When a plant fails to thrive, is over-run with bugs, or becomes a thug to others, we do our best to nurture, mend or tame it in the Memorial Garden.

One of our volunteer gardeners, Ina, is famously tough on her problem plants. She literally tells them to toughen up and get it together, or they are out of here!

And they will be, if they don’t respond. But plants are not animals.

When you see so many dogs come through a rescue organization like Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary, it is easy to fall into judging those who have given up their pups. This is Sammy. He was surrendered this week.

Recently, I met a woman in the garden who made me rethink my judging. She had come to the ranch, accompanied by her young son, in hopes of learning the fate of an older Golden she had given up.

She explained to me that her family lived in a very rural area at the time. Her dog was very much a beloved member of her large family which included a foster child, and was used to having room to run in the great outdoors. Life changed on a dime, however, when her husband passed away unexpectedly. Forced to move from the country to the city and a small apartment, she became a single, working mother practically overnight.  She was beyond overwhelmed just trying to keep herself and her children together. The complication of caring for their older dog in a tiny space was beyond her capacity.

You could see that it broke her heart, and her son’s to surrender their dog.  She didn’t know what she could learn, if anything, when she visited the Sanctuary – but she was hoping for closure.

When you surrender a dog, you give up all rights to it. Still, she was able to learn that her dog was successfully adopted, and now lives in an area with the wide open spaces it was accustomed to. She was greatly relieved – and sad as well. Tears welled up in her eyes as she told me about her pup and her heartbreaking decision.

My dogs are part of my family, and I consider them a lifetime commitment. I can’t imagine a circumstance that would ever force me to give them up. But I have never been faced with difficult choice this woman faced. To seek out Homeward Bound – an organization dedicated to rescue, no matter what the dog’s age or health, gave her dog the best chance for a good home and happy ending.

Too often, people give up on their animals without a second thought.

Shelters are filled with the pets of people who regard them as an inconvenience, an expense, or too much trouble.  Worse, are those who simply drop a dog off on a road somewhere.  If you would give up your dog because “he’s un-trainable”, or “he has (name-the-ailment)”, or simply “he was a lot smaller and cuter as a puppy” – please stick with Goldfish (nothing against Goldfish!) That wasn’t the case here. And many times, surrender is the last option of people who have lost their loved ones, their homes, and more. It was an important reminder to me to count my blessings and pray that I will never have to face the decision this woman did.

Rescue. Adopt. Foster. And if you must surrender – do it with responsible care.