Some Things…

Some things make me laugh.

Some make me smile.

Some fill me with joy – like the asters in fall.

And others make me want to say, “Don’t worry boy, didn’t I tell you you’d be home in a flash?”

Some touch my heart.

Some fill me with hope.

And some make me wonder how a boy ever thought that peeing on a new girlfriend would win her over?!

But this just fills me with pride.

Last year, I told you about a young airman shipping out to South Korea for a year of service. She left her one-year-old boy in the care of our loving foster family.
This week, I was honored to be invited to witness their reunion –

and to share their story again.

Some things make me cry…with pride and joy. I could not love this “work” more.

Della is Home

I hinted at a special story buried in my long list of adoption photos last week. We’re feeling optimistic that our very special “going home” girl will stay home – so I will tell you her story if you promise to say a little prayer that our Della has truly found her forever people.


Della came to us two years ago. She must have belonged to someone, as she was previously spayed. But she was found stray, and no one claimed her from a Valley shelter. Fearful of humans, her chances were not good. Our team pulled her and she was transported to our care.

From the start, Della was distrustful, standoffish, and skittish when approached. We’ll never know if she became fearful as a stray – or became a stray because she had something to fear.


With tail tucked and head bowed, she was submissive but stubborn.


Still, she never struck out. She would just pull away, or lock up her legs and refuse to move until a treat was produced. That girl is no dummy.

She reigned over her coveted Yard 3 which she decided was her safe place. On warm days, her preference was to be there – alone – for as many hours as we would allow. When she thought no one was looking, you could catch glimpses of a different dog in there.


More typically, though, sadness was written all over her face. More than one volunteer made her their special project – including Rob of Rob & Dog, whose pictures are shared here.


She was even adopted. But she was soon returned because she just would not connect.


We don’t give up easily, but we were all becoming resigned to the thought that Della would be with us forever. Until last week.

A couple had come to meet another of our long term residents, wanting to help a dog that was truly in need. That pup turned out to be not a good match. As they waited in the yard for another candidate, Della – returning from her walk, pressed her nose against the fence, and sought their petting. What?! Joining them in the yard, she went to them. Della?? Who was this girl?

In her “going home” photo she did something we very rarely saw: she smiled.


For all of our time, patience, and efforts, it appears that Della was just waiting for her right people. She picked them out herself, and that won their hearts.


Tonight, Della is home. She has a safe corner and crate to seek safety when she wants it,


and the report is that she is adapting – if slowly. So say a little prayer that she continues to keep opening up her heart to the people who opened theirs to her. Because “Della is home” just makes our hearts happy.


Sepcial thanks to Rob Kessel for sharing his photos of Della.

A Happy Tail

Among the greys and browns of our December garden are little pockets of color, life…


and many happy tails.

The roses are having their last hurrah, with a cold snap now upon us. A yellow rose symbolizes friendship. Something we have in abundance here.


People from all walks of life bonded by a common goal of saving lives and seeing dogs on their journeys home.


Pink roses represent gratitude and appreciation.


I don’t know if it shines brighter in the faces of our newly adopted dogs or their lucky humans. This is Zephyr and her new family.


Red is for love and passion.


That’s what Chris and Steve have in spades.


They devote all of their weekends and many of their nights and vacations to our dogs and mission of rescue, with a special passion for the hardest cases. With love and patience they slowly rehabilitate dogs that others might give up on.


Goldie came to Homeward Bound at the age of 18 months. She went home and came back five times – sometimes the result of her own behavior issues, and finally, because of the economy.


Last returned in 2012, she was guarded, unpredictable, and not safe enough to place up for adoption again.


Considered sanctuaried, she could stay with us forever – but for a special bond – coupled with Chris and Steve’s steadfast determination.


Since 2012, they have been building trust. Over the past year, there have been careful introductions to Chris and Steve’s other rescue dogs.


Baby steps and small victories, culminating in a very special day. Today was Goldie’s Going Home Day.


It will take care and time before she is fully integrated in to the family, but if anyone can do it – they can.


Tonight, Goldie sleeps not in a house – a home. A forever home. And that makes for one very happy tail.

(Special photo credit: Rob Kessel for many of the images here.)



“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” ~ W.B. Yeats


Walking into the Memorial Garden this weekend, I was overcome with awe.


During the week, it seemed like everything was in bloom – like an orchestra moving from chaotic warm up notes to a full blown symphony…


only this symphony was of sight, color and smell. So overwhelmingly beautiful – I scarcely know how to describe it. Everywhere I looked there was a treasure from a previous season making its re-appearance. Our garden is back!


“These beautiful days … do not exist as mere pictures – maps hung upon the walls of memory to brighten at times when touched by association or will … They saturate themselves into every part of the body and live always.” ~ John Muir


The day was punctuated with other happy notes. Young Ava’s birthday present wish was donations of kibble for our pups. It was fulfilled in spades and delivered in person, along with 67 cases of canned food in response to our appeal for a dog whose jaw had to be rebuilt.

Two of our Reservoir Dogs found their forever homes; a third goes home on Monday. Amazingly, Michael – who was one of the shyest upon arrival, was among the first to bloom. His new “mom” Tara was smitten from the first time we wrote about him, checking in weekly on his progress. As soon as he became available, she was on our doorstep, clearly in love.


Joseph will enjoy the company of dogs in his ready-made family…just as soon as he finishes his nap!


Exhausted from a day of planting, hauling mulch and clearing foxtails and about to head home, I was overcome again. Our transport arrived with five more dogs…three with significant medical needs. To watch our team kick into gear, calming fears, reassuringly introducing them to their new surroundings, assessing and beginning to care for their needs…I was left speechless and filled with another kind of awe; esteem and admiration. The beauty of the garden pales in comparison to the goodness and dedication of these people. There truly is magic here.


Our Joy

The garden served up its usual beauty this weekend. Fall is beginning its advance and the flowers and their friends are grateful for the more moderate temperatures and cool nights.


Their appreciation is clearly on display.


But the most beautiful moments of the weekend did not involve flowers. First, new bricks were installed in the Memorial pathway.


I donated this one for one of my very first blogger friends, Deborah at Romancing the Bee and her beloved companion recently departed – the Noble Bayard.


The garden hosted the usual parade of pups. Hank took up residence on Steve’s lap –


Fozzie Bear, who just recently arrived, made his first trip to the garden –


beautiful Sting relaxed in the shade, exhausted from playing in the sprinklers –


while Lilly practiced her table manners.


In between, two great tales unfolded. First, Sydney – a special needs Golden who has pretty significant separation anxiety, found her perfect match in a family that did not see that as a special need at all.


She went home with her new beautiful brother, Gunner.


The two of them will have perpetual human company serving by day as greeters in their family’s store – Material Goods in (get this) – Carmel. Yup. Carmel By The Sea. I was hoping that they would adopt me as well, but some dogs just have all the luck! You can visit them there.


And that was just the start.


The story is told in full on the Homeward Bound blog (click here to read), but I’ll summarize here. A wonderful family with three beautiful children – adopted themselves – with incredibly giving hearts. On Thursday, they met Ollie, one our longer term guests.


Deaf, with skin issues, and a golden heart – he had been passed over too many times. On Sunday, they met Mariposa. A tiny, malnourished and scared little girl who had not been treated well in her first year on earth.


Two extraordinary dogs with special needs – who have found a very special home – with a beautiful family and a new brother named Sailor.


People ask about the often bittersweet work of rescue: “how can you do it”? With weekends like this, how can you not?

The joy is ours.

Wild and Beautiful

I ordered Rudbeckia for a drift with grasses, variegated iris, purple aster, and ‘Purple Emperor’ sedum.
It was supposed to be a deep gold with full petals and a deep black center.


As I watch it unfold, it looks more like a wild child –


all gawky and skinny and twitchy.


And then it settles into this. Not the perfect flower I envisioned – but beautiful in its own right.


So it is with Jack – a dog that has been with us a very long time.


I featured him on a post a year ago. In a place full of golden retrievers, Jack was definitely not one. He’s a bit of a wild child himself around other dogs and while he has benefited greatly from training and the dedication of everyone here, he’s still pretty gawky and skinny and twitchy.


What Jack lacks in classic looks and dog-to-dog skills, he makes up for in people charm. And this weekend, he was finally recognized for his own special beauty.

I can’t bring you the pictures because the parents have not given permission to share, but I can tell you the story…so get out the tissues.

A young boy, adopted himself, picked Jack from all the other dogs on the website. He and his parents – former adopters – came out together to meet him. Flaws in all, the boy fell in love. He had been working and saving for his dog and had a hard-earned $10 in his pocket for the adoption fee. Now, Jack is a senior dog in need of a very special home. He’s been with us for almost three years waiting for that right opportunity. We would, of course, waive the fee for his chance at a fur-ever home. But this young man has been instilled with great values. He and his parents insisted. So the fee was reduced to $1.00. And do you know what he did? He paid the $1.00 for Jack – and donated the other $9.00 in support of the waiting dogs.

Jack is finally home. The family sent pictures of him playing with his very own boy in his very own backyard. I wish I could show them to you here, but parents’ privacy concerns for their children have to be respected. Suffice to say, there was not a dry eye in the rescue.


It was a very good weekend. (Thanks to my friend Rob for his wonderful photos of Jack.)

Rainier: The Update

Everyone needs a guardian angel. The first Homeward Bound volunteer that set eyes on Rainier was his.


Alex, a long time volunteer, transported Rainier from the shelter to us. His story inspired so many of you – thanks in large part to the team at Freshly Pressed who spread his tale far and wide, and all of you who so kindly reblogged the story, shining a light on The True Meaning of Rescue.

Rainier saw the vet; his lumps and bumps are thankfully not threatening; he has some chronic conditions to treat; and his age is determined at 12-plus. But the most important person he saw that very first day was Alex – a member of our Golden Taxi transport team. These angels travel up and down the state to provide a second chance to lost, abandoned and displaced dogs in need of healing and a home. For Alex, it was love at first sight. And this weekend, when I walked into the office, I found this joyous note on the board:


Rainier scaled his mountain and found his forever home. He found it the minute he set eyes on Alex and she on him. It just took the rest of us a couple of weeks to catch up.

As a permanent foster, all of Rainier’s medical expenses will be paid by Homeward Bound. Alex provides the love – of that we have no doubt. Happy life, Rainier. We could not have written a better ending to your story.


The true meaning of rescue

When a dog arrives at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue, they are welcomed quietly and typically allowed to run or roam in one of the large yards to de-stress and acclimate to their new environment. Over the next couple of days, they spend some time with us for evaluation, are checked by the vet, and have their pictures taken when they are relaxed and feeling more comfortable with their new routine.

This pup’s welcome was a little different with urgent issues to address.


Rose was rescued from a shelter. Had she not been released to us, her fate was pretty clear. She would not sit or lie down through the transport. When she arrived at the adoption center and sanctuary, she could barely walk, perhaps indicating some type of neurological disorder? Most obviously, she was covered in a thick layer of mats from head to tail.


She arrived very late in the day as our volunteers are usually departing. They took one look at her and stayed. Using sheep shearing tools at first, they set to work carefully removing the mats that were tugging painfully at her skin.


Giant ear mats were removed and treatments were administered to her ear canals, immediately flooding back out because the buildup of wax and dirt was so thick.


She stood or sat patiently, as a small army of hands and clippers gently tackled her coat of dreadlocks, and soothing voices reassured her that she was safe now.


Clippers replaced the shearing tools and uncovered stickers, thorns, foxtails and welts all over her body. With five inches or more of mats removed from her underbelly, something else was revealed. Rose was inappropriately named. There were boy parts under there! Rose was quickly renamed, Rainier. After about an hour of this, it was time to give our newly discovered boy a much-needed rest. He was tucked in for the night and reassured that from here; things would only get better.

The next day brought a fresh bath to clean his skin and sores, and a second round of shearing.


Walking gingerly and slowly like a very old dog, Jody brought Rainier to the garden where we set up some shade and went about clipping what remained of his fur.


The trickiest part of the operation was addressing his paws. The fur had to be removed from top to bottom, with each area between the toes closely inspected. They were filled with foxtails. I have always found it surprising that a woman involved in rescue has long fingernails; now I understand why. Jody deftly pulled out more than 50 foxtails from between those toes – imagine the pain poor Rainier had endured.

This dog demonstrated the patience of a saint while Judy and Jody worked on him for well over an hour. With a slight breeze blowing across his freed skin and soothing voices talking quietly to him, he fell asleep in their hands.


Three clipper battery changes later, it was time to get up.


What arose from that slumber was a changed dog. With amazement, he took his first, pain-free steps – and then he was off!


I know you’ll forgive the blurred photos. I was not prepared at all for this rush of exuberance, and had not adjusted shutter speeds – which was clearly in order!

A lot can change in the life of a dog in a single day. A ‘she’ becomes a ‘he’; lameness is discarded with a pile of fur and thorns,


and an “old dog” unable to sit or lay down without pain is transformed into a running, prancing, tail-wagging prince of a boy.


This is only the beginning of Rainier’s story. He’ll see the vet to deal with his uncovered lumps and bumps and assess his overall state of being. But we have made a promise to him that the best is yet to be, and from this point on, he will always be loved. That is a promise we can keep.

There are dogs that pass quickly through Homeward Bound. They come to us in good shape because someone’s life circumstance changed and soon find a new forever home. It is our honor and privilege to help them all. But dogs like Rainier make unforgettable impressions on us. They are the verb ‘rescue’ – not the noun. Without Homeward Bound, Rainier would have passed on as Rose, forgotten and in pain. Because we are here, Rainier’s best days are ahead.

A lot can change in a single day for the life of a dog. Just look at this quick clip here. Welcome to your new life, Rainier.

Worth Waiting For

Some things are worth waiting for. Like a Robin anticipating spring…


bulbs pushing through the earth, signaling an end to winter…


0r dreams of forever homes finally come true. Our beloved Bogey was Homeward Bound’s blind, golden guest; regular readers have met him here before.


He may not see, but he has never let his blindness slow him down a bit. He goes careening through life with joyful abandon. Exuberant, playful, strong, and thoroughly adorable, Bogey has charmed all the volunteers who work with him.


We were pleased to provide a safe place for him to live and be loved. Resigned to his status, we made him an Angel Fund dog, and wrote on his description – “Insight is better than eyesight when it comes to seeing an angel.” ~ Eileen Elias Freeman. We said that Bogey had a special feeling his guardian angel was reading his description “right now.” Bogey was right.


On February 14th – Valentine’s Day – after three years in Sanctuary, Bogey was adopted. His adopter angels: two retired eye doctors.


We cannot begin to express our delight. A collective cheer could be heard across our ranks to read that Bogey spent his first night on the couch and his first day walking the canyons with his new forever family. Some things are definitely worth waiting for.

Happy life, Bogey friend (with special thanks and credit to our photographer friend, Rob Kessel). We will miss you!