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

Where We Have Ended Up

“I may not have gone where I intended to go, but I think I’ve ended up where I needed to be.” – Douglas Adams.

“Homeward Bound desperately needs help with their Memorial Gardens.” These were the words written in the November 2011 Homeward Bound Newsletter, recounting two years of fits and starts, and multiple set-backs in the establishment of the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden.

Volunteer groups had been mobilized, and projects started, but without a dedicated effort, nature quickly erased all that had been accomplished.

Soon to be garden

“By the time the gardens dried up enough to work in, we couldn’t see a single plant that was planted last year; everything was overgrown with 4‐foot tall star thistle and weeds that the rain brought out. Trying to mow the weeds in the pathways was almost futile because they had grown so tall.”

By November, 2011, the plea went out:

“The volunteers have slowly faded away again. We need to find a way to maintain the gardens on a regular basis and make it worthwhile for volunteers to come back. So, we have decided to have volunteers sponsor one or more of the garden beds themselves.”

The article stated that volunteers would only need to come once a month “on whatever schedule works for you.” Grateful to Homeward Bound for our own adopted Bella and Jackson, I had always been interested in volunteering but had difficulty juggling other commitments while contributing on a schedule that accommodated the organization’s needs. A lover of gardening, this seemed ideal.

Now, I look back and smile.

What was supposed to be a “once a month” visit has turned into at least weekly trips – and occasionally, as many as three. It’s not whatever schedule works for us – but the schedule that the gardens demanded to maintain forward momentum.

It is most definitely not where I intended to go. But it is very much where I needed to be.

“More in a garden grows than what the gardener sows.” – Spanish Proverb. I think I’ve used this quote before, but it is so appropriate here.

New gardening skills; friendships; community. These have all grown in a season of working in the Memorial Garden, along with pride in all that we have accomplished, together. And of course, all my new blogging buddies!

I look forward every week to our workdays and the opportunity to visit with pups as well as volunteers. I enjoy sharing our progress with all of you; benefiting from your advice and encouragement.

“This is a wonderful opportunity for you to make a huge difference to the Homeward Bound Memorial Gardens and what it means to all of our Golden friends.”

Absolutely, positively, true.

When Life Turns Upside Down

“Happiness is like a butterfly.
The more you chase it, the more it eludes you.

But if you turn your attention to other things,
It comes and sits softly on your shoulder.” – Henry David Thoreau

Sometimes life turns on a dime and you find your world turned upside down.

On those occasions, the only choice you might be left with is how you view the turn of events.

You can wallow in failed expectations, or let them be turned into opportunities.

Golden Retriever pups come to Homeward Bound for many reasons – a foreclosed home; someone passed away; families split up or moved; or the cost of medical needs was too much. These beautiful dogs land here surprised, confused – but luckier than they know.

This is Brutas and his sister, accompanied by dog-walker Ashley. They visited us today in the Memorial Garden.

They will receive medical attention,TLC, training, and the help of people dedicated to their happiness. And with a little luck – as they turn their attention to walks, school and play dates, they will find a new forever home – together.

Heroes in the Garden

There are heroes among us. In the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden, between the Dahlias…

and the Roses…

the Lupine…

and the delicate White Lavender…

you will find some of the heroes of Homeward Bound.

1.  Robin and Jim – with their rescue, Owen who visited with us in the garden before “school” today.

Even the staff of HB was surprised by their pick; Owen had flunked adoption twice for his youthful exuberance and ill-mannered ways. A suggestion was made that they might want to foster first to determine if he was a good fit, Robin’s reply was simple: “I don’t return things.”

True to her word, she and Jim have put in the training and love needed for Owen to succeed.  A month later, he is already a changed dog. He is still a work in progress, with much more training ahead. But it looks like he has found his forever home.

2. Laura.  She and other dedicated dog-walkers were out early to get the dogs walked before the temperatures soared too high in the middle of our heat wave.  She shared the Willow Garden – the coolest spot on the property – with her golden friend, Tom (such a ham!)

Here she is with Tristan – one of the dogs who has come all the way from Taiwan.

In the past few years, Homeward Bound has taken in over 30 dogs from Taiwan, working in partnership with the Taichung Universal Action Protection Association (TUAPA) and Asians for Humans, Animals and Nature (AHAN). Many have been adopted, but Tristan remains a much-loved Sanctuary dog due to his special needs.

3. Edna. A very special hero. She – too recently – said goodbye to yet another of her permanent fosters. She has another at home. And today, she  arrived with with Jezell, her adopted pup, to share some tears, hugs, and to pick up yet another foster.

Edna is a long-time foster mom. From a 2007 newsletter speaking about one of her fosters with terminal cancer, she said, “For all that I give them; they give 1000 times more in return. It’s like having a ‘No Vacancy’ sign on your heart. All of them teach me life lessons every day. Even with Monty’s cancer, he shows me how to just be happy for this day and this moment. I try each day to celebrate his life and not cry so much about his dying. We have today and that’s a blessing.”

Edna’s heart seems to have endless capacity.

The world needs more Edna’s.

What the Garden Means


Just in case, amid the planning, planting, coaxing, and admiring of our Homeward Bound garden blooms, we lose focus on why we have created this Memorial Garden and what it means to others, these comments left on the organization’s Facebook page are a perfect reminder:

“I was so grateful to be able to walk it a few weeks ago and remember those waiting for us at the Rainbow Bridge. Two of my adoptions had bricks and I stood there crying – the etchings are so real – they really do look like Vinnie and Bob.”

“We saw Bob’s brick and Ralph and I both cried. We weren’t sure when we sent in the photo if it would come out looking like Bob but it sure does. He was a handsome boy and so loved and we miss him so much. This garden and his brick mean alot to us.”

The Memorial Garden is a place to honor and remember Goldens (and their Golden friends) who have left our lives, but not our hearts. That it means so much to others, makes us feel that we have contributed meaningfully.

You can learn about designating a brick here. When you do, you create a loving and thoughtful gift or memorial, while contributing to the care of Homeward Bound’s resident Goldens.

Honest and Upright: Sunflowers

Those who follow this blog regularly know that Maria, one of the dedicated volunteers of our Homeward Bound Memorial Garden, has abandoned us for a few weeks to run around Eastern Europe. She forwarded this photo of Sunflowers grown in Bulgaria.

The sheer quantity is impressive and creates a stunning impression. I’m a bit biased, but I’m not sure they can compete with those growing in the Sunflower bed in Maria’s absence.

Is it the TLC they are receiving while she is gone? Hmmm…

This one looks like a Las Vegas showgirl,

and this one – lemon sherbet.

“Flowers have an expression of countenance as much as men and animals. Some seem to smile; some have a sad expression; some are pensive and diffident; others again are plain, honest and upright, like the broad-faced sunflower and the hollyhock.”
~ Henry Ward Beecher

Evening Meeting in the Garden

Ina, Maria and I called an evening meeting in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden. Over delicious Turkey, Pesto and Tomato sandwiches (thanks, Ina!) we talked through future plans.

We had our first sighting of a Monarch butterfly, but it would not sit still long enough to be photo-captured. We certainly have created a haven for them, and we hope to see more in the coming weeks.

Surrounded by Robins, Quail, and Bunnies who kept their distance, it was nice to simply enjoy the fruits of our labor as the sun dropped in the sky…

when everything takes on a golden hue…

including my Jackson, who accompanied us tonight and enjoyed Maria’s Elfin Thyme!

I’m a little biased, but I think he looks as pretty as the flowers, don’t you?

The highlight of the evening was Ina’s confession that she added another plant to her Cottage Garden bed.  A talented gardener, she was concerned that the ideal sun and soil conditions were quickly creating monster successes. She issued strict warnings to us: “no more plants!” Ha! Busted.

There is always more work to do in a garden…

but tonight was more about fussing, photos, pups and friends.

A rare moment to soak up the sunset and enjoy all that has been created in the garden. Apparently, we are in good company.

Tucking in the Garden

Another evening visit to the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden this week. My turn this time. Hopefully it is our last day with temperatures over 100 for a while, thanks to the Delta Breeze which is just beginning to kick in.

The bunnies were too quick for me to capture…

The dragon flies would not hold still…

So you will just have to take my word for it.

Nothing profound to say; the Garden says it all.

And then it says “goodnight.”

Thanks for Sharing

I don’t know which someone(s) linked our blog to their Facebook page, but we wanted to say…

It was our biggest single day for traffic. It’s great to share the chronicle of our Memorial Garden with others; it’s even better when it helps to spread the word about the good work done at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary.  From what I hear, they have their hands full with the arrival of nearly 20 new dogs this week.

I took the opportunity to bridge the weekend with the 4th of July holiday for five days off of work. Two of them spent in the Gardens working with Maria. I don’t know how many loads of dirt I moved to level out ruts in the paths, but my feet might be able to tell you:

On Monday, we met a whole new group of dog walkers and dogs, including Goldie,


and Isis.

Funny. The dog walkers are just as camera-shy on the weekdays as they are on the weekend. Maria too. Can you spot her here?

Everything else was happily showing off. Bunnies…

birds nests…

and this beauty from the rose garden, which unfolds from deep yellow with a hint of orange, to bright yellow, and then a pale cream.

These country garden beds look so bright and full right now, especially since the Crape Myrtles came into bloom. With luck (and many more loads of dirt and mulch) we’ll have the paths and grassy areas looking equally as good this fall.

On behalf of the many dogs waiting to be adopted at Homeward Bound – thanks for visiting and sharing our blog with others!

NBA Draft Day Close-ups

It is NBA Draft Day, an official holiday in my house. In other words, I might as well be invisible. So I took the opportunity to make an evening trip to the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden to get up close with some of our blooming friends – beginning with Deb’s first Dahlia’s of the season…

Susan and Jeff’s Miniature Dahlias…

Maria’s Sunflowers,

Vonnie and Randy’s Roses,

Sue’s Marigolds,

and a host of others:

Next up…wide shots of the garden as the sun sets. Y’all come back now.

Confession of a Dog-Loving Gardener

I have a confession. This has been bothering me for some time, so I thought it best to come clean. An observant follower of this blog will likely notice that despite our volunteering at the Memorial Garden of Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary – there are plants among us that are not dog-friendly. Like these evil lurkers: Clematis, Iris and Daffodils:

In our defense, the dogs who visit our garden are always on leash and accompanied by dog walkers. Lest you feel that they are completely deprived; they have beautiful grassy pens with splash pools to frolic, run free, chase balls, and play with each other in. They visit us on walks to get some quiet exercise and human socialization time.

In my own garden at home I am very aware of dog friendly and unfriendly plants. Our two Goldens have never fully outgrown the puppy stage.  For love of them, I have willingly sacrificed Hydrangea, fenced Azaleas, and raised Geraniums out of reach.

A close look at the Memorial Garden will also reveal Calla Lily, Chrysanthemum, Dahlias, Geraniums, Lantana and even evil Apple Trees! All on the bad list. Guilty as…well you know.

If you did not know, there is a very long and helpful list of toxic plants on the ASPCA website: (cats and horses have their own lists). The emergency poison hotline number is also posted. I keep it taped to the inside of a cupboard, just in case.

So what is a dog-loving gardener to do? Well, on the same site, you will also find a pretty lengthy list of non-toxic plants. There are more than enough options for gardens of any style. Here are just a few of my favorites from the list, many of which have found their way into our Memorial Garden:

  • Canna
  • African Daisy
  • Alyssum
  • Snapdragon
  • Bachelors Buttons
  • Gerber Daisy
  • Climbing and Trailing Begonia
  • Blue Marguerite
  • Butterfly Iris
  • Camellia
  • Aster
  • Star Jasmine
  • Heuchera
  • Coreopsis
  • Crape Myrtle
  • Bottlebrush
  • Sword Fern
  • Day Lilies
  • Desert Trumpet
  • Elephant Ear Begonia
  • Marigold
  • Globe Thistle
  • Forsythia
  • Honeysuckle Fuchsia
  • Ice plant
  • Impatience
  • Japanese Pittosporum
  • Magnolia Bush
  • Phlox
  • Grape Hyacinth
  • Pampas grass
  • Petunia
  • Pincushion Flower
  • Verbena
  • Purple Passion vine
  • Roses
  • Sunflower
  • Scarlet sage
  • Torch Lily (red-hot poker)
  • Turf Lily
  • Zinnia

So forgive our transgression, but rest assured that dogs who visit the Memorial Garden are safe. Keep yours safe too with picks from the good list – and happy dog-proof gardening!