Noelle: Our Christmas Joy

A Good Samaritan saw her stray and shivering in the rain and mud. She was frightened, emaciated, and would not come. Animal control was called. A catch pole was used; something that can be terrifying to dogs but life-saving when there is no other option.

She was covered in mats and filth, and it was obvious that she had recently had puppies. There was no sign of them. It’s unclear if she was turned out after weaning them, or had simply wandered off. She is a Great Pyrenees mix. Working Pyrenees tend to be treated like livestock: valued for their natural instincts as protectors of their land or flock, but not valued like family. No one came looking for her.

In the shelter, she would not have stood a chance. Our area coordinator scooped her up and she was transported to Homeward Bound. It seems like every year around the holidays, we are gifted with a very special dog in need. Noelle was our Christmas blessing.

Her large mats were removed. She was bathed. She was seen by our vet. And then she received a professional shave to give her the fresh start she needed and deserved.

We expected that she would be with us for a little while. While her demeanor is affectionate, sweet, and surprisingly trusting given what she has endured, we know that it can be difficult to see through a rail-thin body and shaved coat to the dog within.

We were wrong.

Brad grew up with Homeward Bound through his mother’s work with us. He has a huge heart for dogs in need. He and his wife, Karissa, recently lost their Golden girl. They had been coming to meet dogs but had not yet made a heart-connection. They knew it would be clear when the right match came along. And it was.

They fell head-over-heals in love. She needed them. And they needed her. The first thing they told her: “Someone didn’t love you enough.” That is solved. Noelle is home, and now, she is our shared Christmas joy.

Dogs like Noelle find hope for second chances and forever homes through Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue & Sanctuary. If you can help, please make a gift in honor or in memory of your special someone on our virtual Giving Tree. Your donation supports hundreds of dogs like Noelle on their journeys to safety and home each year. Either way, visit the tree and scroll down to read the heartfelt messages – delivered in the true spirit of the season.

Wishing you safety, health, happiness, and forever homes. Love, Ogee.

Nash’s Big Day

Nash, the furless wonder, arrived almost two years ago. At the age of eight, he had been left in a local shelter. He was listed as a Black Labrador, but he looked more like an exotic hairless dog – except for the smell. He was suffering from Malassezia pachydermatis – a yeast found on the skin and ears of dogs that can get out of control leading to greasiness, loss of hair, and “malodorous discharge from legions” – in other words, stink. He had a bacteria growing in his ears that is resistant to antibiotics. It makes his ears hurt. And for good measure, his body was covered in small benign masses that hung like black icicles.

He’s the kind of hot mess that many rescues won’t take on. But Homeward Bound did.
He’s an awesome dog. A beloved dog.

A dog who never demanded much:
throw the ball,
give me a cookie.
make me a comfy bed.

It took a long time to find the right combination of food, medications, and baths to finally grow some hair back – and most importantly, get out the rank smell that kept him from going home.

He put up with his twice-weekly baths, the t-shirts and sunscreen we made him wear in the summer to protect his skin, and the sweaters in winter to keep him warm. He endured the periodic removal of those recurring masses. He moved back and forth between our Sanctuary house and the kennel – depending on where he would get more time, attention, and love. And he saw countless dogs go home and never asked “where’s mine?” He was grateful for all he received.

We all wanted so desperately for him to find his forever home. But when it was finally his turn – it was hard to say ‘goodbye.’ Our dogs get out a minimum of three times a day – usually four. But Saturday, Nash was out all day with a long line of volunteers who had to get their final hugs and play in before his big day: Sunday.

His people arrived early. Anxious they were. Awakened from his after-breakfast nap, Nash was not quite sure what to make of this photo-op.

Or maybe, it was just that we needed to remind them of his sensitive ears.

But a trip to the big park and a lesson in “chuck it” let him know that this was not your ordinary day.

And the soft bed with extra cushions in the back of a car confirmed it.

Nash has his own people. People with balls!

He will be in the best of hands. People we know and trust. People who have a proven heart for rescue.

Congratulations – and happy life to Nash – our extra special friend. We will miss you, boy.

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.

Foxy’s New Reality


“How do we know that the sky is not green and we are all colour-blind?” ~ Author Unknown

Reality can be deceiving – and when it comes to dogs – changing, especially in response to the environment they are in. When she arrived last February, Foxy’s reality was that of a talker. A persistent, incessant, completely annoying and very loud talker. Correction. Barker. TALK. TALK. TALK. BARK. BARK. BARK!


Foxy had things to say and she was going to make darn sure that you heard them. Between her terrible leash skills and her rattling on, she turned away potential adopters faster than you can yell “quiet!”

Time went on. We worked with her on leash skills. She got better.


We wanted her to relate better to people. Not a problem.


But when it came to matchmaking, our perception of her barking reality probably led us to put others before her. Everyone except Lisa.


As is so often the case, the people who are both feeders and walkers notice things that other do not. They spend the most time with the dogs, and see their reactions in different settings and situations. Lisa noticed the change in Foxy. While other dogs came and went, Foxy had turned into a well-behaved, proper-walking pooch with a much more controlled mouth.

The challenge was to prove it to others. With a house already overflowing with dogs, foster was out of the question. The plan: field trips.


Lisa sprang Foxy for trips to the lake, play dates with other dogs, and even the drive-through where Foxy dined on In-And-Out burgers (extra cheese please!). Lisa shared all of Foxy’s adventures until people started to see a new reality that we had been blind to.


A new story was written; a video produced; social media was launched.

Her post was shared widely and her YouTube video was viewed nearly 1,000 times. But most importantly, our perception of Foxy changed. Getting her home became everyone’s mission. Thus, when one of our placement team members was interviewing a prospective adopter, our transformed Foxy was top of mind. She shared the video and an immediate and heartfelt connection was made.

Lisa arranged to meet the woman and her two eight-year-old Labs at the lake. They hit it off. Foxy started playing with a toy, chewing on a stick, and mimicking the Labs. “I was amazed. It was like she was remembering how to be a carefree dog again,” Lisa told us.


Last weekend, Foxy’s long wait came to a storybook end.


Her new mom takes the dogs to the lake weekly. In the summer, they travel with her to Tahoe for long hikes and swims in cooler waters. And best of all, Foxy’s new home is just a stone’s throw from Lisa’s.

“Reality is merely an illusion, albeit a very persistent one.” ~ Albert Einstein

Welcome to your new reality, Foxy. Happy life, sweet girl.


The Boys: Together Forever

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I absolutely love these boys. But then, so do all of the volunteers at Homeward Bound.


They are the quintessential Goldens – loveable, huggable, and Velcro.

I wrote about Max and Felix a couple of weeks ago. Their humans tragically perished together. It’s hard enough for us to suffer the loss of our dog companions. Imagine how confused and lost ten-year-old dogs feel to lose their humans.

Rumor had it that there was an adopter on the horizon. When that fell through, I forced my husband to bring our Jackson out to see if they might be a foster match (not so secretly hoping we would be foster failures). Jackson has been sorely missing his canine sister, Bella. At the very least, I hoped we could provide Max and Felix with a place to wait in comfort, while providing some companionship for Jackson.


Our boy gets along with everyone, so it was not surprising that there were no issues. But there were no sparks, either. No connection. If anything, Jackson was a little nervous around Max while hanging a little closer by Felix. Not quite willing to give it up, I reintroduced them and supplied photo proof that they could at least eventually settle down together.


My husband relented and agreed to foster them, but the concession came too late. Or maybe not. Had they been home with us, they would not have been seen by a young couple who came in that same morning looking for a dog. No particular dog. No particular gender. Young or old. Golden or mix. It didn’t matter. Just a good dog. They found not one – but two. Once they laid eyes on Max and Felix, it was a done deal.


And I wasn’t even around to get the photo! With thanks to my friend and fellow blogger, Rob of “Rob & Dog”, I present Max and Felix’s going home photos!



What good people to open their hearts and home to two very bonded brothers whose lives had been turned upside down.

My husband was probably correct in believing that Max and Felix would not be Jackson’s forever dogs. We know what a true connection looks like for him when we see it. It begins with a play bow and doesn’t end until both are exhausted.

We’ll find it. Eventually.

As for Max and Felix – tragedy brought them to us. But we send them home – together and forever – as promised, with all our love.

Max Felix_DSC_9869

Happy (long) lives, boys. We are all going to miss you.

A Very Special Going Home


“What day is it?”
“It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
“My favorite day,” said Pooh. ~ A.A. Milne, Winnie-the-Pooh

My favorite days are Saturdays and Sundays, when I can spend gardening time in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden –


and visiting with the dogs. Meet new arrivals Benjamin…


and Zachary.


But our favorite days at the rescue are Going Home days. To catch you up … Joe went home to Russ’ healing care.


Jack hit the jackpot and found three gorgeous girls to love.


Trevor is a ladies man as well and stole the heart of former adopters.

Trevor Going Home_DSC_2820

Cooper is an official foster-failure. His adoption papers were completed this weekend, and his dad was on site for our Volunteer Orientation so he could help other pups on their journeys home.


And “Not-a-Golden” Bella was all smiles as she headed out with her new mom.

Bella Going Home_DSC_3376

But one Going Home this weekend was extra special. I recently shared a post about long-time volunteers Chris and Steve moving to Colorado. They have always taken on our “special cases” – the dogs who remain unpredictable despite dedication and extensive training. Beautiful Sammie was one of those dogs … “who me?”


Her rap sheet meant that she could only be adopted to volunteers who understood her special challenges and needs. Otherwise, she would find sanctuary here with us. Chris and Steve made a commitment to add her to their family; making it a reality took more time they would have liked. She would have visits in their RV on the weekends, but their home was too small to accommodate all of their pups while ensuring everyone’s safety and security. A promise, however, is a promise.

After an arduous trip in an RV filled with special needs dogs, not to mention a harrowing dog medical emergency along the way, Steve made a return flight to Sacramento. On Saturday, he took Sammie for one last walk down the kennel …


into the bath …


with a stop at the garden for pictures and farewells …

Sammy Going Home_DSC_3158Sammy_Going Home_DSC_3152

and then – wait – what? A car? It was as if she instantly grasped its meaning. This was a Going Home car. Sammie’s Going Home car. At last.


“But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep…” ~ Robert Frost

As I write, Steve and Sammie are completing the last leg of their two-day journey to their new home. There, she will have space enough to meet her needs and allow her to live out her life as a loved, family dog.

Promise made. Promise kept.


Happy life, Sammie girl.

With appreciation to photographer, Rob Kessel for his Sammie photos.

Wherever Faith Finds Us

Jack Rabbits_DSC_7343

I find my faith in nature…


the skies, woods, meadows and garden are my cathedral.

Northern Flicker_DSC_1377

I place my faith in something that has no name. All I know is that it greater than all of us.


I try to live my life by one rule: treat others as you hope to be treated.

“Make yourself necessary to somebody. Do not make life hard to any.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson


Spring is a time of rebirth, celebration and remembrance for people of many faiths.


Regardless of which faith guides you, my hope for all during this special time is to find beauty,








and awe…


that the world might be a better place for all.


Happy Homecomings

We like every dog to know they are special, but when you help hundreds of dogs each year on their journeys home, being original about naming them can be a little difficult. So each month, we turn to themes. Composers, poets, artists…and this month: cars. I know. It’s just wrong.
Meet Mercedes.


And Rambler.


But Odyssey?? Just look at that disgust on his face.


Selecting cars as the theme this month turns out to be a bit apropos – given how much time our teammates just spent in them.
This is Marley.


He is an extremely thunder-phobic dog who happened to live in Illinois: not good a good place for dogs afraid of thunder. He is so frightened by thunderstorms that he will hurt himself if left alone during one. He is very closely bonded to his sister, Harlo. So the decision was made to send them together to a place where thunderstorms are extremely rare. That place is the Sacramento Valley – home of Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue.

Miss Harlo is a mellow girl, who made the trip by plane without incident. But Marley was having none of that. Even sedated, he freaked out. Time for the Golden Taxi!


Three teams of two relayed to ferry him two thousand miles over three days. Last night he was reunited with his sister in a touching welcome home. (Thanks to Rob Kessel for capturing the moment.)


Because special needs dogs need special plans, we had already contacted a family on our waiting list. Previous adopters, they were looking for a canine companion for their Ella. Instead of one, they fell for two. It’s a perfect match!


Tonight, Marley and Harlo are beginning a new chapter together in a loving home.

Meanwhile, I have been reunited with Maria – one of my bonded gardeners who went A.W.O.L. for three weeks and finally returned. I was so happy to have company again, I let her dress the Memorial Garden in silly fall regalia.


Sammy wasn’t so sure about these scary scarecrows – but with Steve by her side…it’s all good!


Happy homecoming and next chapter to Marley and Harlo. Welcome home, Maria! The garden missed you!


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.

Seasons Pass

Winter turned the page to Spring.


By next week, it will feel like we are beginning Summer’s chapter.


Time passes much too quickly to wish away the seasons. Accept each moment as a gift knowing that tomorrow we will say goodbye…and in another time – and another way – ‘hello’ again.


My soul is full of whispered song;


My blindness is my sight;


The shadows that I feared so long


Are all alive with light. ~ Alice Cary


Something Remarkable

Have you heard this worry expressed before: “I want to do something remarkable in my life?” I take it to mean, “I want my life to matter.”

Some, in history, are remembered for a single contribution – but to those closest to them, it is the sum of their life – the tiniest things, not the most celebrated, that are most meaningful and memorable.

The best gardens are not remembered for a single flower or seasonal display.


They are a collection of trees, shrubs and blossoms


– quiet corners and bold displays – evidence of contributions, large and small, made over many seasons.


“A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” – St. Basil

In pursuit of the “remarkable” – sometimes we overlook what is truly meaningful: a life changed by a simple gift of time and effort; friendship extended; compassion displayed.


“The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, to be honorable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

At Homeward Bound, I am surrounded by people doing remarkable things. Each seemingly small contribution adding up to so many lives saved, enhanced and transformed – human and canine. Happiness is found through our usefulness, the melding of our accomplishments – and the difference we make together.

“Enjoy the little things, for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.” ~ Robert Brault