Powering Through

Today, I ordered Dahlias for the 2023 garden. I had about given up on these old-fashioned beauties; not native or usual in our typically drought-tolerant Memorial Garden – but they had always been a special blooming gem in the early years of the garden. Between increasing temperatures and the blazing sun of our Sacramento Valley, the army of snails that quickly gobble up tasty first cotyledon leaves, and failed attempts to overwinter the tubers in our climate, I was sure it was time to throw in the trowel. Then I came across a series of articles about starting Dahlias in pots.

In our region, Dahlias ship in late February. By mid-March last year, I had 20 potted in my backyard where I could keep a close watch out for snails, moisture and drainage needs. By the first week of April, all had sprouted. I began succession planting in mid-April after they grew mature leaves less appealing to the voracious snails. Their new home is in the filtered shade of a tree where they receive full sun from sunrise until midday but are well protected from the blazing afternoon sky. I fed them monthly with 10/10/10 organic fertilizer and they get admitted special treatment with an extra drink when the weather turns too hot. The result: they bloomed all summer and into November except for ungodly heat waves in August and September.

A garden is always a series of losses set against a few triumphs, like life itself.

May Sarton

This week, we celebrated the move of our last three Parvo litter puppies to foster. It is the next-to-last step on their journey to forever homes.

Volunteer Pam B fostering the three recovered pups.

It’s the kind of victory that will sustain us for a long time. Hopefully, we will see them all again in a year for a happy reunion.

While we cared for them, we also welcomed a litter of five Golden pups from a Midwest puppy mill supposedly going out of business. Thankfully, they were all relatively healthy and able to be adopted within a couple of weeks. Another triumph.

Sadly, efforts to secure the breeding pair failed. A great loss. With the economy suffering, we are seeing puppy mills and backyard breeders shedding their puppies at rates not seen since the 2008 recession. Unfortunately, these operations are too easily restarted when the breeding dogs are held.

A few triumphs…set against a series of losses thanks to a network of fellow rescuers who persevere.

Stop the purchase of puppies from puppy mills, the retail stores they sell to, and disreputable breeders, and we can put them all out of business for good. It’s as simple as that. Spread the word.


When the forecast calls for rain in our parched Northern California – I am always a believer. This weekend – it did not disappoint. You can almost hear the trees and plants breathing in the good soak.

However, when it comes to rescue, I have learned to adopt a healthy bit of skepticism – if only to prepare my heart.

Recently, one of our volunteers connected with a woman looking to “rehome” Golden Retriever puppies on Craigslist. In fact, she of course meant to sell them claiming they were an “oops” litter. Our volunteer was surprised to hear back from the woman several weeks later, asking to surrender the pups…ten in total. It was suspicious that they had gone unsold, but, of course, we said ‘yes.’

I was not there the day they were delivered. The photo seemed to reflect that they were bright and alert. Then someone mentioned that one was worrisomely lethargic. My mind immediately went to Parvo. I’ve been through it before.

We isolated them as we do all puppies. My fear was confirmed the next morning when one puppy was rushed to the vet. The heartbreaking decision was made to let her go. In the final stages, Parvo is very painful and it was the kindest thing. The next day – two more were lost.

Parvo is deadly to puppies. Protection requires four rounds of vaccinations which is why we always caution that puppies cannot go to public places – even sidewalks – until fully vaccinated. The mortality rate for puppies is a devastating 80%.

Strict isolation protocols were put in place with a tiny team to watch over the others. We were determined to save the remaining seven. Under guidance from our dedicated vet, we established two isolation areas – one for those showing symptoms (lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea among them) – and a separate space for those without. Our president personally took all shifts for the three in greatest danger – administering their care and watchfully waiting. The other four progressed well, learning what regular access to food meant and quickly gaining weight.

When it was safe, we sent the four to foster and celebrated the day when the three could be released from their separate isolation. They are now on the rebound.

This is where my skepticism creeps in. We try to give people the benefit of the doubt and to be genuinely grateful for the chance to help, but I suspect that the surrenderer knew what she delivered to us. Honesty might have helped us save more.

We offered to spay and neuter her dogs – something she said she wanted to do but could not afford. We sent her education about Parvo and why future litters were likely to suffer the same fate. We never heard back. After a Parvo litter, homes and yards cannot be used for up to a year after complete disinfecting or removal of surfaces. I grieve for her next litter – those that will suffer the same fate and those that go to unsuspecting families destined for heartbreak.

I have no issue with responsible breeders who truly care for their dogs, puppies, and the families that purchase them. But please help spread the word about how to identify them versus backyard or puppy mill breeders who create tragedies like this. This is a resource you can share.

Winter Skye

Two weeks ago, the asters and Mexican marigolds were still in bloom. Mother Nature can so easily lull Northern California gardeners into false hope of early spring. The narcissus have flowered, the tulips, hyacinths and iris are rapidly making their way. But grey skies and a cold north wind blew in today, with the promise of a hard freeze Monday night.

I was there early for puppy duty. German Shepherd, Annie and her newborns are just visiting. Found stray and very pregnant, she was sent to the shelter. Shelters don’t generally do newborn puppies. Our local GSD rescue pulled her, but reliant on fosters, they had never whelped puppies before. We offered to see her through the birth and their first few weeks before they move to their foster home. Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, our volunteers sat vigil. She birthed six beautiful babies and took to mothering immediately.

Puppy duty at this young age is not hard. It is more about being available to mom for frequent feedings, some cleaning, potty trips and breaks – leaving plenty of time to prepare the garden for the cold ahead.

New shoots and tender perennials are now blanketed in straw.

The sparrows believe it is theirs to nest in.

We began our rescue year with the walking wounded. Broken and fractured pelvises, traumatic nerve damage, one fractured vertebrae; one fractured femur, and a torn ACL. Cars and dogs don’t mix.

My current foster could be counted among them – but his issues are hereditary not inflicted.

At just a few months of age, he was diagnosed with severe hip dysplasia. Skye traveled a very long way for our help. He has interest from lots of potential adopters who want to bring him home once fixed – but so far, no one who meets our criteria has stepped up to see him through two FHO surgeries and months of recovery.

So, Skye is hanging out with us. He will have his first surgery on February 10 and his days of torturing his big foster brother Yogi will be over. Despite the abuse, I know where I will find Yogi when we bring Skye home hurting and sad: sleeping right by his side.

Note to potential adopters: four months is a long time not to fall in love with a dog. We are not looking for dog number three – but just saying!

Bundle up your tender fruit trees and plants, my Northern California gardener friends. And to those of you back east – you can stop laughing at us. Revenge is ours. Just wait for February!

Among the Flowers

A virus lurked among the flowers.

Not of the pandemic kind. Or even the botanical kind. But of the completely preventable kind that ravages young puppies.

They arrived from a breeder that had been hospitalized. Seven puppies of selling age:
Heather, Iris, Lilac,

Pansy, Poppy, Tulip and Rose.

And two mama dogs. Clover and Dahlia.

Beautiful, fragile flowers. How fragile, we would quickly discover.

At four or five years of age (no one actually tracked her age), Dahlia’s body was wrecked beyond repair. What they noted as a possible thyroid issue was a bladder so enlarged it took up most of her abdominal cavity.

None of the puppies had received their first vaccinations. Unbeknown to us, they had already been exposed to the parvovirus. Within a few days, symptoms began to appear in one – and then another.

Quarantine procedures were initiated. The two were taken to the vet for intensive care. One battled and won. The littlest, dear Rose, was lost. The other five, thankfully, remained well.

It was a devastating time full of rage and grief for the destruction that did not need to be if people would only choose responsible breeders.

Cleared by the vet, Clover and five puppies have found their way home. One baby remains with us until she too receives the all-clear. But she is healthy and strong and is making her understandable displeasure with her isolation known.

In the midst of it, little Zoey arrived.

At 15 weeks, she was surrendered for being “viscous and aggressive.” We know it simply as puppy zoomies. Her first family was clearly inexperienced and unprepared. But we’re so grateful that they recognized they were not up to the task. It gave us the opportunity to get Zoey on the right path to a happy, well-adjusted life. Destruction avoided.

To keep her safe, she came to stay with us where she and our Yogi engaged in epic play. All this girl needed was someone who understands that bursts of puppy energy need to be channeled into positive play and that a tired, well-worn-out puppy is a good puppy.

Her new family with their huge yard, love of adventures, and their high-energy, Border Collie-mix boy, are a perfect fit.

Wins and losses. The work of rescue. We lean in, fortify each other, and put one foot in front of another doing all we can for those who cannot do for themselves.

And in the garden, we will plant special flowers in honor of Dahlia and little Rose so they will know that here, they were loved – and will always be remembered.

All In A Day

All in a day…

A motley duo transformed and made as beautiful on the outside as they are within.

A one year old boy is surrendered, and then reclaimed because his people could not be without him with the understanding that a dog is a member or the family and a promise is a promise. Kids (human or canine) take time to grow up. Patience, perseverance and consistency are the keys. You get out what you put in.

Three Golden girls were spared a life of puppy-making and will, instead, enjoy a life of love and play.

A good Samaritan went out of his way (and wallet) to convince a neglectful and abusive owners to sell him the dog they left chained in the yard.

Before bringing him to us, he took the unbelievably trusting and forgiving Labby boy to the river and showed him that good people do care.

Three grateful Goldens saved from the streets (or worse) traveled more than 6,000 miles to begin a new life.

Three masquerading teeny tiny tots made their way to our Golden Retriever rescue (and my foster home)

because our favorite breed is rescued.

And one hundred and twenty roses were pruned and prepped for a new season thanks to the best-ever gardening crew (only a few are captured here).

Countless little miracles – all in a day.
Find your passion and jump in. Even the muddy water is fine.

Fall Project #2: The Puppy Pad

Maria’s decorations signal that fall has arrived in the garden…but gardening had to wait this weekend.

I’m a big fan of completing one project before starting another (the Virgo in me) – so I was hoping to complete the new bed this week. But when the success of a project depends on the muscles of others – you adapt! My crew was available this weekend…so this weekend was dedicated to the new Puppy Pad.

We built a Puppy Palace in 2014 with a dedicated shed, kennel, and a little enclosed yard for our youngest guests.

All was well until…the well! The pumping equipment was adjacent to the Puppy Palace, and when it needed replacing, it encroached upon the puppies’ yard.

While the shed and adjacent kennel space still provide excellent housing for newborns and puppies up to four weeks,

after that – the little monsters need more room to run and play.

For the past year, this meant carting them to the much larger puppy yard. They quickly outgrow wheelbarrow transfer leading to weeks of one-by-one carrying.

The solution: Puppy Pad South – or as I like to call it, Juvenile Hall. An enclosure within the large Puppy Yard that can house puppies when they reach four weeks or so.

The guys fenced off a space and built a shed at the end of the yard with a large tree providing all-day shade.

The surrounding ground, however, was a disaster. So we got to work leveling and setting pavers to provide a safe play space that is easily cleaned. While Kermit supervised…of course!

On one end, is a small patch of real grass and another tree. And under the large shade tree where grass doesn’t grow, artificial turf will be installed. The puppies will have plenty of safe room to play and stay – and when we have eyes on – the gate will open onto their very large, grassy puppy yard.

No more hauling back and fort! And everything a puppy needs for play and socialization.

The Return of the Ninja Gardeners

A few brave roses somehow survived frost, hail, and cold and were still attempting to put on a show on a foggy Friday. Such is gardening in Northern California.

But the arrival of crocuses and narcissus signal – it’s time for the roses to go.

Our gardeners are like ninjas; rarely seen – but they leave a trail of weeded and dead-headed beds behind as evidence of their stealth powers. Once a year, I am able to wrangle them together for our annual rose pruning day.

Ina and Dee cheated and snuck in a little early – graciously lightening our load a bit.

I think Ina was afraid that if she did not tackle the iceberg roses personally, we would see a repeat of this summer photo.

Still, with nearly 100 roses, the advance team was appreciated. There was plenty left to tackle. Arriving early on Saturday, we managed to complete all by mid afternoon, despite the impossible distraction of puppies in the yard next door!

And thanks to our ninja hauler – not a trace of clippings was left behind.

Wrangling the group for a photo is a whole different challenge. I have yet to capture the illusive Dee on camera, but the rest of them did not escape my lens – and that includes Nala, our gardening companion for the day.

Thank you gracious gardeners, for another successful prune day. Spring cannot be far away!

In Defense of My Summer Garden…Again

Despite a LONG hot summer, the garden fared pretty well – until August, that is. The heat is partly to blame. Deadheading doesn’t help when 100+ degree temperatures shrink new buds into tater-tot size flowers. And it was certainly too hot to plant annuals as we usually do to keep the color going in the garden in between perennial blooms.

But there are eight tiny reason that the garden looks a bit ragged right now. They marched in with yet another heat wave at the end of July: eight adorable Golden Retriever, German Shepherd, and who-know-what-else mix puppies.

Irish – their mama – had been stray in the even hotter Central Valley. A good Samaritan took her in a couple of months prior intending to keep her, not realizing that she was already expecting. Three weeks into the care of eight puppies – they were ready to be done with mama and her litter.

A visit to the vet when they found her might have told them she was going to be a mom. They might have mentioned that her bent left rear leg – the result of an old break – was causing her great pain. They might have vaccinated her not knowing she was expecting. I guess things happen for a reason. The cost of her needed surgery might have led them to put her down or send her to a shelter. Vaccinations might have been deadly to the puppies. She was meant to come to us, but it was probably unsurprising – despite keeping her with the pups in our puppy-safe yard and house – that she contracted kennel cough and had to be separated from them after only four weeks.

Kennel cough can quickly become life-threatening for puppies. But with fast-action, meds and care, they came through it well and quickly.

We took over for feeding for mama – a slurpy mush of pulverized puppy kibble, cottage cheese, and baby food at first. It wasn’t long before the tiny pups were packing on the pounds.

I’m blessed to have flexibility in my schedule, so I signed on as morning Puppy Mama. You’ll remember that that role wreaked havoc with my summer garden last year when 12 Golden puppies arrived at the rescue. Morning Puppy Mama means showing up daily to clean, feed, bathe, and play with these adorable things. A straw happily drawn.

In these very hot days, they are out in their puppy-only yard in the mornings to have a chance to run and tackle before they are put in their air-conditioned shed for the afternoon. In the evening, Puppy Dad or Puppy Grandma free them so they can play in the cool night air. And when I need to take a day off, Puppy Aunt subs in.

Needless to say, it leaves little time for gardening.

But the garden will wait – and the bees and butterflies don’t seem to mind the weed mess below.

I will plant fresh fall flowers later when the scalding ends and something approaching fall begins – and all the puppies are home beginning their new, happy lives. Four down; four to go.

Mama Irish, meanwhile, has had surgery to eliminate her pain. The recovery will be lengthy, but her future is much brighter. She was a wonderful mom, taking such good care of her kids despite her own suffering. We will find her the perfect home and a happy life, as well. She certainly has earned it.

Faith and Hope


My name is Hope. Aka “Tootsie.” Otherwise known as the “Come Back Kid,” “Braveheart,” “Too-Smart-For-My-Own-Good,” and “Houdini.” The latter being how I found myself back behind bars.

Faith Tootsie Resting_2

I’m here with my sister, Faith. Aka “Adorable,” “Sweetness,” “Girl-With-The-Green-Eyes,” and “Tag-Along,” – meaning I’ll follow my sister’s lead wherever it takes me, which is how she, too, became incarcerated.

Dog Tired Faith Tootsie

We spent the last week visiting with the gardener lady and her big dogs. She felt like our Aunt Jody could use a well-deserved break. We think Aunt Jody was secretly betting that we’d be back in 24 hours! LOL. It’s not that we are bad pups. It’s just that we are a lot of work.


So who better to take care of us for a while than a gardener: already a believer in what faith and hope can do when paired with effort. Where others see a blank slate of dirt, a gardener sees a landscape transformed – trusting in the potential.

While all puppies are work, we were born with this extra special thing called Megaesophagus. It means that the tube that sends food down has a tendency to return it if we don’t eat upright and stay that way for a while after each meal.

Gravity is our friend, so we eat in a Hello Kitty® chair. Humiliating, right?

Tootsie Chair_2

Couldn’t they make a Hello Puppy chair?


But we know the drill, to the point of seating ourselves. Just watch this:

And when we get bigger, we’ll eat and rest in a real dog, specially made, Bailey Chair. There are lots of dogs like us. They make us extra adorable so people will overlook our special needs.

After we eat, we sit upright on the gardener’s lap or standing between her knees while everything makes its way to our tummies. We watch the birds and squirrels in the garden or all the moving pictures on this big black box. We have developed a fondness for The Food Network, TLC, and movie classics. I’m sure we could grow to love sports, too – but that’s not her thing.


We play hard. Really hard. With each other –


And our friends.

Faith Tootsie_LeLoo_2

But when we’re done, we curl up and snuggle. Sister love.

Faith Tootsie Snuggle

All of this to show that we can fit into someone’s life and home without too much trouble. We hope that our special someone will see it that way.


We’re going back to Aunt Jody tomorrow. The gardener’s big dog has some medical stuff to do and would prefer to do it in “peace and quiet” – whatever that is.

And Aunt Jody will be on the lookout for special people for us. It’s easier to win your heart when our cute faces are in yours.


So do us a favor? Don’t mention the chewed wall, great toilet paper rolling contest, or how we like to dump our water bucket to make giant puddles. Let’s just say we are cute, cuddly, and endearing – and leave it at that! Oh, and if you have a spare hacksaw – send it our way??

Faith Tootsie Sleeping

Faith and Hope (aka Tootsie)


As they have grown, Aunt Jody has been working with the girls and figured out how to feed them differently so they can be as close to “normal” dogs as possible, now. No more special chairs! The key is in getting them to “graze” on their meals instead of wolfing them down. And they are doing great. So great, in fact, that Hope found her way home!


This means that sweet Faith is all by her lonesome. She is hoping that she, too, can find her someone special – preferably someone that either works from home, or is home often. We’re putting the word out and hoping you will share. Let’s get this adorable girl with the gorgeous green eyes a home of her own!


“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.” ~ Christopher Reeve

Double Dog Dare You


Some said we could never tame this once-wild acre of thistle and weeds into a garden.


Apparently, we like a challenge.


Some things are their own reward.


But when the gauntlet is thrown down, and the impossible is achieved – victory is that much more gratifying.


So it was this week with some of our “Going Homes.” Jet (now Jasper) had a file as thick as an encyclopedia. He had been bounced around like a ping-pong ball for his one failing: he leaked. And not pee!

Jet Going Home_DSC_6302

They said it was impossible, but our Doc proved otherwise. He’ll be on a strict diet for the rest of his life, but treats are easy to forgo when you exchange them for love and a forever home. Saturday, his foster mom joined our “Failed Foster Club” and made it official.

Jet Going Home_DSC_6314

Myra celebrated Mother’s Day by adopting her own human “mom” (and dad!).


She is one of our dogs rescued from the South Korea dog meat market (I wrote about it here). What a journey they have had. Rescued by the Humane Society International, and brought to us by their partner in the effort, the San Francisco SPCA, she was part of a group of four with emotional and behavioral needs so extreme that they needed lots of TLC to be adoptable. This was Myra shortly after her arrival.


So fearful were they, that they were transported directly from crate to kennel when they first arrived. Sunday, Myra – now Kono – departed with her new humans,

Myra_Kono_Going Home_DSC_6359

just as Tag (now Max) did a couple weeks ago.


And – if you can keep a secret for a day – Roger, too. He went home as foster-to-adopt…adopt being the operative word!


That leaves only Lena, who still needs a little more support.


But she has found a confidence-building playmate in Cooper who is helping her come out of her shell.

And this week, we received two new puppies (my little man, Beau, packed his bags and headed for home). Both have Megaesophagus – or expansion of the esophagus. In their case, likely hereditary.


Dogs with Megaesophagus will suddenly start regurgitating undigested food soon after eating. As they lose weight, they are at risk. So I will hope that, once again, we can do the impossible.

“The difference between the difficult and the impossible is that the impossible takes a little longer time.” ~Lady Aberdeen

I double dog dare you to tell us we can’t.