The Invisible Animals





The photo of Zuzu we received from her former owner
This is Zuzu, originally adopted about 3 years ago from a large, well funded local (Twin Cities, MN) rescue that does a lot of importing of out of state animals for adoption here.So far so good; except, a few months after her adoption, Zuzu was struggling in her adoptive home and the new owner called and emailed the rescue for help - and never heard back. Nothing - not one word.

You wouldn't think small, adorable, white, young dogs like Zuzu with nothing apparently "wrong" would have ANY problem finding a home and keeping that home. But you would be mistaken.

Zuzu this spring at Home for Life
So, the owner soldiered on, doing her best - with the help of a trainer, a behaviorist and even working with a veterinarian who prescribed medication. Zuzu's owner worked hard, and everyone tried their best, including Zuzu. But as the owner described it, she had to be ever vigilant with Zuzu around neighbors, visitors, repairmen - this was a dog who feared strangers, and lacked confidence in unfamiliar situations. The last straw was when the owner lost focus momentarily when a neighbor stopped by, and Zuzu nipped the houseguest on the ankle. At this point Zuzu's owner - more than two years post adoption, was exhausted and just not able to cope anymore - managing Zuzu was taking huge amounts of energy and time. Once again she went back to Zuzu's rescue - because that’s what the adoption contract called for, and what adopters are supposed to do if their rescues don’t work out. THIS time she got a call back but the rescue declined to help and have Zuzu's return to them. No doubt, assuming that she was not going to be super easy to re-adopt out, they claimed they had no fosters available and therefore no opening for them to take Zuzu back into their organization - although they continued to bring truckloads of animals up from out of state each week. Zuzu was the third dog from this rescue that Home for Life was asked to help in the space of four months after the adoptions failed, the organization would not take the dogs back and in two instances, told the adopter to put the dog to sleep. Zuzu is now at Home for Life and for that reason, she eluded that fate, and because she is with us, her story is known and her photos seen.

We call dogs and cats like Zuzu the invisible animals, and they are legion in rescue. They are like refugees who have lost their home, but who stand a slim to none chance of being “rescued” and landing anywhere to have safety and a new beginning. What happens to the dogs and cats like Zuzu, who have reached their expiration date, who have been recycled thru rescue, been "rehabilitated" yet lose their home, their appeal - and are rejected from organizations and shelters focused on adoption? What do you think happens to most of them? Turned in to animal controls or shelters for euthanasia or quietly put down in veterinarian offices - yet they have been counted in the "Saved" columns by their rescues who adopted them out. But were they ever truly safe?

It's not our intent to single out one organization out for blame or attack but to shine a light on a widespread phenomena in animal welfare which leaves scores of cats and dogs adrift with their lives at risk in the name of “rescue” . As a care for life sanctuary, standing at the end of the funnel, so to speak, when animals can’t find a new home but shouldn’t be put down, we hear about cases that may escape the notice of the average animal lover with a passing acquaintance with “rescue”. Because the truth is, everywhere animals are being “rescued” but not truly saved, and there is a difference.


Jasmine's intake photo from the humane society
Consider another recent case - Jasmine. A flame point Siamese mix, age 3, she was turned in to the humane society by the adult daughter when her elderly mother passed away. Jasmine’s owner had died in February 2017 and the daughter had cared for the cat until late August. She turned her in because Jasmine, a shy cat who was good about her litter box habits, and basically a sweet girl, missed her former owner, was timid and resistant to getting to know the other animals of the household. She had been kept separated from them and according to the daughter had not adjusted well. At the humane society, Jasmine was very shy and afraid and pressed herself to the back of her cage. Because she was not social, the humane society placed her on the rescue request list: this is a list of animals deemed unable to be placed thru the humane society shelters who are then offered to rescue partners. The goal is that rather than having to euthanize these animals, independent rescues approved by the humane society can take on these cases. The hope is that in a different setting such as a foster home, out of the shelter environment, the animals might come around and have a chance to ultimately find an adopter.
Here is Jasmine’s photo and information received by rescues from the humane society:


Jasmine
Breed: Siamese mix
Sex: Female
Age 3 years
Weight (pounds) 9.8 pounds.
Sterilization Status: Spayed
Declawed (felines) N/A

Reason not placeable in shelter setting:

Medical: Per surrender: overall very healthy cat, brought her regularly to the vet clinic. Cat has been spayed and is microchipped. The only thing the surrender did note was in the past two weeks Jasmine has been itching her neck raw. She has a few patches of hair loss behind her left ear and under the left side of her chin.

Behavioral: Jasmine does not get along with resident pets. Jasmine belonged to surrender’s mother. Mother died February 2017, surrender has been taking care of cat since then. Jasmine has been staying in a bedroom since the cat came to live with her. Jasmine does not like resident cat and is afraid of the dogs. Surrender thinks she would do best as an only pet. Jasmine is afraid to be out of her room even when all of the animals are locked in another room. Has never had any litter box issues, did nip mother when she was done being pet, and has nipped at surrender before when she is done getting attention. Bites did not break skin. Otherwise very sweet girl, likes to be petted but will let you know when she is done, not a fan of being picked up.

Medical: Bright, alert, responsive. Body condition score 6/9. Oral: mild-moderate dental tartar and gingivitis throughout, 2 2-4 mm pink growths by teeth 206/7. Ears look fairly clean. Hair loss with wounds from scratching next to and below left ear. Remainder of physical exam unremarkable. Staff not been able to monitor if wounds are better or worse since intake due to behavior.

In Jasmine’s case however, none of the over 300 rescue partners of this humane society “tagged” Jasmine to claim her by the deadline. Maybe all the rescues thought, a three-year old Siamese mix would be claimed by someone. Everyone thought someone else would be able to help her. But when her date to be claimed by a rescue came and went, Jasmine, a three-year old, shy, pretty Siamese mix, was euthanized. Alone, afraid, her owner gone, Jasmine’s photo and case would not otherwise be known except for our sharing it here. Like so many cats and dogs, she is one of the invisible animals who lose their lives each year in the rescue system. As Kristin Auerbach wrote in an article that appeared in  The Huffington Post, "Stories of healthy cats and dogs whose lives are ended in shelters are rarely told. Animal shelter leaders worry about public criticism and internal organizational conflict. Virtually every one of the estimated three million pets dying in shelters are invisible to the public. No one ever knows their names or faces.”1

The prevailing view in animal welfare fueled by advocacy organizations like Maddie’s Fund is that all animals are adoptable. By effective publicity bringing animals previously thought difficult to place to the attention of potential pet owners, it should be possible to place every animal. Dramatic cases are held out by shelters and rescues as indicative that they can really “#savethemall” and suggest that had Jasmine been the beneficiary of publicity and marketing or more of those , she too might have been able to find a home that was a perfect fit. If she had not been invisible she might have been saved.

Smokey, left, and River with their former owner
The case of two senior dogs who came to Home for Life in 2013 illustrates the limits of marketing and publicity, and creating drama around animals in need. It turns out public relations and drama won’t necessarily save animals from being or becoming invisible in the rescue world as it currently exists. River and Smokey were two dogs who were hardly invisible at the time their touching story went viral But after they were swept up by a rescue, placed in a foster home, kicked out of the foster home, ending up in a boarding kennel, they and their plight had been forgotten, and they were on the verge of being quietly put down, no one the wiser, but for a volunteer with the rescue who alerted Home for Life to their sad and desperate situation.

In the spring of 2013, you may have remembered reading about two special senior dogs, one blind and one deaf, whose owner had lost his home after his wife died. He desperately wanted to find a new home for his boys, one that would keep the two dogs together. Their owner described how he acquired both dogs when they were just puppies: “Smokey's mother was picked up by animal control when she was pregnant, so he was born into the "system." He came into my life when he was three months old. He turned blind about two years ago, but it hasn't stopped him from being a lovable guy. River was found floating down the Mississippi river, as a puppy. Hence, his name. They are both getting older, but are a great couple of dogs, and I so want to give them the opportunity to live out the rest of their days, together."

Smokey, left, with River in the lead at Home for Life
River and Smokey had been together since they were puppies. Now both age 11, the two big guys had become each other’s eyes and ears and relied on each other to navigate the world. Smokey, a collie/Doberman/Shepard mix, lost his sight about 2 years ago while River lost his hearing about the same time. Together since they were just about 3 months old, the dogs had forged a bond and were inseparable, depending upon one another to face the world: Smokey ears for River and River eyes for Smokey. Their story touched the hearts of dog lovers around the country, as their story went viral, and their owner desperately looked for a safe landing for his dogs before he lost his house.

The owner contacted Home for Life to help the dogs, but we were at capacity so, we asked him to hang on to them until his house was sold, in the hope we would be able to work them in a few months. But he worried that he was not providing the care and attention the dogs needed given his demanding work schedule and continued to look for a rescue to help his dogs. We assumed that River and Smokey were going to stay with their owner until his house sold. Time marched on, and when we didn't hear back from the owner we lost track of the two dogs when as a result of the publicity their story generated a rescue took them in.

A still from the KARE-11 feature of the 2 dogs in the rescue foster home
The rescue assigned the two brothers to a foster home in Bloomington, Minnesota and attained publicity via many news and internet outlets including KARE 11 news, a major news outlet her in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN. On the feature story that aired on KARE11, the foster pledged that Smokey and River would remain together forever whether that meant they stayed in the foster home or found a new adoptive home.

The next information we heard about them was about four months later, when a supporter contacted us via Home for Life's Facebook to see if we would take the dogs. The supporter volunteered with the local foster based rescue who had taken River and Smokey, and they were looking for a home for the two dogs where they could stay together. It turns out the foster, perhaps initially well meaning, had promised the two dogs could remain together in her home forever, if an adoptive home could not be found to take the pair and best friends. But this pledge could not be fulfilled when the foster home did not work out for Smokey and River. Smokey was alleged by to have chewed some woodwork in the foster home, and then the foster accused the two dogs - who had been comrades and friends for over 11 years - of fighting with one another. She gave the rescue less than 24 hours to remove the dogs from her home. The rescue had no other foster homes available and had no choice but to put the dogs into boarding - in separate kennel runs. Home for Life learned of the two dogs’ latest predicament after the volunteer from the rescue contacted us, recognizing that the dogs were deteriorating in the boarding kennel, losing weight and becoming depressed and despondent. With no foster for them, and no adoption prospects, there was serious discussion at the rescue of euthanizing the dogs. 
They had no future and no opportunity for another foster home let alone for adoption. River was having trouble walking without pain, and there was talk of putting him down. Smokey was physically better off but was lonely and afraid, without his brother in the unfamiliar setting and unable to see.

We decided that the two older dogs deserved to have a safe and peaceful home - together - for their last years, and this time decided not to pass up the second chance to help them. The two dogs came to Home for Life late in the summer of 2013 and were sore from arthritis, and very underweight. At Home for Life, with good care and reunited, the health and happiness of the two friends was restored and River lived until age 14, Smokey until age 15 - good long lives. (See more photos of River and Smiokey and see the blog post:   http://homeforlifesanctuary.blogspot.com/2013/10/what-ever-happened-to-smokey-river.html)

In recent years, rescues and shelters have now begun to promote animals with special needs for adoption, and there have been some well publicized cases, like that of River and Smokey, of special need animals finding homes. Such celebrated cases create an assumption that rescued animals with less dramatic situations, animals like Jasmine and Zuzu, are - of course - ALSO finding homes, yet, the data shows otherwise.

In the United States, more than four million dogs and still many more cats enter the shelter and rescue system each year. Millions each year do not get out alive; estimates are that up to two million dogs alone are destroyed.2 It seems that there should be plenty of homes available for animals in shelters and rescues. In fact, in the case of dogs, Americans take in nearly eight million new puppies and dogs to their households each year as new pets. However, they are not getting these new pets from shelters or rescues. Though rescue groups have proliferated everywhere including the Twin Cities area where, at last count there were over 300 organizations almost all doing adoptions, animal welfare groups have not found an answer to save the lives of the two million unwanted dogs and many more cats who are killed each year when no one can be found to adopt them. Meanwhile, the pool of available dogs and cats has widened through publicity to include animals previously considered hard to place, such as older animals or those with disabilities or medical conditions. Nonetheless, if animals cannot successfully transition to an adoptive home, then rescues and shelters will not be a lifesaving option, no matter how many organizations there are.

With so many rescue groups, competition among organizations for “resources” has led to a market atmosphere with shelters and rescues as the new pet stores. This approach has seen groups importing dogs and cats from all over the country, as was the case with Zuzu, to meet the demand for the types of animals most likely to be adopted.3

It makes sense for groups to collaborate and relieve pressure on crowded shelters by sending some of their animals to facilities with more space or rescues with available foster homes. Many groups operate in this spirit. Yet the market force at work in the rescue community has driven some groups to treat animals as commodities in the name of sustaining their operation and attempting to meet the public demand for new pets of sought after breeds or types of animals.4 Success for rescues and shelters in this market model is measured by the “live release” rate. Overemphasis on this single metric has missed the whole point of the real welfare of a dog or cat. Shifting in and out of facilities and foster homes is not the same as being saved. A 100% live release rate does not explain what happened to the animals released from the impound or shelter, nor the ultimate outcome for the dog or cat. For example, statistics from the first quarter of 2016 for Midwestern shelters and rescues, (including the states of Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Illinois) shows that 1500 cats were taken in from other agencies with 1100 transferred to another organization. For dogs, 2000 animals were taken in by reporting shelters and rescues from other agencies, with nearly half those dogs then transferred out to another organization, By the end of the year, 2016, the number transferred, nationwide, approached 400,000 animals.5 The numbers show that animals are being “placed” yet in many cases, placement just means transfer to another organization. Each transition in or out of a shelter or rescue group is counted and tallied as a separate “live release” by each group - the same animal - counted three times!

As far as the live release” rate is concerned, transition to another organization is the same as placement in an adoptive home. In reality, many “placed” animals are merely circulating through a system that emphasizes efficiency, revenue, and turnover, while paying little attention to the individual animal’s long term well being . The human-animal bond, supposedly justifying a companion animal’s worth, has been broken again and again as animals circulate through the adoption system, with dire long term consequences for many dogs and cats. Boxed out of an animal welfare discussion focused on live release is the fate of the 2500 animals euthanized during the first quarter of 2016 according to the Midwestern regional data reported,  and the over 400,000 animals nationwide,who, in 2016, according to the reporting shelters and rescues, were euthanized by these organizations or surrendered by their owners to organizations to be put down.6 As Kristin Auerbach noted in her article for the Huffington Post, their faces will never be seen, nor their stories known.

The belief persists that animals mainly matter as companions for humans. Many people are hard-pressed to imagine an animal could have a fulfilling life outside of a human home. The pressure to move animals through the system together with the fixation on adoption as the single best option for every animal denies many cats and dogs a humane alternative when they are rejected and overlooked for placement. In a system where shelters or rescues measure success according to how many adoptable animals get placed, there has been no solution for the “invisible animals” the cats and dogs who need help but who will not find it because they won’t contribute to the evaluation of performance based on live release metrics. The invisible animals are the natural outgrowth of the market place model predominating in animal welfare currently, and their default predicament reveals the limits of what can be achieved through aggressive adoption efforts and the expanded idea of the “adoptable”.

As the poet Maya Angelou wrote, “the ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go where we are not questioned." We believe that the longing for a place to belong, a home, exists in animals too.   One reason Home for Life believes that the innovation of sanctuaries, the 3rd Door in animal rescue, has not been accepted by animal welfare at large, is that the dogs and cats so in need of this resource have - up to this point - been invisible.

As Dr. Atal Gawande wrote in his article “Sharing Slow Ideas,” the slow acceptance and application of good ideas, (such as 3rd Door® care-for-life sanctuaries), has been the pattern of many important but stalled innovations. These are ideas which attack big problems that are nevertheless invisible to most people.7 In the world of animal welfare, the plight of so many invisible cats and dogs who fail to find homes, has continued to confound those charged with helping them. Home for Life’s innovative 3rd Door, our care for life sanctuary, could make huge difference for these animals. Yet the 3rd Door solution has been slow to reach widespread acceptance and application.

How can animal welfare possibly hope to "save them all" without an option for dogs and cats like Zuzu and Jasmine and River and Smokey? It is for animals like them that we created Home for Life, the 3rd Door in animal welfare and by telling their stories to ensure  that they will never be invisible again.
________________________________________________________________________

1 Kristen Auerbach,”Shelter Hopes One dog’s Tragic Story Will Inspire You to Save Lives”, The Huffington Post, Dec,18,2016(http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/shelter-hopes-one-dogs-tragic-story-will-inspire-you-us5856c85de4bOd5f48e1650b6)

2 Kim Kavin, The Dog Merchants( New York:Pegasus Press, 2016),140,141

3 http://www.animals24-7.org/2015/11/17/why-we-cannot-adopt-our-way-out-of-shelter-killing/

4 For example buying puppies and pregnant dogs of desirable breeds from puppy mill auctions, selectively rescuing dogs of desirable breeds, sizes from impound and shelters

5,6 http://www.shelteranimalscount.org/data/Explore-the-Data/dataset: annual numbers for the Midwest region disclose that gross intake was 155,325, with 45,712 of those as incoming transfers from other organizations.  Of live outcomes reported,13,244 animals are transferred out to other  `
organizations- 1/3 of the number of incoming transfers. 16,194 animals were euthanized by reporting organizations in 2016, representing more than 10% of gross intake. In other words, 20% of  the animals as represented by the gross intake of reporting shelters were either euthanized or shifted to another organizations.

7 Atal Gawande, M.D., “Sharing Slow Ideas,” The New Yorker, July 29, 2013.

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.
OUTLAW
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
DODI 
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.

Outlaw
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.