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.

A Legacy of Faith and Hope

From a certain angle, you would never know there is something different about these two girls.

To me, they could not be more special. As puppies, they set me on the path to puppy fostering.

Surrendered by a breeder, they both had a congenital abnormality called Megaesophagus. The esophagus – which connects the throat to the stomach – is enlarged and lacks the elasticity or motility required to move food and liquid down to the stomach. Unless gravity is employed, puppies vomit up their food and drink, lose weight, fail to thrive and often do not survive. They were fragile and adorable.

We named them Faith and Hope.

And after a brief time at the rescue, they came to stay with us. They were the first puppies that my Bella accepted.

All previous attempts at fostering failed quickly. But somehow, Bella knew that these puppies had a special need and she overlooked their foolish puppy ways and welcomed them home.

Hope was adopted by one of our volunteers with a heart for special needs dogs.

Faith stayed with me until a home could be found.

As a very young puppy, she was extremely active.

But I noticed that as she grew, she would often stop and refuse to move.

I carried her home on more than one occasion. I thought she was just being stubborn.

She was adopted by a lovely woman who had a special needs son herself. She was drawn to Faith for this reason. But Faith’s stopping continued creating a challenge that was more than the woman knew how to deal with.

By this point, my Bella’s own special needs were overwhelming. She was losing her battle with cancer.

So not long afer Faith was returned, she went to foster with her sister – now named Sophie – and her big brother, Jasper.

We all met up at puppy class,

and Cassandra and I looked at each other with alarm when – in the middle of play – both girls simply collapsed.

They said that it was normal for puppies to overdo – but we both knew it was more. It turns out that Faith and Sophie had another inherited concern: centronuclear myopathy or CNM. Muscle fibers do not grow normally. Dogs are unable to walk and exercise normally and are prone to collapse or locking up in heat or cold. It develops between six weeks and seven months; the result of poor breeding. What we were seeing was its progression.

So what did Cassandra do? She adopted them both!

Four years later, you can clearly see the muscle wasting from other angles,

but the dogs have thrived in their mom’s great care. I honestly don’t know where they would be without her.

They began their journey in Hello Kitty chairs

and now have grown up custom dog chairs that they back themselves into to eat and sit upright for an hour while gravity does its work.

Mom monitors their exercise in hot or cold – but mostly they all enjoy couch time and snuggles together. Homeward Bound ensures their medical care for life.

Once a year, when mom takes a much-needed and well-deserved break, the dogs come to stay with us. This week, I was on puppy duty anyway, so I gladly took on Faith and Sophie’s feedings as well. It is the very least I could do for a woman who opened her heart and home to these very special sisters.

Bella left us not long after Faith went to live with Cassandra. I reflect often on her unique acceptance of these two girls. I think she would be proud of the puppy-fostering legacy she began – with Jackson and Yogi giving others hope and faith that the will get the start in life they deserve.

P.S…my sincere thanks to the adoption team who managed to get Barley and Hops adopted today so I can leave on my trip to Yellowstone worry free!!

At the Heart of Gardening…and Rescue

“At the heart of gardening there is a belief in the miraculous.” ~ Mirabel Osler

Who would have believed that an acre of weeds and thistle would turn into our memorial garden.

Or that seeds, bulbs, saplings and bare roots would grow into this.

Yes, it takes hard work, water and sun, and a fair amount of luck – but what unfolds is kind of miraculous.

Rescue requires its own belief in miracles. Here are a few of the tiny ones we have recently had the privilege to know.

Patsy was likely hit by a car and dragged. This little puppy arrived from a shelter with a broken leg and a body covered in bruises and scrapes.

She did her rehab like a quiet trooper in her little prison, giving no hint of the awesome Yoda personality inside.

As she recovered, it came shining through.

She was listed as available for less than 24 hours before a lucky family scooped her up and carried her away.

Miss Pickles puppy came to us with hydrocephalus – water on the brain.

Already nearly blind, the condition could result in full blindness down the road as well as seizures and behavioral issues. But don’t tell her or her mom that she is anything less than perfect,

because Miss Pickles – now Autumn – is perfect for her.

Tiny Johnnie was dropped off at a shelter and marked as stray. He was abandoned.

He has swimmer puppy syndrome. It is a developmental deformity showing up shortly after birth which causes the chest or thorax to flatten. Puppies with the syndrome have a hard time eating or drinking, and those that survive the first few weeks lack strength in their legs to push themselves up. Their legs – particularly their back legs – are splayed, moving side to side – thus the name swimmer syndrome.

Johnnie is lucky to have pretty good use of his front legs. Intensive physical therapy can reverse the impact to his back legs if begun early.

He has found a foster daddy who will work with him – including regular swims – to get those back ones into gear.

Sometimes, miracles are just good people with kind hearts. And we are blessed with good people who understand that…

“Where there is great love, there are always miracles.” ~ Willa Cather

A holiday gift

Two weeks of low 20-degree temperatures overnights (unheard of in the Sacramento Valley), and there is not much left to show you in the garden.


It got an overdue drink this weekend – after the hoses thawed out. The forecast says the worst is behind us for a while.


The only color I have to share with you this week is on the Christmas tree;


the only birds that made an appearance today were stuffed.


So to warm your hearts – I give you Charlie and Linus (photos courtesy of my friend, Rob) –


two pups that arrived at Homeward Bound barely four months of age. They were accompanied by a very unwelcome guest: parvo. You can read their full story here. Suffice to say, they were blessed to have Homeward Bound guardian angels looking down on them. Most times, the prognosis is not good. A few weeks later, our miracle pups are healthy, happy and ready to roll.


They are also adopted.


Both went home this weekend, just in time for Christmas.


I can’t think of a greater gift.