The Real Things Remain

I had a blog post all written for tonight. I deleted it. I was going to tell you about the rains that created lakes in the spring garden,

and then I woke to today’s headlines. And I wondered, what is the point of this silly blog in a world gone mad? Lately, the magnitude of our capacity as humans to do harm to one another seems boundless. And overwhelming.

I know that bad things happen daily to good people, animals, and to nature. Still, I try to find the light amid the darkness. I just wasn’t seeing it this morning.

I went to rescue very early because I have the privilege of helping to look after this beautiful girl.

It gives me plenty of quiet time to work in the garden as well.

I planted and weeded and listened to birds singing and dogs barking delighted to be outside and playing in mud puddles.

I marveled at the blossoming Lilac tree Ina rescued from near death…

and I remembered how blessed we are to live in this world that we too often devalue and debase.

I thought about how privileged we are to live in this imperfect country with all its potential for grace.

I remembered that I believe in rescued souls, and second chances, and the miracle of forgiveness and moving forward.

And when I held these tiny ones….

I remembered that is our obligation to appreciate our blessings, to share them with others, to keep trying to find the light – and to work hard at leaving the world a better place.

This blog won’t change the world. It won’t prevent bad things from happening. But it is my weekly reminder to find light in darkness…

That good things still happen…

And that there is still beauty in the world.

“Life may take everything out of my days, but the real things remain. You may destroy my castles, but I have the timbers to build ten thousand more.” ~ Muriel Strode A Soul’s Faring, 1921

Sometimes We Cry


“I have never been at a point in life doing that which has me so fulfilled, yet so shattered at the same time.” ~ A note received from a fellow volunteer upon the loss of a dog

To My Fellow Rescuers:

This week has been a tough one at the rescue, full of unexpected loss. Some were the beloved companions of our fellow volunteers. Those, we understand, grieve, and celebrate for the time we had together.

Others, sent to us too late, were with us for too short a time. We did not even have a chance to know them. We grieve their loss equally – but we cannot understand.

Because we take dogs regardless of their age or health, we are increasingly sent very sick and frail dogs pulled from shelters by rescue organizations and then transferred to us with scant – or inaccurate – information.

Armchair rescuers, whose only effort is social media, feel good that these poor pups were “freed.” The stats of the shelter and other rescue organization look better for not having euthanized an animal.

Don’t get me wrong: there should be a special place in hell for people who leave their devoted, but aged and sick companions in a shelter to die.  But a note to my fellow rescuers: putting a dog that is obviously in its final days through a one or two day journey “to safety” is not the humane thing for the dog. And it takes a human toll on the volunteers on the other end who are helpless to do anything but to let the dog go peacefully – if we even get that chance. We may only have known the dog for hours or days, but we still carry the weight of that loss.

We help hundreds of dogs on their journeys home each year. There are countless canine lives saved and human lives touched. There are miracles, and, along the way, there are inevitable losses – and yes, even rare failures. We’re strong, but we’re not Teflon. Our hearts break, too. So please, fellow rescuers, act with your heads as well as your hearts – for the dogs’ sake if not for ours.

Sometimes we lose; sometimes we fail; sometimes we cry – and that is the price of trying.

Sometimes we know, sometimes we don’t
Sometimes we give, sometimes we won’t
Sometimes we’re strong, sometimes we’re wrong
Sometimes we cry

Sometimes it’s bad when the going gets tough
When we look in the mirror and we want to give up
Sometimes we don’t even think we’ll try
Sometimes we cry

Well we’re gonna have to sit down and think it right through
If we’re only human what more can we do

Sometimes we cry. ~ Van Morrison

A Letter To Shasta

Dear Shasta,
This is not the post I hoped to write about you. Please don’t be sad or embarrassed that you are back so soon. And if those other dogs tease you, you let them know it will cost them cookies!


That it didn’t work out with those nice people is not their fault. And it is not yours. It’s ours. As much as we thought we knew about you – we just didn’t know enough.

You have worked so hard to shed years of your too-young-life being a dog of purpose and not of the heart. You did what you were trained to do; you hunted with astonishing speed and dogged focus. Shasta at work is a sight to behold!


But you never learned to play. And you never knew the ways of a loved dog –


until we showed you. We expected more from you, and for you. Eventually, you leaned in and trusted us.


And just when we thought you had finally met your match…you are back. What we didn’t know is how strong that hunting instinct still was in you. And when you tried, in wild pursuit, to find your way to freedom, they knew they could not keep you safe. We hadn’t seen that in you – or we missed the clues. And we forgot to teach you something else about humans (perhaps you already knew): we make mistakes sometimes.

But there’s one more thing we hope you know, girl: we don’t give up. We will not give up on you, sweet Shasta. We will hunt and seek until we find your perfect match. And until we do, you are safe and loved with us.

“But ne’er the rose without the thorn.” ~ Robert Herrick


Thank you, Rob, for use of your wonderful capture of Shasta running.

Moving from human to kind

In a world that has seemingly gone mad, you would be forgiven for wondering if an effort like rescue is trivial in comparison to the headlines these days. But it’s not. There are lessons here.


It’s not just the hundreds of dogs that we rescue each year through our own effort at Homeward Bound – but the untold number of rescuers, advocates and angels all over the globe working together for a common good.


It’s not just the dogs saved, but the countless number of people whose lives are touched…




and transformed as a result.


It’s not just the act of rescue, but the education that accompanies it. Not that long ago, rescue networks were non-existent. We have a long way to go – but we have demonstrated that a difference can be made against seemingly impossible odds when people stand united together. The dogs, and our work on their behalf, teach us about acceptance of others,




and healing.


We learn to face adversity without losing hope…


and how to say “good-bye” – while still carrying on.


Rescue reminds us that despite all the difficult things we see and experience, human beings still have the capacity for care and compassion.


And in this crazy world – maybe that matters most.

“The next evolutionary step for humankind is to move from human to kind.” ~ Author Unknown

Kind hearts are the gardens

Rescue is hard work. Incredibly rewarding…but very hard work. Rescue is not for the faint of heart. Not all can be saved, not all endings are happy. But every day we put one foot in front of the other to walk this path together and do the best we can – because the ones who depend on us, cannot.


Rescue relies on people so passionate that they give of themselves, their time, and their hearts with nothing expected in return except the joy of seeing an animal saved and going home.

Passion can sometimes be messy. We chase perfection, because so much hangs in the balance – the protection of each other, the dogs – and of each others’ hearts. But when it comes to living creatures – human or canine – perfection is near impossible to achieve.

“Nothing that is complete breathes.” ~ Antonio Porchia

That’s where patience and kindness come in. And forgiveness. Of each other and ourselves for our human flaws and inevitable failures.

Each of us is as unique as the parts that make up this passion vine flower…


put us all together – and we can achieve beautiful things.


“Kind hearts are the gardens,
Kind thoughts are the roots,
Kind words are the blossoms,
Kind deeds are the fruits.”
~19th century rhyme


Kindness. Patience. Forgiveness. These are the required tools of rescue.

“There is one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life — reciprocity.” ~ Confucius


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

That Special Feeling

Given time and the opportunity, a garden will tell you what it needs. It’s part experience and part observation. You learn not to rush to conclusions – even when all hope appears to be lost. Given a chance, most plants will make a comeback from even the harshest mistreatment.


Look for the signs, and they will tell you what they need to thrive. Wait long enough for a space to speak to you, and it will blossom right before your eyes. So it is with rescue.

Jody, our rescue’s co-founder and leader, dreams of being a garden whisperer. If she had more time to devote to it, she could get there. At present, her insight into plants is more hope than reality. When it comes to the hearts of dogs and people, however, she is rarely wrong. With years of experience, she has made countless matches by watching, waiting and listening. So when Selim began volunteering at Homeward Bound and was in the thick of that “I want every dog” phase – she kept telling him, “No, no. Not yet.”

In March 2013, Homeward Bound received a call from a valley shelter about a dog they had picked up that was in horrible shape. I don’t have to tell you the fate of most injured animals in shelters if not for rescue organizations. Thankfully, great partnerships exist to save lives. Jody left immediately to retrieve him.

This gentle creature had been attacked by dogs and torn to bits. Bite wounds covered his body; he was emaciated.


We’ll never know the true circumstances behind the assault. He had either crawled away or had been dumped to die. His wounds were covered in debris, and his ear was literally hanging by a thread. Our Dr. Codde took him directly to surgery. She sewed his ear back on, treated his injuries and cleaned his wounds. Jody brought him home and took him under her wing to heal. She named him Gatsby.

A few days into his recovery, one of our long-time volunteers, Tatia, took him out to the park to sit quietly and rest. After all he had been through he had every reason to be fearful. Yet he climbed up onto the bench, into her lap, and put his head on her shoulder.


She had a special feeling about his future, so she made sure to request photos of his “before.”


Jody says, “I knew he would be a special placement. I don’t hurry those; I need to feel it. Selim has a caring nature and a very big heart. I had plans for Selim and Gatsby.”


It was good that Selim had waited; he fell hard. Before he could get a “yes” however, his wife’s agreement was needed. This would be a big undertaking, requiring that they both be on board. A perfect match is never made out of pity, but out of love and commitment. Vicki had been through a lot herself, including two battles with leukemia. Maybe she saw some of her own journey in Gatsby; a special connection to another in need. She didn’t hesitate. With both women in accord, Selim and Vicki took Gatsby home, where he became “Stanley.”

“He looked like a little boy and his dog when they took him home that day.” ~ Jody


It took time, care and patience to heal Stanley’s wounds and rebuild his body – but his heart was unscathed thanks to the compassion that surrounded him upon his arrival. Selim’s pictures capture his transformation, which is nothing short of amazing.


Stanley’s canine companions at home are Maggie, a sweet 11-year-old girl, and one of her puppies, Mojo, a youthful 8-year-old boy. Stanley views Maggie as his personal chew toy, but – in all fairness – sometimes Maggie instigates the ruckus. Stanley and Mojo either chase each other like the wind at Folsom Lake or simply snuggle and nap. They’re all good pals, living the lives dogs should lead.


Mojo also has four biological brothers and sisters from his litter living in the neighborhood. They frequently enjoy the company of Daisy, Daphne, Buddy, Belle and their lovely humans.


While gardens bounce back, traumatic events like Stanley’s can leave more than physical scars – they often leave emotional ones that can make a dog fearful. Through loving care and kindness, Stanley put his horrible encounter behind him to find joy and comfort in canine companionship again.


Selim, Vicky and Stanley paid us a visit last week and had a chance to reunite with the team. Tatia was overjoyed to see him again.


If not for Homeward Bound, this amazing dog would surely have been lost.


Thanks to Selim and Vicki, he is home – happy and healthy. They gave him some time, watched for the right signs, and had a special feeling about this boy: It’s called “love.”


Selim has graciously shared a link to Stanley’s photo album. You can view it here. Thanks, as well, to photographer Rob Kessel for documenting Stanley’s earliest days with us so we would have this remarkable chronicle of his journey. His album can be found here.

Grey Skies

Saturday, the skies turned dark, thunder clapped, and we were treated to a brief downpour – unseasonable for us this time of year. The garden is loving it.


With the cooler temperatures and extra drink, everything burst forth in bloom.



The light was different and the colors more subdued – but beautiful bathed in warm grey.


Love the sound of these wind chimes in the rustling trees. My idea of church.

I’m really pleased with how these drifts have developed.


Inspired by something I saw in Fine Gardening magazine, and purchased as 3″ plants from Digging Dog Nursery, they have grown to full size in one season and now provide a bridge from Ina’s Cottage and California gardens to Maria’s Herb and St. Francis beds.


I was very pleased to meet this gentleman as well.


His name is Renji and he is a total charmer. Wish he were mine! I suspect he’ll be scooped up quickly.

I heard a story on the radio today. Jerry Saltz, an art critic for New York magazine was talking about Jackson Pollock, the painter. When he made his first famous drip painting, he supposedly turned to his wife and asked: Is this a painting?

That’s how I feel about these. ‘Are these photographs?’ Or simply disasters?



I dunno. Something made me save them from the ‘delete’ folder. Maybe someday, my disasters will be as sought after as Pollocks’ drips. A girl can dream.

The sun will be back tomorrow…and you know where you’ll find me.

Our Joy

The garden served up its usual beauty this weekend. Fall is beginning its advance and the flowers and their friends are grateful for the more moderate temperatures and cool nights.


Their appreciation is clearly on display.


But the most beautiful moments of the weekend did not involve flowers. First, new bricks were installed in the Memorial pathway.


I donated this one for one of my very first blogger friends, Deborah at Romancing the Bee and her beloved companion recently departed – the Noble Bayard.


The garden hosted the usual parade of pups. Hank took up residence on Steve’s lap –


Fozzie Bear, who just recently arrived, made his first trip to the garden –


beautiful Sting relaxed in the shade, exhausted from playing in the sprinklers –


while Lilly practiced her table manners.


In between, two great tales unfolded. First, Sydney – a special needs Golden who has pretty significant separation anxiety, found her perfect match in a family that did not see that as a special need at all.


She went home with her new beautiful brother, Gunner.


The two of them will have perpetual human company serving by day as greeters in their family’s store – Material Goods in (get this) – Carmel. Yup. Carmel By The Sea. I was hoping that they would adopt me as well, but some dogs just have all the luck! You can visit them there.


And that was just the start.


The story is told in full on the Homeward Bound blog (click here to read), but I’ll summarize here. A wonderful family with three beautiful children – adopted themselves – with incredibly giving hearts. On Thursday, they met Ollie, one our longer term guests.


Deaf, with skin issues, and a golden heart – he had been passed over too many times. On Sunday, they met Mariposa. A tiny, malnourished and scared little girl who had not been treated well in her first year on earth.


Two extraordinary dogs with special needs – who have found a very special home – with a beautiful family and a new brother named Sailor.


People ask about the often bittersweet work of rescue: “how can you do it”? With weekends like this, how can you not?

The joy is ours.