Isabella Lake is a reservoir, situated in a near-desert area below Sequoia National Park and about an hour north of Bakersfield, CA. There’s not much there, including water these days. But there is a caring community that came together with the best of intentions to provide help and hope for 17 Golden beauties left homeless. How this came to be may never be completely known – we were told that it was from a hoarding situation. But one look at these pups’ beautiful faces confirms that these were not just any collection of dogs – but a group that is closely related.

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In economically depressed areas it’s not uncommon to find backyard breeders. Unknowledgeable or unconcerned, litters soon carry hereditary risks. In some instances, the individuals become so attached, they cannot let the dogs go. The result in this situation: 17 dogs taken in on an emergency basis by a concerned kennel owner when they were forcibly abandoned. Only this emergency dragged on. Six were placed over time, but 11 remained for more than a year. Resources were scarce – despite caring community members who kicked in to help.

Small towns are tight knit communities; they frequently prefer to take care of their own. We get it; we’re a pretty tight community ourselves at Homeward Bound Golden Retriever Rescue. But we are blessed with friends and supporters far and wide who share our passion for rescue and ensure that we have the resources to help. The call came to us from a concerned member of this supportive community group. Homeward Bound offered its assistance and the offer was thankfully accepted. Those involved truly wanted what was best for the dogs, but their needs were well beyond their capacity to care for them.

On Monday, March 3, 2014, Homeward Bound’s president and a volunteer drove five hours to a town near Isabella Lake. They found 11 dogs in open dirt pens, unsocialized and clearly thin.

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Eight were loaded into the van that late afternoon – as many as could be safely transported on the five-hour return trip. Three more would come with another of our volunteers two days later.

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Two vans; more than 1,300 miles; eleven dogs – eight boys and three girls. All ages, all gorgeous, and all in need of significant medical care.

When our doc saw the first group the next morning, it was clear that one of the girls was beyond even our ability to save. Amy had advanced cancer of the jaw – too advanced to treat. The pain must have been excruciating and the only right decision was to gently let her go.

The remaining ten – we call them the Reservoir Dogs – will all require extraordinary care before they are ready for adoption. A couple might be able to be placed in weeks; most in months. We’ll be dealing with severe ear infections and dental problems. All are malnourished and have varying degrees of hip dysplasia. All the boys require neutering – except one: Michael, who was also microchipped. Was he sold and returned? He is painfully shy. If only dogs could tell us their stories. Many need socializing; unfamiliar as they are with human interaction you can see the fear in some of their faces. While they were unsure at first, they will quickly learn – it all gets better from here.


Amazing things have already happened. They feel grass under their paws instead of dirt.


They are fed. They are housed. They have beds to sleep on. Our volunteers are gently guiding them to a new world of walking on a leash, being groomed and simply being loved.


We have seen these transformations before – but to see it happen with so many simultaneously is truly moving.


We invite you to follow their progress and introduce them here: 

Buddy (Grandpa)

Buddy 2


Joseph 2


Jordan 2


Ashley 2


Joshua 2


Michael 2


Abagail 2


Braden 2


David 2


Hunter 2

You’ll find Photographer Rob Kessel’s photo album capturing their arrival by clicking here.

We are grateful to the individuals that alerted us to the need and were willing to let us step in to help. We are enormously thankful for the help of our dedicated volunteers. Getting these dogs into loving homes is our goal and it will require a significant effort for months to come. This is the true role of rescue.

Because their needs will be so great, we will use funds from our current “Fund of Love” drive to provide for their medical care. All tax-deductible donations made now are eligible for a match in the second part of the campaign: “Double The Gold.”  We are indebted to you for your support – past or present. Without you, this effort would not be possible. You’ll find information on giving by clicking here.

 Read the Update: Check on the progress of the Reservoir Dogs by clicking here!