Taking the Hill

Originally, it was a mountain of tangled blackberries – home to snakes, thorns and the occasional bunny.

The brambles were replaced with raised blueberry beds – that fried in the summer heat and invited Bermuda grass, morning glory weeds and few blueberries.

Last fall, the bed frames were demolished to begin anew.

The vision was an extension of the adjacent California-themed garden.

The challenge: that bed sits near the top of the garden. When we get big winter rains, the water passes through and collects where the raised planters were until our clay soil will finally absorb it.

The solution: Mounds. Hills. Berms. Whatever you want to call them. They are raised high enough that the soil drains well.

Last fall, I brought in fresh soil and compost, covered them with cardboard, another layer of soil on top, and a final layer of mulch to let them “cook” over the winter, planting only those things that truly required fall planting. Maria and I created paths between the bed sections for weeding and planting access without compressing the soil.

And this spring, I filled the new beds to the brim with California natives and the Mediterranean standouts that I have long coveted.

The result exceeds my expectations already.

I know that I have installed more than the bed can handle long-term. But crowded beds ensure cooler roots in our hot, dry summers. And things can always be divided and moved in coming seasons.

The new beds are already bountiful and thriving in the conditions created for them.

Native Ceanothus, Poppy, Erysimum capitatum (“Western Wallflower”), California Fuchsia, Penstemon eatonii “Firecracker Penstemon,” Delta Sunflower, and Salvia spathacea  “Hummingbird Sage.”

Mediterranean garden favorites: Crape Myrtle, Cerinthe major, Verbascum, Lion’s Tail, Blue Fescue, Verbena, Gaura…

And a little happy Penstemon and Geum thrown in for good measure.

It’s not to say that the Bermuda grass and morning glory weeds have not attempted a comeback. But it is just so much more enjoyable to do battle with them when surrounded with this beauty.

Lesson: Never be afraid to start anew.

Like our friends Bodie, 14

and Summer, 15 –

both beginning new chapters in their glory years because kindhearted people believed that their best beauty was still within.

“There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. Yet that will be the beginning.” ~ Louis L’Amour


Rescue Begins at Home

Homeward Bound welcomed two new dogs from a Shanghai rescue this week. Say hello to Oscar…


and Kenny.


We’re working with a new group that we had heard does a wonderful job of giving street dogs a second chance, providing healthcare, vetting, and socialization before they come over to find forever homes.


Like the Taiwan and Korea dogs before them, our rescue is happy to be in a position to assist dogs wherever there is a need.


But we never forget that rescue begins at home. This week, rescue began very close to my home.

My elderly neighbors have been through a lot. The husband has twice recovered from significant health issues, and now the wife is struggling. They have always been dog people, and Rush has been their dog for as long as we have lived across the street. He was a very young Labrador Retriever when we moved in. A hunting dog who always loved the outdoors, and he was devoted to his people. He’s made of hardy stock. But now, he is fourteen or fifteen – they have lost count. He is incontinent and arthritic, and to my great sadness, he was being left outside as the nights got colder and wetter because they were simply unable to care for him. He had an igloo outfitted with a bed under a covered awning. It was the best they knew how to do.

These are proud and private people who don’t like to impose on others or accept help. They have driven their adult children mad refusing their offers. And so, I steeled myself for my knock on their door. I didn’t know any other way to say it: “I’m worried for Rush, can I help him?” The wife put up the expected objections, but to my surprise and relief, the husband gave me an automatic “yes.” While she continued with a string of concerns, he went and got Rush’s leash and food bowl, and walked me across the street with his beloved pup.

He said “not forever.” But Rush’s future is likely counted in weeks – maybe months – not forevers.

I took him immediately to a warm shower to wash away the pee and poo he had been sleeping in, gave him a blow dry, and made him a comfy place to rest in the laundry room where he can have whatever accidents he has without worrying about a floor that is easily cleaned but not too slippery for old dog legs.


He looked a little confused at first, had his dinner, and fell into a deep and peaceful sleep.


“It makes me sad,” my husband said. “It lets me sleep,” said I.

Outfitted with diapers, pee pads, and a sling, his needs are manageable. Every couple of days, I walk those old dog legs across the street to say “hello.” His people are beyond grateful and now recognize that – while they will always be his people – this will be his home for the rest of his days.


It’s wonderful to be able to help dogs from afar have a second chance at life. And it’s rewarding beyond words to give an old dog a soft and warm place to lay.
Rescue begins at home.


Wanted: Dognapper


Height: 5’5”; Eyes: Blue; Distinguishing Marks: Pretty. Bright smile. Infectious laugh. Frequently covered in garden dirt.
Modus operandi: Lurks around rescue office, the temporary home of the sweetest old or rehabbing dogs. Lies in wait. Lures pups to her with baby talk and treats. Snatches them up to add to her growing collection. Known to target any dog liked by our Treasurer.
Criminal Record: Sought in the disappearance of Jenni, Snowy, Ginger and Royce.
Caution: Should be considered armed (with cookies) and dangerous (to office dog lovers).

Meet Anna. The most recent addition to the volunteer gardeners – a front, we’re sure. As a long-time Homeward Bound supporter and well-known dognapper, I suspect she was just looking for a cover.


Before I met Anna, she was already legend for stealing Jenni from president’s office – striking before anyone could even list Jenni as available. You want to be careful not to make off with the president’s favorites too often. By the time I met Anna, she had switched her tactics. In the Fall of 2013, she targeted Summer, a recuperating office dog and a favorite of our treasurer, Judy.


Anna changed her name to Snowy thinking that would mask the evidence, and invited her home with Jenni.


Judy thought Ginger was safe, tucked away in the corner of her office. Not so!

Ginger Going Home_DSC_0080

Anna swooped in and stole her right from under her nose less than a year later. Ginger joined Jenni and Snowy and off they went.

Ginger Going Home_DSC_0072

Now, she’s done it again. To obscure her true motives, she arrives in the early morning under the guise of gardening. Shortly after her arrival in the garden, Anna sneaks away and quietly prowls the office looking for her next mark.


16-year-old Royce – yet another of Judy’s favorites – did not stand a chance! Having spent his life as a service dog, he is remarkably still full of life and pep. Upon his arrival, Judy quickly nabbed him to be her new office dog. Big mistake. He may not hear or see well, but there’s nothing wrong with his sniffer. With a pocket full of cookies – and clearly, limited loyalty – it didn’t take much for Anna to win him over.


Judy never saw it coming. A couple of weeks ago, Royce went home with Anna, Jenni and Snowy. Ginger is with them in spirit, if not in body.


This weekend, she disguised Royce as a gardening dog – flagrantly parading him under Judy’s nose.


Why is this known dog thief allowed to continue in her misdeeds? Ask any of her spoiled rotten dogs. They’ll vouch for her.


Judy surrenders.


What Matters

A previous adopter wrote:


“Today was a sad day. We lost our beloved Buddy…he was 15 years old. We knew when we adopted him almost two years ago that he wouldn’t live long because at that time he was 13. We moved a month ago to the ocean…we wanted him to have a place where he could enjoy himself. He did. Buddy was my golden-oldie, through and through. We fell in love with him when we first met him at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue. We will always treasure the short time we had with him. Would we adopt a senior again…you bet. Thanks for allowing us to have our ‘Golden Oldie’…Miss him.” ~ Karen A.


“We do not know how long we’ve got here.


We don’t know when fate will intervene.


We cannot discern God’s plan.


What we do know is that with every minute that we’ve got, we can live our lives in a way that takes nothing for granted.


We can love deeply.


We can help people those who need help.


We can teach our children what matters,


and pass on empathy and compassion and selflessness.” ~ Barack Obama, Eulogy for Beau Biden