Bringing Out The Best in Buster

As we tackled the blackberries last weekend we uncovered hidden treasure.

To some, this represents a fun game of play;

but to pups like Buster – something more worrying. Buster is one of a few dogs that arrive at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue and Sanctuary completely, utterly and totally ball-obsessed.

Lots of dogs enjoy a game of ball, but in some cases it moves from play to something much more. When a dog focuses on the ball to the exclusion of every other kind of human or canine interaction, the obsession lessens their quality of life.

A garden succeeds with variety – of shape, texture, color and contrast.

Too much of a good thing results in sameness.

The magic occurs in mixing things up and uncovering surprises.

Dogs are social beings. They need interaction and variety too, or they can become compulsive, neurotic, or worse. The trainers at Homeward Bound are well-practiced in turning around these pups, to give them a chance at adoption and a happy, healthy life.

There is a must-read success story posted to the website about Chester – now Rudy – who arrived at Homeward Bound very much like Buster. You can read it here.

With the training and dedication, Rudy has found a whole new life beyond the ball.

Buster is still a work in progress – but the progress is really good. It begins with a cleared pen, free of all balls, so he can begin to focus his attention on the trainer. Each look is rewarded with treats and praise.

New activities are introduced, with the ball becoming the reward – instead of the object of the exercise. A look in the eyes is cause for celebration;

a kiss means it’s time to throw a parade!

Buster is well on his way. You can see the change in his face…from a few weeks ago…

to now.

He is so lucky to have the team at Homeward Bound on his side. And it truly takes a team! Trainers, feeders, walkers – all reinforcing the same steps will, with any luck, help the placement team connect him to a waiting family;

someone who will see the golden in him, the way Art and Amy saw the promise in Rudy. Is that you?

Catching Up

Ina sends this note from the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden today:
“As of today, the bramble has had a complete ‘ectomy’ in both beds. Very satisfying work for a gardener with attitude! Onward!”

And no photo – so we are left to wonder just what gift she has left us. For those of you new to this blog, look back at the history of Ina’s Cottage Garden to understand her talent – and her ambition.

Since I cannot share a garden update just yet, I should catch you up our weekend visitors – lest they think they were overlooked!

Sunday was apparently homecoming day in the garden. School was in session just as soon as those pesky puppies cleared out, and we had plenty of alumni returning for additional training. There’s Stella, with Jody. (Jody is the one in the dog-shirt…big surprise!)

Thor and Loki – named after the gods of Thunder and Mischief respectively. Guess which one is Thor.

Henry – a beautiful combination of Golden Retriever and Afghan Hound. Just look at that coat!

Henry is one of those “failed fosters” – which means he went home with one of our gardeners, and they decided to adopt each other.

Hopper and Cinnamon are two of the newest arrivals. Another pair to, hopefully, be placed together. (Update: Another couple, Mosh and Marie who were featured last week, are now in foster care…together!)

Snuffy. This sweet pup is now receiving the TLC and medical treatments he so obviously needed and is on the road to recovery and a full coat again. He would like you to know that he gets along with cats and likes other dogs. And that he has a lot of love to give.

Bones. You may have seen him here before. He may not be able to hear,

but he sure speaks “Debbie” the dog-walker!

There is one more pup to tell you about, but you’ll have to return for that one. I promise you it is a special read in honor of National Dog Week. (Really…there is such a thing!) Hope to see you back here soon.

Puppy Touchdowns

Sundays are great in the fall, because with football on, no one even notices if I am gone for hours to the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden!

I arrived just in time this weekend for puppy socialization class.

Who needs football on TV when you have live action on the field?? Kickoff!



Defense! Defense!

Time out!!

Bench warmer?

The Referee.

Huddle up!

Hey, unnecessary “ruff-ness!”

Water break.

Hut! Hut!

Hut! Hut! Hut!

OK, that’s just piling on!

Game over. Let’s hit the showers!

Playtime in a controlled situation is a great way to socialize your pup to other people and dogs. This Homeward Bound romp was designed for that purpose. Not to mention bringing a smile to our faces, too.

Shelby: The Flower Within

“Weeds are flowers, too, once you get to know them.”
― A.A. Milne

When things pop up in places we don’t expect, we call them weeds. “Weeds are bad; flowers are good” – or so we say. Not because weeds don’t possess beauty,

but because we have not uncovered it yet.

If you can move beyond the thorns,

you often uncover the beautiful flower.

Shelby was labeled a bit of a weed.

She had all kinds of thorny behaviors that popped up where they weren’t expected or wanted. She was a girl with a record when she arrived at Homeward Bound.

Yet, Chris – one of the organization’s dedicated volunteer trainers– saw a flower in her.

Shelby can’t tell us all that created her thorny side, but she made clear when she arrived that she was not to be touched, groomed, or trusted.

She had given up on people; but Chris would not give up on her.

Over the course of nearly a year they worked together. “Shake” for a treat turned into permission to touch her paws.

That led to petting, and eventually even to brushing.

Distances between dog greetings gradually closed, until Shelby could find herself walking with other pups.

“Perseverance is not a long race; it is many short races one after another” – Walter Elliott

Small victories; occasional set-backs; a stubborn belief in the flower within.

There’s still work to be done. For dogs like Shelby, the work is never really over. But if all goes well, Shelby will soon be leaving for her forever home with Chris and family.

A weed no more; a flower in its place.

Jack’s Plea

Jack here. I’ve hijacked the Gardens for Goldens blog, because we have to have a serious talk.

I was out in the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden today, and I saw all kinds of big changes and planning for the future underway. Maria and Ina adding a new Crape Myrtle to the White Garden…

Rock borders being set in anticipation of mulched paths…

And that Ina is getting ready to turn this weed mess into another of her amazing Cottage Gardens!

Heck, I even ran into this gorgeous girl, Shelby. Looks like she is going to be rescued by that really nice lady trainer, Chris, if she plays her cards right (more on her story soon).

Now I have nothing against Shelby. Heck, she’s been here quite awhile.
But so have Hootie,




that cute couple Mosh and Marie,

and that handsome guy, Scrubs.

See, that’s the problem. If dogs like these who really look like Goldens have been here awhile, what are my chances???

I have been here longer than all of them. OK, so I had a couple of issues (don’t we all), but I have worked really hard on them and they are SO much better now. Check me out. I have more schooling than most college grads. I even have a video.

Don’t get me wrong. The people and pups here are swell. But it’s not the same as a home of your own. So while you’re making all those dang garden plans – how about coming up with a plan for me?!?

I’m cuter than any of those old bugs and flowers that you take a gazillion pictures of…and I can still play with you in the winter!

So let’s go Gardeners. I was here when this place was nothing but weeds. And now look at it!

I know what miracles you can pull off. Let’s find me a home, please! I mean, please???

Maybe sometime before it’s really time for the Halloween decorations that Peggy and Steve put out today?

Remember…”Dogs Leave Paw Prints On Our Hearts.”

And I’m one of them that will for certain! Thanks for listening. I now return you to your bugs and bees.

The Dogs of Klamath

Back from a restorative week of camping where the Klamath River meets the Pacific Ocean –

the Salmon are plentiful this year,

and the fisherman are happy.

Pardon a brief detour from Gardens and Goldens, but all week, we were in the company of captivating dogs.

Some are strictly campers;

some insist on being along for the ride;

all are happy to play on the beach.

Some keep watch;

while others dream of the big catch;

but the wisest just hunker down in the truck to stay out of the chill.

Regardless, all are beloved.

Oh, to be a loved Klamath dog.

Hunter’s Beauty

“Everything has beauty,

but not everyone sees it.”  ~Confucius

This is Hunter, a new arrival. He visited the Memorial Garden today and decided to stay awhile. I can’t tell you his story yet, as he has not been assessed. It breaks my heart to see older dogs like Hunter come in. They have stories; long ones. Whether by choice, necessity or happenstance, they arrive here confused, sad and anxious about their future.

He does not yet know it, but he is lucky to arrived at Homeward Bound, where dedicated and caring volunteers will work hard to ensure a loving home for him.

Like the petals of these spent flowers, he still has great beauty to offer.

I hope that someone will see it in him someday soon.

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.


In my time volunteering at the Homeward Bound Memorial Garden and chronicling it in this blog, I have encountered just about every breed – but  to my mind, those who foster are a breed apart.

These are people who reserve a place in their homes – and hearts – to take in, train, love and heal dogs while they await, and prepare for, their forever homes. They do this knowing that their time together is too short and that their attachment will grow long.

Not everything is meant to last forever. Like this Lupine that bloomed well past its expectation,

but has finally departed in the baking heat of August. Withered though it is, it will have new life again next year.

At a blog I follow, Foster Tails, Zeedle is struggling with the impending adoption of her first foster, Sunny. While Aleks at Love and a Six Foot Leash,  has been through the process many times. She chronicles her family’s quest to “open minds, win hearts and save lives through fostering”.  For people who think they could never bear the loss, she writes beautifully about the heartache – and the rewards.

There are many ways to be a part of dog rescue.  All important and all valued.  But to my mind, fostering is one of the most noble because it involves such personal sacrifice. Wherever you live, if your home is right and your heart big enough, talk with your local rescue operation. People willing to foster are universally needed.

As they say…it’s the hardest job you’ll ever love. And to everything – there is a season.

“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
– Dr. Seuss

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.