Hope Where Flowers Bloom

A couple of weeks ago, I felt encouraged that the collective “we” had finally awoken from a bad dream. For a minute, I thought that common sense and decency had finally prevailed over lies driven by greed, power, and ego. I had hope…something that has been in short supply these past two years and has made it impossible for me to write. It was short-lived.

If the message that was clearly sent was to eschew extremes on either side in favor of compromise and reason, it has gone unheard. The usual suspects are up to their usual tactics while war and climate change rage – threatening to upend our very existence.

Our battles here have seemed too small in comparison. But to those that we can help, I was recently reminded – they are not small at all.

Not to Jelly Bean, whose life was saved by a compassionate animal control officer and was transformed in our care from forgotten and discarded to health and joy.

Not to Dexter, finally freed from life on a chain only to demonstrate the unconditional love and forgiveness of a golden heart.

And not to Willow, the “damaged dog” rescued as a seizure puppy from certain death in a puppy mill to fulfill the years-long search of her new human.

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” ~ Lady Bird Johnson

I will look for my hope among the stories of our charges and the flowers that bloom in our Memorial Garden dedicated to them. I will try to write again.

Seventy Eight Days

The world feels small. Not so much to the tiny creatures that inhabit it;

they are oblivious to our reality.

It is hard enough for them to live in the reality we have created for them – like the unprecedented heat wave that grips the west right now.

But for humans; our world has diminished. As the pandemic expanded, we all became more isolated. Our view narrowed, our differences widened, and our resilience has been tested.

Some of us are resigned to the times. Others resist, setting us back further.

Once, there was a time when adversity would bind us; we would weather storms together. Or am I misremembering? It seems so long ago.

“We’re all islands shouting lies to each other across seas of misunderstanding.”
~ Rudyard Kipling, The Light That Failed

When it comes to the pandemic, there is nothing for me to do but buckle down, ride it out, and make the best of a terrible situation.

On other fronts, it is time to go to battle and stand up for the things I hold dear.

There is a second storm brewing. One for truth and justice and humanity…a fight for the soul of our nation.

78 days. Less actually – to ensure that our voices are heard and counted.

It is an eternity, and a blink of the eye. And finally, an opportunity to come together and set something right.

“We don’t heal in isolation, but in community.”
― S. Kelley Harrell, Gift of the Dreamtime

Wishing you hope

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –

That perches in the soul –

And sings the tune without the words –

And never stops – at all….
~ Emily Dickinson

My hope for your holiday and the New Year:
Kindness. Civility. Generosity. Patience. Possibility.

Wishing you all the joys of the season. May they not be forgotten in the New Year.

Waiting. Hoping. Praying.

If the good deeds we have done together entitle us in any small way to call in a special request from above – we need that now. One of our own has fallen ill. She is loved and needed by her family, her extended rescue family, and by the dogs.

Because I am helpless to do more right now than to call for the prayers and good wishes of all, I send you flowers from the garden we both love.

And news that Chewy – one of your heart dogs – found his forever home today.

He fell instantly in love with his new little boy and will watch over him the way your family and we are watching over you. Waiting. Hoping. Praying for your full return to us.

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.

Hope Never Stops

Today’s Wordless Wednesday post has been preempted – read on; you will understand why.

In November 2012 – twenty months ago – I shared a story of a beautiful Golden Retriever that had been spooked while camping with her family in Tahoe National Forest. Scared, she bolted and then became lost. Our extended Homeward Bound family joined her family in daily searches until the snows fell. We hoped that someone unknowing had her safe. Winter came and went. And another winter came and went. She was spoken of often, and never forgotten.

This morning, we were greeted with this message.

Our dearest Family and Friends,

After 20 long months of being in the Tahoe National Forest, Murphy has come home. As you can imagine we are completely shocked and amazed with the miracle of her surviving this long. We responded to a call from a couple who spotted a dog matching her description in an area within 5 miles of where we lost her. After multiple days looking for her without success, we left her bed and our clothing behind with the campground host, in the hopes that she would respond. A week went by and we got a call from the campground host who was able to coax her into a kennel after she had been sleeping every night on the blanket and clothing that was left behind. We were reunited with Murphy, on Sunday afternoon – Father’s Day! She is on the road to recovery, very thin and frail but happy to be home with her family. We have so many people to thank the list is endless. Words cannot describe how grateful we are. Homeward Bound was instrumental in their efforts to help, the campground host – Jason, Jacob (guy that made the call), Missy, Lea, Deann, Teresa, Mike, Mike, Mary, Jason, Lauren, Larry, Bubba, Wawa, Bob and Kim — You all know who you are. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts. We are forever grateful.

Murphy’s family has been inundated with media requests and other attention. They understandably just want time to be with their beloved golden girl. Out of respect for them, I have updated the earlier post to delete their information. But I did want to share our joy. It is a reminder that miracles do happen.

“Hope is that thing with feathers that perches in the soul and sings the tune without the words and never stops…at all.” ~ Emily Dickinson


Welcome home, Murphy.

Where Hope Grows


I took a trip to the river on Saturday. We sit at the confluence of the Sacramento and American Rivers.


At this time of year, the banks are usually under water. Now, there is just dried grass and thistle.


One of my blogging friends said that nature has a way of protecting her garden. This week, she did. We had two days of actual water falling from the sky. When hope gives way, you rely on faith. When faith is not enough, even those with questions turn to prayer. However briefly, they were answered this week.


You could almost feel the budding trees and early spring risers saying “thank you.”



The groundhog saw his shadow and declared six more weeks of winter. We felt its shiver today, and will gladly welcome it if it brings some more wet weather. We may yet see some rain ahead, but not enough, unfortunately, for our ranchers and growers who have been told there will be no release of water this year. We forget that California was once desert.

Our garden is planted with many drought tolerant perennials. Their hardiness will be well-tested. In a supreme act of faith, Ina pruned the plums today.


Filled with fruiting buds – we all said another little prayer.

On the subject of prayer, could you say a little one for Ballou? This shy, scared boy has returned to us because his human mom passed away. It has been several weeks, and I have yet to see him smile. He needs a special someone who understands his worried heart and just wants to hold him close.


And raise a cheer for Ginger. Smiles all around for this gorgeous girl and her new forever home.


“Where hope grows, miracles blossom.” ~ Elna Rae