – including Sara – now renamed Breezy, and aptly so! She got lost – and no one found her. That won’t happen again.

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I also had a visit from the one who got away – actually, the one that my Jackson passed up in favor of his new brother Yogi: Faith.

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We have learned that her Megaesophagus (her inability to eat normally, which I wrote about here) is the result of a larger issue: Centronuclear Myopathy (CNM) – an inherited disease in Labrador Retrievers which causes loss of muscle tone and control, exercise intolerance, and an awkward gait. It generally appears between two and five months. We noticed it in Faith and her sister as they approached six months on walks – and then at play. Their legs began to shake and then simply gave way. With a rest, they are soon back at it. But their bodies won’t develop the muscle tone of a typical dog – thus her very elongated look and goofy movements.

It has been prevalent since the 1970’s – and frustratingly, is 100% preventable by simply testing the breeding parents to determine if they carry the gene. As usual, education is the key – so spread the word. Thankfully, she and her sister have the best care with Cassandra, the world’s best mom.

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Fall is magnificent – too long in coming,

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and too short in staying.

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Maybe that is what makes it my favorite season.

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Wind in the Willow

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The Willow garden bed has always been a magical place. In the heat of summer, light north breezes blow in off the rice fields and into its deep shade, creating an outsize cool and dark refuge in an otherwise blazing landscape. Countless secrets have passed between dog and human on its bench, and a myriad of “going homes” celebrated under its canopy.

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Over the past few years, its mighty branches spread beyond their natural border, blocking the light and turning nearby sun gardens into shade. But the sheer weight of its grace threatened to send the entire tree crashing to the ground.

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With a heavy heart the arborist was called for a life-saving trim. By the end of the day, half its mighty size had fallen – and darkness was turned to light.

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It’s a difficult week for our little plants to be so rudely awakened. With temperatures forecast in the 100’s, they are mourning the loss of the tree’s dappled kindness as much as the Mockingbirds are grieving the loss of their magnificent perch, and the butterflies their shade.

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Was that a fairy that sent the warrior tree trimmers running and screeching like little girls? No, just a common snake that used to call its fallen leaves ‘home’.

By this time next year, it’s awkwardly exposed limbs will be covered once again. And the tree will be happier and healthier for its overdue pruning. Sometimes, a little light must be shed to appreciate what lies in the shadows.

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“I hear the wind among the trees
Playing the celestial symphonies;
I see the branches downward bent,
Like keys of some great instrument.”
~ Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

Double Dog Dare You

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Some said we could never tame this once-wild acre of thistle and weeds into a garden.

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Apparently, we like a challenge.

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Some things are their own reward.

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But when the gauntlet is thrown down, and the impossible is achieved – victory is that much more gratifying.

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So it was this week with some of our “Going Homes.” Jet (now Jasper) had a file as thick as an encyclopedia. He had been bounced around like a ping-pong ball for his one failing: he leaked. And not pee!

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They said it was impossible, but our Doc proved otherwise. He’ll be on a strict diet for the rest of his life, but treats are easy to forgo when you exchange them for love and a forever home. Saturday, his foster mom joined our “Failed Foster Club” and made it official.

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Myra celebrated Mother’s Day by adopting her own human “mom” (and dad!).

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She is one of our dogs rescued from the South Korea dog meat market (I wrote about it here). What a journey they have had. Rescued by the Humane Society International, and brought to us by their partner in the effort, the San Francisco SPCA, she was part of a group of four with emotional and behavioral needs so extreme that they needed lots of TLC to be adoptable. This was Myra shortly after her arrival.

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So fearful were they, that they were transported directly from crate to kennel when they first arrived. Sunday, Myra – now Kono – departed with her new humans,

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just as Tag (now Max) did a couple weeks ago.

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And – if you can keep a secret for a day – Roger, too. He went home as foster-to-adopt…adopt being the operative word!

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That leaves only Lena, who still needs a little more support.

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But she has found a confidence-building playmate in Cooper who is helping her come out of her shell.

And this week, we received two new puppies (my little man, Beau, packed his bags and headed for home). Both have Megaesophagus – or expansion of the esophagus. In their case, likely hereditary.

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Dogs with Megaesophagus will suddenly start regurgitating undigested food soon after eating. As they lose weight, they are at risk. So I will hope that, once again, we can do the impossible.

“The difference between the difficult and the impossible is that the impossible takes a little longer time.” ~Lady Aberdeen

I double dog dare you to tell us we can’t.

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Learning to Dance in the Rain

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“A single gentle rain makes the grass many shades greener. So our prospects brighten on the influx of better thoughts. We should be blessed if we lived in the present always, and took advantage of every accident that befell us.” ~ Henry David Thoreau

By accident, fate, or by design – life took some interesting twists and turns in the last few weeks. Some sad, some scary. But one thing I’ve learned: life just happens. When the storms come – you can let them drown you in sorrow and doubt, or you can learn to dance in the rain.

Dancing in the rain is what the garden did this weekend –

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and the dogs. Nope. These are not Golden Retrievers. But that is another story.

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I think the garden was a bit more appreciative of the puddles than Roger.

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I know that many who read this blog are praying for an end to rain or snow, but we delight in the grey and gloom knowing that an endless stream of blue skies and hot, thirsty days await.

“Instead of complaining that the rosebush is full of thorns, be happy that the thorn bush has roses.” ~ Proverb

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I’m grateful for the rain, just as I am grateful for the sunshine that brings warmth, and flowers, and light to life.

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No point in wishing for one or the other. All we can do is live in the present, take advantage of each accident that befalls us, and dance in the rain.

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Catching up to Forever

Alice: “How long is forever?”
White Rabbit: “Sometimes, just one second.” ~ Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland

I have been away from the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden for what feels like forever. Actually, it has only been a week. But when spring approaches, everything changes in the blink of an eye.

Making an appearance this week: Bradford Pear Blossoms, Daffodils, Iris, Calendula, Anemone, Hyacinth, Rosemary, Snapdragons, Ranunculus…

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and very soon…Tulips!

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Winnie the Pooh: “Did you ever wonder what it’s like being a flower living underground all winter and coming up in the spring?”
Eeyore: “Very uncomfortable. I shouldn’t wonder.” ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie the Pooh

The flowers are not the only things I miss by not being at the rescue daily. So many dogs! They have been coming and going so fast, it is impossible to keep up! Playing catch up…here are just a few:

Truffles was appropriately adopted on Valentine’s Day, because what better Valentine is there than a chocolate Truffles?

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Samson was, sadly, surrendered by his family. I hope they will be relieved to know that we had a great one waiting for him, and that they feel blessed to have him in their lives.

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Alice will be assisting at a local assisted living center that we have worked with before. She will be one spoiled and well-loved girl!

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Max was a long-time resident of ours and one of the many who benefited from the love and support of “Foster Daddy” aka, Rob.

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Without his intervention, Max might still be with us. But the help of Rob and all of our volunteers, Max is home.

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And Issac.

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Rescued and transported by our volunteer, Fred, who wrote this touching post about his experience:

“Yesterday I was asked to transport a dog from an animal shelter to Homeward Bound. At the shelter I was told the dog had not been temper-tested and could bite. I sat with the dog for a while and then the lady from the shelter said if you do not take it, the dog will be euthanized. When I heard that I slowly put a collar on him wondering if I was going to get bit. I did not get bit, and when I got the dog out of the shelter it kind of danced on the leash and was just so happy. The Golden then jumped into my car and I think both of us were smiling on the hour and a half trip to Homeward Bound. So many volunteers have helped and saved the lives of so many dogs. I know I have helped some dogs but this was the first dog I know I saved the life of. Yesterday was a good day for the dog – and it was a good day for me. I just thought I would share this.” ~ Fred S.

On that day, Issac adopted Fred by putting his faith and trust in a total stranger.

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Today, Fred adopted Issac and brought him home…

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for forever.

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!

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However, when you start to see this…

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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.

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And we have the mountain of clippings to prove it!

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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!

As Long As There Are Dogs

We have had four full fall seasons since we began our effort of building a Memorial Garden for the dogs and volunteers to enjoy. The garden continues to evolve as foundation plants mature, and the more temperamental succumb to our ongoing drought.

Season One was full of overflowing Zinnia’s and Dahlias.

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Season Two was the year of Rudbeckia, huge Mexican Sages and gigantic mums.

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Season Three delivered towering Sunflowers and Amaranthus.

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Missing this year altogether are the Dahlias, Amaranthus and beautiful purple Basil which never took hold. The Rudbeckia and Zinnias passed through half-heartedly; the Mexican Sage, herb garden and mums are but a shadow of their former selves.

“Despite the gardener’s best intentions, Nature will improvise.” ~Michael P. Garofalo

Still, we have some constants: the roses,

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Ina’s magnificent Asters with divides now populating the entire garden,

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our faithful Yarrow,

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flowing Fountain Grass which somehow survived the winter,

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the return of tiny frogs,

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Maria’s harvest-inspired decorations…

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And dogs. Always dogs.

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Going home this weekend: Jenny,

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Ginger,

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and Marley.

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As long as there are dogs that need to go home, there will be a fall garden at Homeward Bound

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in one form or another.