Homeward Bound celebrates 15 years of dog rescues

Lizzy, a yellow lab, leaps with excitement before her walk Tuesday with volunteer Teresa Wilson.
Lizzy, a yellow lab, leaps with excitement before her walk Tuesday with volunteer Teresa Wilson.

When dogs wind up at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue – whether because they were surrendered by an overwhelmed owner or plucked by volunteers from an overcrowded shelter – it’s the canine equivalent of winning the lottery.

The rural campus is so well maintained that one team of volunteers is devoted to caring for the lawns, flowers and other plant life while others arrive each day to walk the dogs around the grounds. People looking to adopt are interviewed and undergo a home inspection to make sure they’re the right match for the dog. There’s even a cat on the property to help the center determine whether dogs up for adoption are feline-friendly.

Justina Codde, who has volunteered her veterinarian services to the center since 2004, has a well-equipped office on site to give the dogs checkups, vaccines, medications and basic medical care. When more extensive procedures are required, Homeward Bound is known to spare no expense – the group has racked up millions in veterinary bills since its founding in 2000.

Homeward Bound is celebrating its 15th anniversary Sunday, from 4 to 8 p.m., with its annual gala fundraiser, dubbed Kibble & Bids, which includes dinner, live and silent auctions, and wine tasting. For years considered a major event on the local social calendar, Kibble & Bids will be held at the Old Sugar Mill in Clarksburg for the first time. In prior years, the gala has been at the California Auto Museum or at a private estate along the Sacramento River.

Since its modest beginnings in the backyard of founders Mike and Jody Jones, Homeward Bound has grown into one of the premier dog rescue groups in the nation and is considered so well run that it has been studied by scores of other animal and nonprofit groups.

The Joneses started the rescue group in 2000 after their golden retriever Chelsea was hit by a car. They swore then that they’d help other golden retrievers if Chelsea survived. Homeward Bound now specializes in caring for retrievers but also cares for other breeds.

Homeward Bound is perhaps best known for taking on some of the toughest and costliest cases – dogs with severe illness or injury, elderly dogs approaching their final days – and houses scores of canines that no one would mistake for a golden retriever. During a recent visit, an affable pit bull wagged its tail behind the administrative counter, waiting to be paired with a volunteer foster home.

“We get them vetted, we get them evaluated to find out what type of a home they are looking for, and we get them home,” said Jody Jones. “So most of (the dogs) are with us short term until we find that wonderful new home for them.”

A banner stretched across one wall of the office lists the daunting statistics. In 2008 and 2009, during the height of the recession when many dog owners lost their homes to foreclosure, the number of dogs placed in homes peaked at more than 800 a year. Dogs too old or sickly are allowed to live out their lives at a sanctuary on the property.

Codde, who owns the Cherry Creek Veterinary Hospital in Antelope, explained why she’s volunteered with Homeward Bound for so many years: “It’s all about the dogs. Everything is for the dogs.”

“It’s such an amazing place and it makes you feel so good,” she added. “It’s their philosophy that they just don’t pick the perfect dogs to help.”

Codde recalled a golden retriever named Dakota that had been so severely strangled and beaten that its eyes were ruptured and two of its legs were broken. Like most Homeward Bound dogs, Dakota won the canine lottery when someone took him from the shelter to the facility in Elverta.

The dog had lost one of his eyes and his legs had to be rebroken and pinned.

Codde said that during the numerous times she cared for Dakota, “He wagged his tail and gave me kisses every time.”

Dakota was once slated for euthanization because his injuries were so severe. Codde said Dakota “now has the most wonderful home.”

Blair Anthony Robertson: 916-321-1099, @Blarob

Kibble & Bids

Tickets are $115 per person. For more information or to purchase tickets, visit the Homeward Bound website.