What does it take to save an animal? A Tale of Two Dogs

Animals live 15 or even 20 years. Shelters and rescues aim to adopt animals to "forever" homes, yet there is a constant supply of animals being surrendered to the same shelters and rescues. Clearly, something doesn't add up! In animal welfare, people tend to measure success by the numbers, taking a short-term view: an animal placed is an animal saved. This limited view is often blind to the pitfalls in our system.

Dodi and Outlaw are beautiful, intelligent, and personable dogs who spent portions of their lives on the adoption circuit before coming to Home for Life®. Both dogs began their lives in loving homes.

Like almost every animal at Home for Life, they lost their homes and then circulated through the animal welfare system before arriving at our sanctuary. Their parallel tales illustrate how the uncertainties of a system that is captive to a short­ term view has left dogs and cats like them invisible and at risk.

Outlaw when he first arrived at
Home for Life; broken, ill,
blind and desperate.
A five year old Australian Cattle Dog, Outlaw lost his first home at three years of age when his elderly owner was dying of heart disease and cancer. He was surrendered to a shelter to face his fate with his favorite toy, a bucket he loved to toss around playfully. The shelter found a quick placement for the playful and friendly dog, referring him to a rescue specializing in herding breeds like Outlaw. The shelter counted him among the saved in their quarterly tally, and so did the breed rescue when they found what they thought was a responsible and good home for the dog.

Dodi at Home for Life
A Harlequin Great Dane, Dodi lost her first home at just 6 months of age, when she was surrendered to animal control due to epilepsy. She was facing euthanasia, but luckily a breed rescue stepped in to save her. The rescue group found a match for her and sent her off to her new home. The new owners had other Great Danes and were committed to providing a good home.

Outlaw's "forever" home was sadly, just the beginning of an odyssey filled with suffering and heartbreak. Instead of providing a stable and loving home, his new owner soon handed Outlaw off to someone else. The shelter and rescue that had handled the adoption were unaware of Outlaw's new circumstances. As far as they knew, he was enjoying a full life with all the opportunities that a committed owner could provide.

Dodi's adoption also turned out to be temporary . Her new owners found that she was too much for their household. After a year, they chose to entrust her to their pet sitter, who said that she knew how to manage Dodi's epilepsy.

Outlaw's third owner proved as unstable as the previous one. Within weeks, Outlaw found himself back in the cage of another shelter.

Dodi's new situation was a quick failure. The pet sitter was soon looking to unload the young dog. She contacted Home for Life and complained that Dodi had uncontrollable seizures despite being medicated, that she feared adult men, and ran away every chance she got. Crated for periods during the day, she went to the bathroom in her kennel and would spin, creating a terrible mess. The pet sitter called Dodi unmanageable and said that if Home for Life wouldn't take her, then she would end up being euthanized.

Home for Life considered Dodi's long range prospects: the 18 month old dog had already been in three homes. Given her large size, her chronic illness, and her negative rap sheet, it would not be easy to find a stable long-term placement for her. It was a big commitment given her young age, but that's the special role that a sanctuary fills. Dodi was accepted at Home for Life.

Outlaw's magnetic personality and appealing looks made him easy to place. The shelter where he had landed was soon drawing up new adoption papers and sending him off to yet another "forever" home, recording the placement in their quarterly data as another life saved.

Dodi settled in easily at Home for Life and began to build a social life with some of the other big dogs at the sanctuary. Her epilepsy was quickly brought under control, and she stopped having seizures.

Outlaw, meanwhile, was once again dumped back in a shelter. His fourth forever home had proven as temporary as the previous ones.

Dodi at the Masonic Children's Hospital Thanksgiving Party
Shown with a young patient and Vikings Quarterback, Sam Bradford
Dodi thrived at Home for Life. She was enrolled in the Renaissance program, one of Home for Life's community outreach services, where she built a solid working partnership with a student from Boys Totem Town School in St. Paul, MN. This young man helped her to overcome her fear of men, and in return, Dodi helped her training partner to develop self­-confidence and important skills in leadership and teamwork . With the young man's help Dodi earned her Canine Good Citizenship diploma, certifying her for participation in Home for Life's many other outreach programs.

The Invisible Animals 
Dodi in her role as a therapy dog
Dodi is now ten years old. It's hard to imagine that a dog weighing over 100 pounds could be an invisible animal, especially one with two different colored eyes and a flashy black and white fur coat. But this well recognized, well loved therapy dog nearly fell through the cracks to her death at just over one year of age, unwanted, overlooked and as far as her rescue prospects were concerned -  invisible. With the stability and individual care she receives, she has been transformed from an unwanted, invisible dog into a valuable member of society. She is now able to "pay it forward" through our community outreach programs, Peace Creatures®. She is a well-recognized and popular therapy dog who has provided solace and joy for nearly 8 years to hospitalized children at the nationally renowned Masonic Children's Hospital on the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis. Invisible no more, she is regularly invited to the holiday celebrations hosted by the Minnesota Vikings for pediatric patients at the hospital.

Outlaw, the eminently adoptable dog, continued to move from home to shelter to new home to rescue for many more months. In just two years, Outlaw went through NINE placements in three different states trying to find his forever home.

With each placement, he was counted as a life saved. Somewhere between the quick hand-offs, he developed diabetes that went untreated. At last he landed in an Iowa shelter a badly broken dog, physically, spiritually, and emotionally. He was emaciated and blind from untreated diabetes ... and no longer adoptable . The good news is that Outlaw reached Home for Life in the nick of time and will never be put at risk again. He has truly found his home. His diabetes is under control, and his pancreatic endocrine insufficiency is now being managed by supplements and a special diet. Somewhere in the national statistics of saved dogs and cats, there are 9 tally marks recording Outlaw's painful journey through the system.

Outlaw smiling again!
Outlaw is smiling once again, energetic instead of forlornly hanging his head in defeat and desperation. This summer, the cataracts (caused by the uncontrolled diabetes) will be surgically removed, and this 5-year-old dog will be able to see again!

Who was the dog that was truly saved? Was it Outlaw, who was adopted 9 separate times but never rescued? Or was it Dodi, who has lived in health, peace, and happiness at Home for Life for the past 9 years; who has developed her potential, built lasting relationships with people and other dogs, and  who has contributed to her community through Home for Life's Peace Creatures outreach programs?

What Does It Take to Save An Animal? 
Most people in animal welfare know the motto: "Saving one animal won't change the world, but it will change the world for that one animal." What many don't understand is that when an animal comes to a care-for-life sanctuary, our commitment is for the long haul. We don't turn over the animals through adoption, and we don't benefit from adoption fees, which often represent a huge portion of a typical animal rescue or shelter's annual revenue - as much as 35-90%. It takes more than good intentions and mercy to help animals who come to Home for Life. Lives once overlooked or fallen victim to indifference, meanness, cruelty and despair are restored. Our special cats and dogs have gone on to live happy and peaceful lives at our sanctuary, a testament to what can be accomplished when those who love animals and care about them work together!

At the time of our founding, almost 20 years ago, and contrary to current practice, Home for Life opened our doors to animals like Dodi, deemed to have little or nothing to offer. Today we still welcome cats who are feral or who are positive for leukemia. We welcome dogs even when they are unsocial or incontinent.

Today, in 2017, we care for nearly 200 dogs and cats at our sanctuary facility in Star Prairie, Wisconsin, located on 40 acres long the Apple River. Our dogs and cats have come to use from all over the United States and even other countries. With requests for help from all over the world, the need for sanctuaries has never been more urgent.

Outlaw playing at Home for Life

While Home for Life celebrates adoption of dogs and cats who truly find their "forever" homes, as a care for life sanctuary, Home for Life is uniquely able to help animals like Dodi and Outlaw when all alternatives are closed to them. Although these dogs seemed highly adoptable at points in their journey, that option became closed to them and recycling through the rescue system became pointless and detrimental. Their stories of hope, redemption, and finally a path to a new life would not have been possible without sanctuary, the Third Door, a Home for Life.

Why A Sanctuary

Some people have asked if a care for life sanctuary is needed in this day of animals previously overlooked for adoption finding homes. There are now stories of animals rescued and finding homes that would have never had a chance 10 years ago.  Is there a need for a care for life sanctuary like Home for Life anymore with so many rescues out there, and more animals finding homes?

In the animal welfare world, the adoption model is based on a marketplace paradigm - where animals are marketed and sold like any standard consumer goods - shoes, clothes, televisions and stereos, and cars. What many don't realize is that rescues and shelters derive anywhere from  35% - 90% of their annual revenue from adoption fees. For many dogs and cats, this marketplace model is effective in reaching a wider audience and potential adoptive homes. For others, like many of Home for Life's intakes, the model has failed miserably and put the lives of vulnerable dogs and cats at risk. It is for these dogs and cats that Home for Life was created.

Meet "Outlaw" a 5-year old Blue Heeler (Australian Cattle Dog) who has had NINE(9) placements in his short life. He arrived at Home for Life just one month ago, on Labor Day 2016 - our volunteer met the shelter director of the Jasper County, Iowa Animal Rescue in Albert Lea, MN, south of the Twin Cities, then brought him to Home for Life.

He was born in Mesquite Texas on a farm, where he lived until age 3. When his elderly owner developed heart disease and cancer he was forced to surrender Outlaw to the animal shelter in Mesquite, Texas. This shelter had a good working relationship with a rescue, K911, run by a woman named Mary, who fostered out of her home, and who primarily focused on the working breeds - cattle dogs, border collies, Aussies. She is one of the heroes of the story, because if not for her, this dog would have been lost to the animal welfare "system," a victim through no fault of his own.

Mary's Texas rescue, K911, featured him on Petfinder and a young couple wished to adopt Outlaw as a companion for their other cattle dog, a female, They traveled to Texas from Arkansas and seemed like a good home - but their female didn't like Outlaw, so within 48 hours, the husband returned him. It was back on Petfinder for Outlaw; eventually his face captured the attention of another potential adopter: this individual was a trucker, mature, who traveled from Iowa to Texas on his route and really wanted to adopt Outlaw as a traveling companion and best friend. He drove his rig down to the foster home to meet the rescuer, and by all reports "seemed" like a nice guy, But ... appearances can be deceiving. Thankfully, the Texas rescuer had microchipped Outlaw, and insisted on keeping her contact information on the chip. Was she shocked and surprised when she got a call from the Jasper County shelter in the fall of 2015 - that's Jasper County IOWA - about a year after Outlaw's adoption, reporting that they had Outlaw. She immediately contacted his adopter, and this was no small feat - because ALL of his phone numbers which he had give the Texas rescue had been disconnected. Her original information on him was that he lived more than 50 miles from Jasper County Iowa so it was a mystery how Outlaw ended up at that Shelter. The Texas rescue tracked Outlaw's adopter down by extensive sleuthing through Google, locating his ex mother-in-law ultimately, who had nothing nice to say about the man, but who did give her his daughter's phone number. Leaving a message with the daughter of Outlaw's adopter, finally got the man to contact the rescue.

Outlaw today at Home for Life
He claimed that he had asked a friend to care for the dog, and apparently Outlaw had gotten away, and turned up at the shelter. But wait - there was a young man who had come to the shelter - NOT the trucker - claiming that Outlaw belonged to him, and with him he had Outlaw's vet records in hand, from yet another owner. (3 owners in play at this point) What?! 'The rescuer got busy making calls and asking questions - starting with Outlaw's adopter - and after the shelter talked with the young man who lived at home with his mom and was all of 21 years old (with 2 kids and a girlfriend) - the true story emerged: the trucker had sold Outlaw for $50 to a woman he knew, who in turn sold Outlaw, again for $50 to the young man. Outlaw escaped or wandered away from the young man's home. The Texas rescue director called and confronted Outlaw's adopter - the 50 year old trucker - with this information - and when faced with his "sale" of Outlaw and his lies, he hung up on her.

The Texas rescue, K911, was now out of business but nonetheless, Mary told the shelter she would take Outlaw back into her home and even offered to come to Iowa to get him. But the shelter had no recourse but to return the dog - the young guy's "property" - to him since he could prove the dog belonged to him.

Outlaw when received by Home for Life
When Mary of the Texas Rescue sent us the photos of Outlaw taken when she accepted him into her rescue from the Mesquite Texas shelter, it hurt the heart to see what he once looked like and compare it to the condition he was in when Home for Life received him - 9 placements and just over two years later.  (See the YouTube video from  the Texas shelter when Outlaw was admitted below:

Texas shelter youtube video of Outlaw below:

and More photos: )

It also hurts that he was abandoned to the fates with nothing but a bucket, and it was so hard to see the comments from Mary and the Mesquite, Texas shelter staff at the time of his surrender and their hope that he would be such a great adoption prospect and even excel in agility - and then to know what he went through and suffered - and through no fault of his own, given away again and again like a secondhand pair of shoes, or an old car.

Within a few months, in May of 2016, Outlaw was back at the shelter - this time because the young man's own mother turned him in - because the guy simply could not or would not take care of Outlaw. But now the dog was in terrible condition, emaciated, bony with a pot belly, It was
assumed sheer neglect was the reason, but veterinary work up revealed that Outlaw was an uncontrolled diabetic.

Unfortunately, the shelter's veterinarian was unsuccessful in getting Outlaw's blood sugars under control, and he became blind as a result of the uncontrolled diabetes. The rescuer, Mary of K911, now retired and not in business still faithfully sent contributions to Jasper County Animal Rescue to help with his care.

With the number of failed adoptions this dog has been through, passed around from Texas to Arkansas, back to Texas and to Iowa, sold (twice!) for what dinner for 2 at Perkins would cost, and now in frail health, the shelter in Jasper, Iowa asked Home for Life to help him. We spoke to Mary from the rescue in Texas shortly after Outlaw came to Home for Life to update her on his condition, and she is the source of his story up to the time he landed in the Jasper County Animal Rescue. She and everyone at Jasper County couldn't say enough about what a great dog Outlaw is - everyone is heartbroken about how this good dog has somehow fallen through the cracks again and again in his short life, and happy that he will now have a chance to have the home for life he has always deserved.

UPDATE:  Outlaw's diabetes is now well on its way to being controlled: he is on the correct insulin - Humelin N - and dose - 16 units twice a day.  We had a setback a few weeks into his rehabilitation at Home for Life, when it was discovered that he not only had hook worms, but also EPI and SIBO - Exocrine Pancreatic Deficiency and Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth. No wonder he could not gain weight! We got to work with treatments for the worms and for the EPI and SIBO - both the diabetes and the EPI are chronic conditions for which Outlaw can be treated but never cured. But the hook worms and SIBO - can be addressed through worming and antibiotics and resolved. Just a month after arriving at Home for Life, Outlaw has gained over 8 pounds, and looks and feels like a new dog. He is on his insulin twice a day, and his blood sugar levels have stabilized. This care, along with enzymes and special food for the pancreatic insufficiency has restored his energy and happiness! Although Outlaw is still blind as a result of his diabetes, we hope to be able to obtain cataract surgery for him with a veterinary ophthalmologist at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital.

Above Outlaw playing with his bucket -- taken October 5, 2016,
30 days after coming to Home for Life

The before and after photos tell the tale - about how Outlaw was failed again and again by an animal welfare system which relies exclusively on adoption for all animals entering shelters and rescues. Nine placements and little more than two years after Outlaw was surrendered to a shelter by his elderly, dying owner, this young dog with personality and energy was left sick, blind and near death. Not every dog or cat will find a safe landing offered for sale - adoption - through the conventional animal rescue model, as Outlaw's story illustrates. Home for Life, a care for life sanctuary, operates outside of the marketplace paradigm, where animals are treated like standard consumer goods to be bought and sold. For our special dogs and cats, Home for Life offers a true home, where their health and faith in life are restored, where they are valued for the individuals they are, instead of the sale price they can garner, and where they will never be marketed, sold or given away again.

Historic preservation!

Sanctuary conserves loving bond of senior dog & his 91 year old owner
It is not always obvious that animal sanctuaries can help people as often as the animals we care for and shelter. As a care for life sanctuary, our animals are home for life, and this consistency and stability also provides peace of mind and reassurance to former owners who know where their beloved family members are. Many times, these individuals have been forced by circumstance to surrender their dogs and cats- situations like money issues, failing health, death of a spouse, a move to a safer setting where the pet may not be able to join them- all are circumstances that may result in a pet owner having to surrender a beloved pet. In such situations, sanctuaries can play a unique and vital role in helping to preserve the animal-human bond, even when a dog or cat can no longer stay in their home.
Since 1997, when Home for Life was founded, we have cared for retired police K9s, retired seeing eye dogs, and the much loved pets of people struggling with serious health challenges, or compelled moves to assisted living facilities or nursing homes. In all these situations, Home for Life has been able to provide the bridge, an ongoing link that has preserved the connection and relationship between these beloved working animals and pets and their guardians who have the opportunity to visit regularly and therefore preserve this precious bond. Care for life sanctuaries are in a unique position- like none other in animal welfare- to maintain the bonds between animals and their owners. Sanctuary saves lives, not only of the animals we help, but also for the people who love them, #sanctuarysaveslives.
Read the story below of Tupper, a 13 year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who found a new home at our sanctuary, allowing him to maintain his treasured relationship with his longtime owner, Rich, age 91. Also featured is the story of Cedric, a smooth coat Collie, who came to Home for Life after his owner was diagnosed with cancer. Not only were his owners able to visit Cedric at Home for Life but they had much joy in Cedric's renaissance as a therapy dog visiting children struggling with serious and chronic illnesses and receiving treatment at Masonic Children's Hospital, at the University of Minnesota, Minneapolis.
There's a new face at Home for Life, and what a face!
Tupper is a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who came to Home For Life at 12 years of age. He joined our sanctuary community last July, when his 91 year old owner, Rich, had to enter assisted living. The separation was tough for both Rich and Tupper. Tupper had been a beloved companion to both Rich and his wife from early puppyhood, and he had become Rich's best friend—The two guys kept each other company during the difficult time after Rich’s wife passed away; they took comfort in the daily routine of walks, meals, and quiet hours together, reading and watching TV. Tupper was very attached to Rich. As aa shy dog, unaccustomed to meeting new people at his home, much less going to new places, he would run and hide whenever Rich's adult children came to visit their dad. He had lived a somewhat isolated canine life, first as an only dog, with Rich and his wife, then as a sole companion to Rich. Over the years, Tupper developed into an eccentric, but endearing curmudgeon, set in his familiar ways.
Life shifts for Rich.... and Tupper.
When Rich reached 90 years of age, his family made the difficult decision to move him to assisted living where he could have steady care and attention. Though necessary, the transition was painful and difficult for Rich. All the more so because of the uncertainty about Tupper’s future. Rich's family tried their best, but they were unable to find a place for Rich that would accept dogs-. They were forced to separate Rich from his dog, but they hoped at least they could save Tupper's life. Again, despite every effort, Rich's family struck out—no shelter or foster organizations were willing to take Tupper. The reason? At age 12, his prospects for ever finding a new home were slim. The many shelters and rescues Rich’s family contacted said they didn’t think they could find anyone interested in adopting Tupper. The sad reality was that Tupper was not very desirable, and these organizations were hesitant to open their doors to him..
Our society views companion animals almost like standard consumer goods. Different styles of dogs go in and out of fashion, and the market responds. Shelters and rescues were created to find new homes for animals, and they are unavoidably pressed into market considerations when they screen an animal. It’s no surprise that they are more willing to make room for an animal they can quickly re-home than for one who might be trickier to adopt. But where does that leave dogs and cats like Tupper, who may be old, shy, and set in their ways? If the prospects are dim for adopting them out, then rescues and shelters will never be a lifesaving option for them.
After 12 years as the beloved pet of a single owner, Tupper was facing a cold world, with nowhere to turn.....
Rich was facing the heartbreak of leaving house, and also losing the one constant link he had left to that home.
Everything Old is New Again.....
With the date fast approaching when Rich would move to assisted living, his family learned about Home for Life. Rich’s daughter contacted us in the Spring of 2015. At first, we referred her back to rescue and shelters, assuming that, as a purebred Cavalier, Tupper might be adoptable. But the family had struck already been turned away by these and other organizations. Rich and Tupper had nowhere else to turn.
Tupper's story illustrates that saving the lives of millions of homeless animals requires a multi-faceted approach. Long term strategies such as spaying and neutering will reduce the numbers of animals needing homes. Aggressive adoption efforts showcasing and publicizing pets (even ones that in the past might have been challenging to place) will find homes for those animals who can adjust to a new home.
Despite these strategies, there will always be animals- like Tupper- whose age and temperament make them poor candidates for adoption. There will be dogs and cats whose spirits have been broken after several adoptions and rejections…until they are unable to bond with a new human family. How can those of us working to improve animal welfare ever hope to end the horrors and waste of euthanasia without a safe landing place for dogs and cats like Tupper? Market forces measure an animal’s value for the sake of adoption, but we must measure the value of the animal’s life for its own sake.
Home for Life was created to serve as a permanent home to animals like Tupper. Most organizations work with animals who can succeed in the homes of people adopting them. Adopters decide whether those relationships are successful or not. Home For Life operates outside the adoption market. We provide another chance—the "door number three"—for animals who are passed by for adoption but who can still live a quality life. Our only measure of success is the animal’s health and happiness.
This "Third Door®" long-term animal sanctuary is an innovative and compassionate option where animals benefit from the company of a canine or feline family, and of our devoted full time staff. They enjoy fresh air, exercise, group play time, and regular grooming. They receive first rate medical attention in a stable, loving, and safe environment.
Tupper's family wanted to have him come to Home for Life is so Rich would be able to visit him once he has settled into the assisted living facility. His children pledged to bring him out for frequent visits to spend time with his beloved dog which would ease the transition and lift everyone's spirits. Both Tupper and Rich could look to the future with hope and confidence because their bond would be honored and protected by Rich's family and by Home for Life.
Home is Where the Heart Is
In the early summer of 2015, Rich moved into his new home at the assisted living facility in Andover, MN a suburb of Minneapolis, and Tupper came to Home For Life. Since coming to the sanctuary, Tupper has been diagnosed with the beginning stages of Cushings Disease and dry eye but otherwise is doing great for a dog of nearly 13 years! Although it was a very sad parting for the two friends, everyone was cheered by the fact that Rich and Tupper can still visit one another, and that Rich and his family know where Tupper is and can to follow his transition and progress in his new home at the sanctuary.
It has turned out to be easier on everyone for Tupper to visit Rich at his new place at the assisted living facility, saving his kids and him such a long trek to Star Prairie WI, where Home For Life Animal Sanctuary is located. Thanks to HFL volunteer Cheryl, we have managed to get Tupper over to visit Rich about every 3-4 weeks. The connection that Rich and Tupper share has maintained. It was that bond that represented home for Rich, and it has meant all the difference that Tupper is still a part of his life. Tupper will always be a part of his life and his heart.
Aged to perfection
Having Rich, his best friend and longtime owner still a part of his life, has given Tupper the stability and confidence to embrace the transition to Home for Life.
Home for Life has given Tupper a new home with new experiences: for the first time in his life he has dog friends, and even some friends who are cats! Tupper previously lived alone as an only dog, and although he loved Rich, Tupper was often lonely. His new friends keep him young and active, and keep his mind stimulated. At our 2015 Fall Gala, Tupper took part in Home Life's annual dog parade…with Rich! Car rides and grooming sessions are also part of his regular routine, as well as going outside for walks—Tupper loves to play outside in all seasons.
Tupper's story illustrates that sanctuaries have an important role to play in preserving the human-animal bond, even when difficult circumstances make it impossible for a pet to stay in their adoptive home. Tupper's regular visits with Rich have helped them both transition to a new phase of their lives with honor and grace.
The heartwarming story of Tupper and Rich epitomizes the power of animal sanctuaries and what they can do to help people and pets!
P.S. Watch this short video about another senior Home for Life dog whose move to our sanctuary helped him preserve his relationship with his family. Cedric, a Smooth Coat Collie, lost his home after his owner developed cancer and had to move. Luckily, his move to Home For Life meant that he would not lose contact with his family. They visit him regularly, and are happy to see the direction Cedric’s life has taken. The good-natured collie took on a new role at Home For Life as a therapy dog, visiting hospitalized kids at Masonic Children's Hospital: 

Home for Life's International Rescues

DID YOU KNOW? At Home for Life Sanctuary, we care for animals from all over the United States and also many foreign countries.
Currently, about 10 % of our animals come from other countries, and we care for dogs and cats who have come to us from Thailand, Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Mexico, Canada, Saudi Arabia and Iran.
Some ask why we would help animals from other countries, and wonder how these animals find their way to Home for Life from thousands of miles away.
In one sense, these dogs and cats are far away, but in another, with the world smaller and more connected than ever before, these animals aren't far away at all. Because of the internet, we're more aware of the great hardship and deprivation faced by animals in many other countries. Who could forget a dog like Shoja, once they see his picture? Shoja is from Iran's Vafa Shelter. He is a sighthound mix, whose ears and tail were cut off before he was rescued. He was found on the side of a busy road, outside of Tehran, laying in the snow and unable to move. He had been hit by a car, and his left hind leg crushed. He was in such poor condition, so weak and emaciated, that he was unable to move. The kind person who found him brought him to Vafa, where their veterinarians tried their best but were unable to save his crushed leg which had to be amputated. As if all this was not enough, Shoja contracted distemper after his surgery. The dedicated veterinarians and staff members at Vafa pulled him through, but Shoja was left with nerve damage and a persistent tremor. It is hard to imagine how anyone could view this video or photos of Shoja and not have your heart go out to him.
Compassion for animals like Shoja is the common ground we share with those working on behalf of animals in other countries where conditions and difficulties faced by advocates are on a scale hard to imagine here in the United States. With the internet, knowledge of Home for Life's unique mission has become accessible to people who care about animals who otherwise may have never heard of us or known that it's possible for special needs dogs and cats to be saved if they couldn't be adopted. Most of our international rescues come to us because of extraordinary medical needs that cannot be addressed in their home country and which will require specialized care once they arrive.
The obvious question is why Home for Life would help an animal who lived thousands of miles away, in another country. To meet these animals, and learn their stories, it's clear that we couldn't disregard them just because of where they were born. No matter where they have come from, as with all our animals, it is clear that they have few options and desperately need our help. As the writer Maya Angelou wrote, "Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps hurdles, leaps fences and goes thru walls to arrive at its destination full of hope." 
Part of Home for Life's mission is showing what's possible- that animals like Shoja can live a great life if just given the opportunity. Everywhere there are animals who deserve a chance and want to live, but for whom adoption into a typical home is not an option. While conventional shelters and rescues focus on "adoptable" dogs and cats, few opportunities are available for special needs animals. Home for Life, the third door in animal welfare, provides a loving lifesaving and innovative alternative for animals who may never find an adoptive home but for whom euthanasia is premature and inhumane.
Animals like Shoja illustrate what's possible- that these dogs and cats can live a great life in a setting suited for their needs. Their lives and stories prove that it's possible to make the best of a terrible start in life- living examples of goodness triumphing over selfishness, meanness, cruelty and fear as they go on to have a full life and even give back as part of Home for Life's Peace Creatures community outreach programs.
Animal sanctuaries- the third door in animal welfare-are needed everywhere as worldwide interest in Home for Life attests. To learn about Home for Life and our services has given hope to people working on behalf of animals in other countries who face many challenges trying to protect them and provide humane care. Our supporters should know that when an animal is sent to Home for Life from a foreign rescue, that rescue pays all expenses to send the dog or cat to us - veterinary exams to certify the animal for travel, and all flight and ground transportation costs. Sending an animal to Home for Life, and raising the money to pay for their transportation is completely unselfish- the animal welfare activists in these countries want nothing more than to see these special dogs and cats have the chance that they cannot give them in their home country.
In many countries animals are still the victim of outrageous cruelty and ignorance. For example, Kitchee is a dog we helped from Saudi Arabia, born with deformed legs and nearly stoned to death when not even a year old. Her journey was featured in the Public Television production on Home for Life, Soul Creatures.
Goofy, from Thailand's Soi Dog Foundation, was rescued from the dog meat trade. Thousands of dogs are shipped from Thailand into Vietnam and China where they are tortured, sacrificed and eaten in barbaric dog meat festivals like Yulin, which was the subject of international protest this year.

Another of our dogs from Thailand's Soi Dog Foundation, Program, is now one of the mainstays of our outreach program Peace Creatures, and works with vulnerable young children impacted by domestic abuse who are living in safe shelters with their moms. 

Nino, from Mexico, suffered the amputation of both his hind legs when he was only a few days only. Nino was lucky- the other puppies of his litter were killed by a gang of boys wielding machetes. The gang only managed to hack off Nino's hind legs before his desperate mother, a street dog who lived in a village outside of Cancun, snatched him away in her mouth and ran. She brought him to a taco stand owner who regularly fed her, and he was able to get Nino to a Mexican dog rescue, who asked Home for Life to help him. Nino seems to have no memory of the trauma he suffered when so young, and is an incredible example of resilience and forgiveness for the school groups he visits.
Home for Life's international rescues even includes cats like Momokun, a blind and epileptic cat who is a great ambassador for our Peace Creatures program. 

Venus is a German Shepherd from Iran whose ears were amputated by a cruel person, before being rescued by Iran's Vafa Shelter.
Venus is now a beloved therapy dog, providing solace and joy to young soldiers recovering from head injuries and amputations at the VA Medical Center's Poly Trauma Unit in Minneapolis, one of just four such facilities in the entire country. For dogs like Venus and Program, politics are not a barrier to their reaching out and helping these injured young soldiers or traumatized children. 
Venus and Shannan, a rehabilitation specialist at the VA Medical Center's Poly-Trauma Unit in Minneapolis.

Venus and her friend Smokey.
Seeing these animals in action, one can't help but wonder why we can't be more like our cats and dogs, who see the good in everyone they meet, approaching them with an open heart, which builds a bridge of understanding, no matter what the person looks like or where they come from. How inspiring it is that these animals from other countries, who came to Home for Life desperate for a second chance, are now able to give back to some of the most vulnerable and at risk human beings of our communities!
As a care for life sanctuary, Home for Life has the opportunity to support the work of animal welfare activists in these countries, who are daily combating this cruelty, by helping them with the most desperate cases. To extend this aid restores the faith of brave individuals on the front lines and brings a ray of light to the often bleak circumstances and uphill battle they face. There are no politics among those who care about animals when the goal is to help a vulnerable cat or dog. The compassion for the animals is the common bond we share which  transcends barriers and boundaries, these dogs and cats creating the rapport which breaks down fear and misunderstanding between cultures and countries. Fear divides but animals combat and help heal that divide.

From Homeless to Home for Life: The Story of Rory

The Story of the year at Home for Life has been the rescue of Rory and her 10 puppies. A story that could have ended tragically instead has given hope and happiness well beyond the gates of Home for Life. 
On the morning of November 30,2014 on a cold and blustery winter morning (air temperature -3, windchill  - 25!) one of our staff members received an unexpected call at the gate. Home for Life's front gate has a call box so people can contact us up at the facility. A man's voice came over the intercom and said, "Hey! did you know there is a dog tied to your gate?!" He then hung up.

The staff on duty ran down to the front driveway to Home for Life's front entrance. There they found a starving, shivering, very scared and VERY pregnant dog tied to our fence.  On her gritty old collar- so dirty that the color couldn't even be determined- was a heavy hook.                                                  
What was interesting was that attached to the other part of her collar was a brand new  chain leash, with the tag still on, that had been used to tie her to Home for Life's front gate and fence. Our working theory is that a "Robin Hood" saw this poor dog's predicament; cold, starving, pregnant and chained outside with little shelter. This kind person freed her and brought her to Home for Life, knowing that we would take care of her. 
The dog was so frightened she would not walk up our long driveway, so we carried her.  Even with this extreme duress, she was still very gentle. She was a beautiful red color with soft brown eyes and ears.  We named her Rory after one of Home for Life's beloved paraplegic cats who lived at the sanctuary for  for many years.
The next day, Rory visited our veterinarian who determined she was very close to delivering her puppies. Home for Life rarely has puppies let alone any pregnant animals at the sanctuary, so we had to quickly learn about all aspects regarding the care required for a dog who was about to give birth. The veterinarian found that her temperature was dropping- a sign that the delivery is imminent- and thought that she would give birth within a few days.
That very evening, December 1, Rory began pacing and became very anxious. We quickly prepared a birthing box- using one of the swimming pools that our dogs play in in the summer- and lined it with soft blankets and towels. Her first puppy was born at approximately 6: 30 pm that evening and 7 others followed  within the next 2 hours. Rory was very conscientious about cleaning them off and making sure they were nursing, but needed a little help from HFL staff serving as midwives for puppies 6, 7 and 8 as she was very tired. It's amazing she did so well in her condition and with the stress of being left at the gate in the freezing cold just a day before.
We thought she was done at 8 puppies, so left her to be quiet with her new babies. Upon returning just an hour later, we thought we were seeing things when there were 2 more puppies. We kept counting and recounting, but our eyes were not deceiving us. Rory had a total of 10 puppies: 7 brown like their mom and 3 spotted. 4 little girls and 6 little boys.
Rory was fed nearly 6 times a day in those first few weeks and cleaned her plate each time. She had to build her own health back plus take care of her 10 new puppies. We took great care of Rory, keeping her warm and well-fed. We supplemented her calcium (with TUMS!) and she did the rest. Fortunately all 10 puppies survived, and Rory was an excellent mom, keeping them immaculately clean and always well fed and content. 
Our puppies' weights were monitored every week to be sure they were thriving and all continued to steadily gain. By three weeks, we knew we were out of the woods with them and that they would all survive.   Once their eyes opened, and they could creep and crawl, we bought collars for each puppy. We used kitten collars- in 10 different colors- to help tell them apart. The collars had a safety latch so there was no danger of the puppy getting caught by his or her collar and not being able to get loose. 
When the puppies were 4 weeks old, it was time for their first official Home for Life portrait. They were not just a litter anymore but developing individual personalities as they became stronger and more active.  Photographer Mark Luinenburg captured the puppies and their mother Rory December 29, 2014.
Our hope  for each puppy was that we  would be able to find them a loving home where they would never face the harsh treatment and  neglect their mother had. Her life and those of her puppies could have so easily ended tragically, on the end of a chain, out in the  freezing cold. Instead, all 10 puppies survived, healthy and strong, and were eager to start their new lives. At age 8 weeks, we offered them for adoption along with a free spay/neuter, shots and microchip. Thanks to Fox-9 News, the Twin Cities local station, Rory and her  puppies were featured in a story aired January 9th here and on Fox affiliates in Michigan, Washington DC, Florida, Illinois and California!  The widespread interest in Rory and her puppies and their story of survival was a testament to people's longing  for good news and a happy ending.  
While they waited for their new homes, another adventure was around the corner for the puppies...
After FOX-9  News aired a feature on Rory's dramatic rescue on their news program, Home for Life was able to find loving new families for three of her puppies. For  the remaining 7 pups, 2 girls and 5 boys, we wanted to do all we could to be sure they would make great companions when they did finally find their new families. They had the best food so they could overcome their tough start in life when their mother suffered with malnutrition while pregnant with them.  The puppies had their shots, and were housebroken - they  learned how to use both a litter box and a dog door to go outside. But we wanted to do more for them while they waited to find their new families. 
Home for Life was just starting the latest session of the  Renaissance programa collaboration with the St. Paul School System and Boys' Totem Town of St Paul, MN.  Now in its 13th year, the Renaissance Program pairs younger dogs at the sanctuary with boys at Totem Town, a detention for juvenile offenders. The boys teach the dogs obedience with the goal of attaining a level achievement so the dogs can pass the Canine Good Citizen's test. The Home for Life dogs who have completed  the Renaissance Program  are then recruited for involvement in our community outreach programs, providing pet therapy to at-risk people of all ages in our community.
In the Renaissance program, Rory's pups became part of our community outreach programs, Peace Creatures, where the love and care that Home for Life gives our animals is leveraged to provide solace and joy to at risk people of all ages-annually, Home for Life touches the lives of over 1,200 adults and 1,000 children and teens in our community through our  model pet therapy programs.
We had never incorporated puppies into a Renaissance session, but with seven little ones  who needed socialization and training, it was too great an opportunity to pass by. For the six weeks, our puppies traveled from Home for Life to Boys' Totem Town once a week to work with two different classes of kids- 20 students between the two sessions.  The kids  taught the puppies to sit, to come when called, to stay, the down command and helped the puppies  learn to walk on a leash without pulling- or chewing the leash! Besides learning puppy manners and basic obedience commands that will keep them safe and ensure they would be great  companions, the puppies received plenty of one on one attention and  lots of love from the students. It was so touching to see a tough teenage boy tenderly hold a tired puppy after the training sessions.
Though it was time for the rest of the puppies to find their own families, it was certainly  tough to see them leave us.  
Home for Life did our best to screen potential adopters to find forever homes for the rest of the puppies.  Finding the right families for them was a challenge. Many were interested in the puppies because they were so cute but we wanted them to find forever homes, and not have them given up after only a few months or a few years.  The puppies- energetic hounds- would need plenty of  daily exercise and activity, ideally in a fenced area so they wouldn't follow their noses and wander away, or with owners who could devote  time to daily long walks. With their short hair, the puppies had to live in the house, as a part of the family, and not be  chained out on a stake or to a dog house as their mother likely was. They would  grow to be medium sized dogs and would have a loud baying "hound bark " like their mom so living in an apartment, a rental or close confines of a suburban neighborhood would not be a fit. We thought about sending them to a rescue or a shelter to be adopted out, but our staff had put their hearts into saving Rory and  her puppies. We felt their best chance to find the right home was with us. In the end, we were able to  find loving new families for a total of  8 of the puppies. The last two puppies continue to live at Home for Life for now. Rory, who was such a devoted mother, loves to have two of her puppies still near. 

On these summer evenings, she will often drag a dog bed out into the run so she can sleep outside and watch over her two puppies who have their own townhouse right across the driveway from where she lives in the main dog building. How sweet!  

 Even with all our effort to find forever, new homes for Rory's puppies, it's true that sometimes adoptions fail for a variety of reasons. The many calls and emails we receive each week reveal that many animals don't keep their homes. For this reason, Home for Life  put a safety net under all these puppies so  if their adoption failed for any reason, they could always be returned to us. No matter what the future holds, they will always have a home at our sanctuary. 
  As for Rory, at this time, our intention is to make her a permanent member of Home for Life, and perhaps train her in our therapy dog corps as part of our community outreach work. While several people emailed and seemed interested in adopting her after the news show aired, none followed up with the adoption paperwork and application. Before she came to us,  Rory had a "home" and they didn't treat her very well. She is lucky to be alive. As Cleveland Amory wrote in his book, Ranch of Dreams,  about the famed Black Beauty ranch, "It is not that we are selfish hoarders of  our animals. It is rather that so many of our animals came to us in the beginning, abused or ill used  that we do not want to take even the remotest chance  that such misfortune would ever happen to them again." 
  Who would have ever thought, on that  bitterly cold November morning when we found a scared, starving pregnant dog tied at our gate, that her puppies, born the very next day, would grow up  to give  so much? The story of their mother's rescue and the birth of her 10 puppies inspired people across the country. As part of Home for Life's Renaissance program, these little puppies, born of an unwanted, abandoned dog, have helped at-risk teens by giving them much needed love, a chance to express kindness and compassion and achieve a sense of accomplishment, maybe for the first time in their lives. And now, thanks to the teens' hard work and dedication, the puppies have become wonderful, well trained companions for the families who have adopted them.  
Saving the life of this one dog has impacted the lives of so many more- her 10 puppies, the many people hungry for good news and a happy ending, the kids who helped socialize and train the puppies and were helped in return, and the families that the puppies have joined. Their happy ending has  had positive consequences far beyond the rescue of one dog.  Instead of their lives ending on the end of a chain, on the ice in the bitter cold, Rory and her puppies have overcome this terrible start, because of your support, and will go on to have lives full of meaning and purpose- their story a testament to the power of good triumphing over  heartless indifference, cruelty and fear.