The Power of One

"How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world."
                     - William Shakespeare

What is one life worth?

We live in a society where market forces determine the value of everything,including living things. We talk about people in terms of their assets, how much they are worth, what they have to offer, or how they can sell themselves. The market mentality is so pervasive that it has also infected animal welfare to the extent that online rescues trying to find placement for cats and dogs now resemble online dating apps or websites.

Sometimes we forget that there is another more important economy that binds our society together. It is an economy of good will, kindness, and empathy- qualities that cannot be bought or sold like commodities, but must be given.

Home for Life® operates within this second economy, working to amplify its call to action on behalf of the animals and people in our community. Our sanctuary welcomes animals based on their need, not their marketability.

The following story reveals the power of the kindness economy, and the benefits that accrue when people care. It is the story of what happened to a plain, homeless black cat named Jonathan and how the kindness shown him has paid huge dividends!

The Story of Jonathan: A Black Cat Lost in the Crowd

A feral cat colony had been living peacefully for several years at the site of a stalled construction project in Florida. Many of the cats were former pets, abandoned there. They were looked after by a kind woman, a caretaker, who was providing them regular food and water, reducing their numbers through trap-neuter-release, and generally monitoring their well-being. Then one day, the site owner let this woman know that construction at the site was about to start again. The cats had to go, he said, or he would have them sent to animal control. The caretaker scrambled to gather the colony and shepherd them into the rescue system. She managed to convince local rescues to accept all but one of the cats - Jonathan. Nobody would take him.

Why was Jonathan the only cat rejected for placement? From a market perspective, he had several factors working against him: he was an adult, semi-feral, deaf cat. He might have stood a chance if he had unusual or interesting looks, but he was a short-haired all black cat whose only distinguishing mark was a ragged left ear. The situation was more dire for Jonathan than it first appeared, for his caretaker was ill with cancer. Though she was housing Jonathan on her porch in a large dog crate, she knew this set up could only be temporary as her cancer treatments would soon leave her too ill to continue caring for him.

Jonathan's caretaker needed help. Faced with her own health crisis, her last wish was to make sure that Jonathan,the vulnerable, deaf cat would be safe. After being turned away from dozens of adoption organizations, at last she reached out to Home for Life®. She hoped we would look beyond Jonathan's plain wrapping to the treasure within.

Home for Life's® sanctuary exists to form a loving community for the most desperate animals with nowhere else to turn. Our cats and dogs don't need curb appeal to deserve our help and welcome. At our sanctuary they find affirmation whether they are plain or old or disabled or dealing with a chronic health condition. We know that having a place to belong and a home for life changes everything for animals like Jonathan. Sanctuary residents who once faced repeated rejection and uncertainty are now enjoying a stable base and consistent care, the solid ground to flourish and reach new potential.

  Who could imagine the result of one person caring? Who could foresee the potential of one cat, looking for a home and a place to belong? Who can doubt the magic of one sanctuary opening its doors to this cat? This is the power of one—a gift of kindness that grows!

Who could have predicted what the future held for Jonathan—a deaf, black cat who lived for years virtually on his own as a semi-wild feral when his caretaker was desperately searching for help for him? That he would evolve into a beloved therapy cat, with the care he received and the confidence he developed at Home for Life®? How incredible it is that this cat had the opportunity, because of your support of Home for Life to demonstrate how truly special he was, not just another plain black cat, but part of Home for Life's Peace Creatures® programs, which will touch the lives of nearly 7,000 at-risk kids and adults in our community this year!

Now a Crowd Favorite

A Black Cat Crossing Your Path Means that Animal is Going Somewhere 

— Groucho Marx
Despite his disability, Jonathan is a friendly and fearless cat, who even loves the car rides involved to travel to our community partners—the nursing homes, prisons, and mental health facilities we visit. A black cat who's going somewhere, Jonathan reaches out to those who cross his path with friendship and attention, bringing solace and joy to those vulnerable people he meets through our Peace Creatures® programs. Like so many of our residents, Jonathan has blossomed. Once just another plain cat, indistinguishable from so many others in need, he is now who has delighted everyone including his longtime caretaker by becoming part of our therapy animal team working in our Peace Creatures® programs!

Each year Peace Creatures volunteer nearly $900,000 worth of  pet therapy* to non-profit and community partner organizations throughout the Twin Cities metro area that have scant funds for these much needed services. Last year, our therapy teams worked with more than 6,000 vulnerable children and adults in the Twin Cities area—people facing loneliness and despair in battered women's shelters, hospitals, mental health facilities and prisons. Home For Life is reaching out to these people and helping to connect them back into the embrace of community.

Jonathan didn't seem special or distinctive when he was being rated for his potential in the adoption market. Yet all that he has become was always inside of him, just looking for the space and opportunity to grow. Over the past 20 years, Home for Life® has provided a doorway to a new life for hundreds of cats and dogs, many of whom have participated in our Peace Creatures® programs. They serve as ambassadors for our mission and for our conviction that all life is valuable.

*Based on a Twin Cities, Minnesota non-profit offering pet therapy to schools and other organizations. They charge $4,000 for a ten week session for a group of 10 people, a cost of $400 per person. We have always offered our outreach services free of charge. Last year, we allocated more than 27% of our annual budget to our outreach programs and our volunteers worked with 2200 kids and adults—a value of over $880,000 to the community. In 2019, we will be serving 7,000 people, to more than double the value and impact for our community, effectively and economically. Every dollar Home for Life® raises is leveraged to produce the most good for our animals we care for and for the community who supports us.

Moving toward a Caring Community and an Economy of Kindness.

A sanctuary is not a holding facility or transition chute. Rather, it is a community asset, much like a library or playground, and the sanctuary's living residents are a dynamic resource, building benefit through each interaction. In creating this pioneering new model of animal welfare, Home for Life® is defining a new space in our society where animals and people celebrate and uplift one another. We are demonstrating how a sanctuary can be a huge asset to its community, helping to bind members together in affirming acts of kindness and empathy. Home for Life® has multiplied the initial kindness by Jonathan's caretaker, and we have made it pay huge dividends!

Home for Life® has gained new ground for desperate animals like Jonathan and for Animal Welfare. Our sanctuary is a new model of rescue where homeless dogs and cats are not a problem to be solved, but an overlooked treasure with much to live for and much to give.

  • One person who cared enough to help a desperate animal
  • One organization that welcomed him home without demands or expectations
  • One black, deaf gentle cat who is touching the lives of so many vulnerable people in our community
  • And One person—YOU—whose support made the difference for Jonathan!

There are so many other cats and dogs just like him for whom Home for Life® can make a life changing difference. These animals just need someone to recognize that they are worth helping. The power of one person can transform the future of a vulnerable animal like Jonathan and create a whole new world for them and those they will go on to help and the light they will shine to show the way.

Rescue Remedy

Three year old hound Caden, came to Home for Life® from the Anti Cruelty Society in Chicago in 2018. Caden is a Southern boy, born in Alabama, who traveled north to Chicago to try his luck to find a home, an opportunity that had eluded him in Alabama. Although such a young dog, Caden was very underweight when transferred to Chicago from the Alabama shelter, was positive for heart-worm and also had what appeared to be a dislocated left hip. He arrived at the Anti Cruelty Society facility in February of 2018. There the Society's veterinary staff treated his heart-worm and obtained x-rays of his left leg and hip. Caden became a staff favorite with his gentle face and humble demeanor.

Caden at Home for Life®, Late Summer, 2018 
For months, Anti Cruelty personnel tried to find an adopter for Caden or a rescue to take him on. But no one was interested.  Was he not distinctive enough? too big? too old? too young? a mixed breed hound? Was it the medical history? His photos that, when shared and networked, failed to convey what a good dog he was - a dog who would never have a chance as the months went by and NOT ONE individual or rescue group from around the country expressed any interest in him. It was crickets wherever the staff at Anti Cruelty turned to find him a place, whatever avenue they tried.

Finally, the week came when those who must make the tough calls at the shelter told the rescue coordinators and staff that they would have to let go of Caden, and give up the hope that he could find rescue. He was to be euthanized and his date was scheduled, before the July 4 holiday when the shelter staff knew from experience they would see many new animals admitted and surrendered. Caden had been in the shelter kennels for months with no interest and other dogs needed to come in and have their chance too. It made logical sense but was a heartbreak for all those involved, to see Caden fall through the cracks despite their best efforts. The kennels of this inner city shelter, all enclosed, and with no access to the outdoors, were a hard place for a young dog to be month after month, designed as temporary holding for dogs who would be moving on to a home, to a  rescue, not designed for long-term care.

The day before Caden was scheduled to be euthanized, a friend and colleague at Anti Cruelty reached out to Home for Life®, one last time, to plea for Caden's life. We had previously turned her down, believing that a three-year-old dog could be adopted. Right? But he had not been, and was not going to be alive next week if help wasn't offered and soon. Caden could be defined as "adoptable" and it had seemed as if he was, should be but  how did that definition  help him? It had no applicability to his life that now hung in the balance if no one wanted him, and no one would help him.The reality is an animal is NOT adoptable if no one wants him. Unwilling to stand by while this good dog, 3-year-old Caden's loss of life became another statistic.  Home for Life® hastily put together a transport for him and welcomed him just a few days later, the week of Independence Day, fittingly. Two volunteers drove two legs of a transport on the July 4th holiday weekend to get him safely to Home for Life®.

"Rescued" in animal welfare is not the same thing as being saved. Look at Caden: he had been "rescued" twice: first by the Alabama shelter, then by the shelter in Chicago. Those are the rescues we know about. In addition, he had had at least two adoptive homes - all by the age of three.

But rescued animals are in transition. That transition to a destination, a hoped for home, is predicated upon the rescues' ability to market and turn over the dogs - the model is exactly premised on the retail market place where consumer goods are advertised, showcased and sold or turned over to make room for the next batch of inventory. The flaws with the model are revealed with cases like Caden who have traveled through the rescue circuit and yet had "rescue" elude them.

In over 20 years of Home for Life's® operation, it has been an interesting evolution to see more and more that it is the dogs and cats like Caden with nothing apparently "wrong" with them, who are in need of a care for life sanctuary whereas when we started the sanctuary, it was often the obviously disabled or animals with medical conditions who were in need of our help. Now there is often drama, high praise, money and recognition surrounding the "rescue" of these kinds of animals while other animals like Caden - and his friends in the video below - Home for Life's® Dagney, the St Bernard; Snowbelle, the shy shepherd mix; and Xerxes, the senior shepherd/wolf hybrid - twist in the wind, with no help or avenues for help available to them. Maybe it's social media and the need to have a visual impact with a very extreme case in order to be heard above the noise. Maybe with so many rescue organizations, competition is driving this circumstance - the more extreme and dramatic the "rescue," the more heart wrenching, the greater the leverage for donations: "look at us - we can help even this animal!" It was interesting that in the months that Caden was available yet overlooked by all rescues, there was an English Bulldog who came through the same Chicago shelter, with many health issues, yet who had organizations climbing over each other to "rescue" him - while Caden was completely ignored.  Rescues compete to scoop up a particularly sympathetic case, knowing what that will mean for donor goodwill and ensuing financial support. The public assumes if a rescue can help the very extreme cases, then the average cat or dog is surely finding placement. But it is turning out that these "normal" ones ARE the animals that are in need of help, but not finding it with "rescue." And they are the ones, the invisible animals, who are being left with nowhere to turn, and often dying untimely deaths by euthanasia because they are passed up for help and "rescue."

Meet another dog who really needed a Home for Life®, the 3rd Door in animal welfare. You might imagine it's Mana, the 2-legged dog in the wheelchair. No, the dog who really needed sanctuary was her friend Pickles, the black lab/shepherd mix. At the age of 5 years, Pickles had exhausted options available to him in a rescue world predicated on adoption and based on a market place model

First adopted out as a puppy with his sister Olive, Pickles lost his home when only age 4 when the family split up and lost their house. Pickles and Olive were fortunate to be accepted by the Minnesota organization Rescued Tails, who enrolled them in their innovative prison program at Lino Lakes Correctional Facility where dogs live with the inmates and received dog training and socialization to prepare them for placement. Both dogs did pretty well although they didn't like people in reflective vests. Rescued Tails was able to find the siblings a home together, and Olive remains in that home to this day. But Pickles had a more difficult adjustment, and was returned from his adoptive home after he was alleged to have leaped at a delivery man and grabbed a man while on leash on a walk. Although it wasn't a "bite," it was still a worrisome incident for Pickles' adoptive family and a situation they didn't want to deal with again. However, The rescue was full, so Pickles had to go to a foster home. There he stayed for the next several months, well and lovingly cared for, but crated for many hours a day with a foster who worked full time and with other dogs in the home who were dog aggressive. Although the rescue highlighted Pickles on their social media channels and on their website, stressing that he was in need of an urgent adoption, there were no takers - and no interest in him. 

So - there was Pickles, age 5 - not a young dog but not a senior either. Not ready for hospice care.  He had been adopted twice, been in rescue and two foster homes (counting the prison) and now was without options. What was his fate? to reside in a crate in the home of his foster, for the rest of his life, hoping for the magical day when he might get adopted? As a middle aged, black, large and mixed breed dog, full of energy, his placement prospects were very bleak.

Pickles at Home for Life®, late fall 2018
It's  often not the disabled or old or those that derive from dramatic circumstances like natural disasters or extreme abuse (for example the dog meat trade rescues) who desperately need sanctuary, the 3rd Door of animal welfare, but dogs and cats like Pickles - the regular animals who find themselves boxed out of the animal welfare discussion and without options. Dogs and cats like Pickles who have been through multiple placements and who lose their home(s) through no fault of their own are not unusual at Home for Life®.(

Pickles does so well at Home for Life® and we have seen none of the problem behaviors that he was accused of in his previous home. He IS a very energetic guy who loves to run and play and would probably find life hard to bear in a home without an opportunity for plenty of exercise and play. But at Home for Life®, with the chance to go in and out via a dog door from his townhouse whenever he wants, and friends like Mana to play with all day long, he is able to work off that exuberance through appropriate outlets. His foster worked with him and he is very responsive to all treats, always has a big smile on his face and a happy bark for us. He sits nicely for attention and pets, his tail wagging, in anticipation, at top speed like a cartoon dog.

Pickles is just one of the "invisible animals" of rescue who recycle through adoptions, fosters and shelters multiple times in their short lives, yet fail to find help in a system that is often unable to offer them any recourse.

To see Pickles and learn about his story shines a light on a widespread phenomena in animal welfare which leaves scores of cats and dogs just like him adrift with their lives at risk in the name of “rescue.” It's real, rather than data. As a care-for-life sanctuary, standing at the end of the funnel, so to speak, we hear about cases like his that may escape the notice of the average animal lover with a passing acquaintance with “rescue.”  Read more about the invisible animals of rescue:

When Home for Life began, our focus was helping cats and dogs who were not candidates for adoption - generally speaking, these animals were old, had disabilities or medical issues - sometimes all three together. They were the invisible animals of rescue, and in those days, held in the back at shelters and never offered for placement to the public due to their unique needs. Other animals had behavior issues as well that exempted them for placement, and these too often never saw the light of day on the adoption floor. No one of the public was the wiser because these animals were unseen at the shelters or rescue. The invisible animals. At the sanctuary, when asked by some of these rescues or shelters for help we did our best to assist as many as we could and gave them a loving home for life, as our name indicates. There were so few organizations doing what we did, and we had requests from all over the world for help.

Fast forward to today: we are still helping the animals with extraordinary medical needs, the older animals and those disabled, as well as animals with behavior concerns. We have several pending requests as we speak. Our cats and dogs still come to us from near and far: we have animals from China, Mexico, Taiwan , Japan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Egypt, Tunisia, Thailand and India as well as most of the states of our country.

But, these days - something new is going on - we are finding a different sector of animals now desperate for help and being boxed out of rescue. These animals are dying in vast numbers.

Miss Kitty's profile from the impound
cats Facebook page  
One week at Home for Life® - just one week in cat rescue at Home for Life®, illustrates the house of mirrors that has become animal rescue. First, it was the late fall in 2018 and the deadline for three cats at the humane society on their "partner placement" list was imminent. Partner placement means that cats and dogs that the humane society does not believe are candidates for adoption through their program are offered to rescues and sanctuaries, to see if they can possibly find placement through a different organization, rather than be euthanized. The three cats available were an 18-year-old named Baby Girl,  an eight-year-old, Miss Kitty, who is a unique color for a female and who had been sassy when her back was petted ( turned out she had impacted anal glands), and two-year-old shy Jasmine, who had been bullied by another cat in her previous home and had occasionally failed to use the litter box. Which cat do you think needed Home for Life®? If you guessed the 18-year-old you would not be correct. This cat found placement with a rescue, but the deadline arrived without another organization among the 300 comprising the humane society's placement partners stepping up to help the younger cats. Guess which cats ended up at Home for Life®, in need of sanctuary? Are you surprised that the ones our sanctuary took in to spare their lives were: 2-year-old Jasmine and 8-year-old MIss Kitty?

Jasmine's profile from the
impound cats Facebook page

Later, that same week, we received a call from some woman in Hudson, WI who claimed she had been feeding a stray black and white cat in her development for months. She had looked on her neighbor hood watch websites, called around to see if he belonged to someone - he was friendly but appeared to be an abandoned pet as he had been hanging around the subdivision for months. She and others in the development were feeding him but no one wanted to adopt him for their own. Now the weather was getting cold, and what was worse, he was limping and appeared to be injured on the front leg. She did not want to turn him into the humane society. We asked her to check with local rescues and see if someone could help what appeared to be an adoptable cat who needed help, living outside and with an injury. Of those she called, not one called back except one organization who stated they could not help because they were full on adult cats. She plead with us again to help the cat, and due to the colder weather and his injury, we did.  And glad we did, Andy saw our vet the next day and turned out to be a neutered male, FIV+ and had been shot in the leg - he was limping because of the shrapnel pieces still visible on x-ray in his elbow joint. The injury was a couple of months old.

Now, here is where the story gets interesting - because also this same weekend, Home for Life® was asked to possibly help a 13-year-old blind cat who was at an impound and who was scheduled to be euthanized the next day. This was a cat you would think would really need the help of a sanctuary,  but, it turned out, this senior blind cat found " rescue." And which organization do you think helped him?  I bet you are as surprised as were to learn that it was the one rescue who did call the woman back but declined to help Andy, the injured cat from Hudson, because they were "full on adult cats." That's right, this organization instead took in a blind 13-year-old cat from an impound the next day. What?! Wouldn't this cat be considered a tougher case than the younger cat that was outside after all? Wasn't the cat from Hudson urgent and in need of rescue living outside and with an injury? Who needed a sanctuary - the 13-year-old-senior-blind ca t- or the young neutered black and white cat abandoned and now injured from being shot? Which cat was " rescued" - and which needed a Home for Life® or face a bitter winter outside with a hurt leg?

Andy At Home for Life®, January 2019 

In animal rescue today, there are  rescues specifically for old animals, rescues for blind animals, rescues for disabled animals. There are even animal rescues created specifically for dying animals who need hospice.  But with all these organizations and programs, there are still many dogs and cats who are not finding help in rescue, and who end up losing their lives.

Home for Life® was created to help at risk cats and dogs through responsive, cost effective model programs which are designed to react swiftly to the ever-changing landscape of unwanted animals, animals who cannot find help through conventional solutions offered by shelters and rescues.  Home for Life® was created to help those animals who fall through the cracks.

It's become clear that the kind of animals who are falling through the cracks, who are unwanted and without options, has changed. The rescue to adoption model is not working for many deserving dogs and cats, and they are dying because of this inability or unwillingness of the animal welfare system, as it currently exists, to respond to their plight. Although Caden, Pickles, Miss Kitty, Jasmine and Andy seemed highly adoptable at points in their journey, that opportunity became closed to them, even while four of them were wards of animal welfare organizations with strong adoption programs  , and recycling them through the rescue system yet again was pointless and detrimental, like putting groceries in a used box whose bottom is about to fall out. Insisting that these animals belong in the adoption "box" even as the bottom is about to fall out from under them, when they are passed by for rescue, results in a shocking loss of life of so many dogs and cats, more than caring people realize. For these animals, a new  model is called for, rather than insisting that a one-size-fits-all option of rescue to adoption will work.

 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 when all alternatives are closed to animals whose lives are at risk. The stories of Caden, Pickles, Miss Kitty, Jasmine and Andy - profiles 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®. Care-for-Life sanctuary - the remedy for the gaps emerging in the animal welfare world that leaves so many vulnerable dogs and cats "rescued" but not saved.

Staring Cruelty in the Face: The Story of Raha


Over the years, we have taken care of many animals who have been the victims of outrageous cruelty. For anyone who loves animals, it is soul destroying to learn the details of what a dog or cat has suffered. In our current care are several dogs and cats who have suffered vicious and incomprehensibly cruel treatment at the hands of people.  Ben who was kicked and stomped on to unconsciousness as a puppy in Chicago, to the point where he suffered such severe brain damage that he is now blind due to trauma to the optic nerves. Kitchee was stoned nearly to death as a 6 month old puppy. Simone, Janet and Junebug who were nearly starved to death while in the care of a Minnesota animal rescue.  Dogs and cats who have been mistreated while under the care of self described " animal lovers"- kicked, beaten, thrown, poisoned, strangled. Cats deliberately abandoned to their fate outside when it is freezing out and there is no way they could survive.. Apricot and Twa, two cats who suffered paralysis as a result of  being kicked or shot. Nino whose entire litter was slaughtered by a gang with machetes and who was the sole survivor but whose hind legs were cut off before he was saved by his mother. Lucky was beaten nearly to death and left for dead and now can see only shadows. Amal who was shot in the face and now has no lower jaw.  These are just some of the animals at our small sanctuary, currently.  Open social media and it's impossible to avoid photos of trophy hunting and animal abuse cases yet other than ranting on twitter or facebook, it's easy to feel hopeless with no way intervene.  
It's hard not to want vengeance for the suffering of these animals, yet feel powerless to create change. But after we took Raha in last year, I decided there had to be a more effective strategy than raging on social media or becoming incapacitated by despair to think of the cruelty in the world. We can't undo the horrors our animals may have experienced but we won't let the abuse define them, nor be the end of their stories.               

Every animal has a story, they say. When people meet a dog or cat at our sanctuary, or see them on social media, their first question is, “What is their story?”

With Raha, a senior Anatolian Shepherd mix, no one needs to ask. His story is plain to see: the horror and cruelty he suffered…and his resilience and joy that could not be extinguished.

Above: Raha, enjoying a beautiful fall day at Home for Life®, October 2018.

The Rescue of Raha

It’s hard to remember Raha’s desperate condition on the day we met him just one year ago. Some sadistic people had attempted to blow his head off. They put firecrackers in his mouth, taped his muzzle shut, and then lit the fuse. Miraculously the firecrackers did not explode, but they still did plenty of damage—their intense heat seared away Raha’s gums, cracked his teeth, and even burned into the bones of his face and jaw. His injuries left him unable to open his mouth more than a centimeter. By the time we met him, he was slowly starving to death.

Raha arrived at Home for Life® emaciated, weak, and
in pain 
from his injuries. He had traveled halfway
around the 
 world from Iran to reach
our Midwest sancuary!
Raha was born a street dog in Iran, and he had encountered cruelty before. In fact, his ears had been cut off in a prior incident. He was an older fellow at the time of this latest attack (our veterinarians estimated him to be about age 8). It hardly seemed possible that this lonely, aged street dog from a developing nation could have a future after life had treated him so harshly. But as it turned out, fate had a plan for Raha.

Disfigured and starving, he wandered around for two weeks. Finally, townspeople who had witnessed the attack called the Vafa Animal Shelter for help, and representatives came to his rescue. Vafa took Raha in, but they knew he would need more medical care and ongoing support than they could provide. He was horribly malnourished and he had developed an infection because of his injuries. Vafa reached out to Home for Life® to help with his case.

Raha's rescue story touched the hearts of people all over the world. They were moved by his spirit, and also shaken by the thought that anyone could be so sadistic toward a good dog.

What happened to Raha will always be visible. His disfigurement bears witness to the sickest tendencies of human nature. Yet his enduring trust and gentleness demonstrate that compassion and kindness prevail.

Raha made the long journey from Iran to Amsterdam, Toronto and finally to Home for Life’s® sanctuary in the Midwest, where at last he could receive the complex medical care and extensive rehabilitation needed to restore him to health and happiness.

Staring Cruelty in the Face: Home for Life’s Emergency Medical Care Fund

Our Emergency Medical Care Fund was established for animals like Raha who need extraordinary veterinary care. Thanks to the generosity of many compassionate donors, we were able to get Raha the help he needed.

Veterinarians at the University of Minnesota treated the terrible infection in his face and mouth resulting from his injuries. Next they cleared away the extensive scar tissue so he could open his mouth. Sadly, one eye and several teeth were damaged beyond repair and had to be removed. Raha was fed a special liquid diet for weeks until he regained weight and strength. His recovery took nearly 6 months, but at last his energy returned, along with his interest in life around him!

There is no excuse nor explanation for the evil Raha suffered, but there is an answer to those who hurt him, tried to ruin his life and kill him, and for anyone who has been cruel to a defenseless animal. And that is the rest of Raha’s story, his real story.

Raha’s REAL Story

Raha enjoys community outreach work as a
member of HFL's Peach Creatures Therapy Dog
Corps. Here he is visiting with students at Como
Senior High School in St. Paul, MN.
Home for Life® responded to the senseless cruelty Raha suffered by ensuring the recovery of this humble dog whose name means “free and peaceful” in Persian. Even after all he endured, Raha is a kind dog. The same trusting heart that made him an easy target for cruelty has also inspired compassion and protection from caring strangers who were moved by his courage and resilience. We were determined to help him heal and give him a life of purpose and joy. With our supporters’ generous help we have succeeded!

Our sanctuary is the first true home Raha has ever known. Here he has found stability, friendship, comfort, and so much more—an opportunity to touch the lives of countless people with his story and through his example.

Raha’s story,
written all over
his face, tells
the tale of good
overcoming evil
Raha has become an ambassador of compassion and peace. As the newest member of Home for Life’s Peace Creatures® therapy dog corps, he brings hope to people battling adversity: patients in hospitals and mental health wards; families in battered women’s shelters; wounded veterans; and students at area high schools.

Raha’s Story Comes Full Circle

As part of the Home for Life community, Raha is helping to bring positive change to the world every day. He touches people through his therapy work and through his own life story. His story has even touched the heart of Dr. Jane Goodall, who met him when she was the special guest speaker at our Spring 2018 Gala. Dr. Goodall was heartened to see how far Raha had come and commented that his story must bring hope to shelter workers around the world who are dealing with neglect and abuse cases every day on a scale that is hard to imagine here in the U.S.

We sent photos of Raha and Dr. Goodall to the Vafa Shelter, whose workers had first stepped in to save the dog’s life. Vafa’s staff and volunteers were thrilled to see Raha healthy and happy at last. His life journey had taken a direction that none of them could have predicted when they first rescued him. Vafa sent us these photos of their volunteers and staff posing with the photos we had sent!

The pictures express, better than words can, the bond we share with those who love animals no matter where in the world they live, a bond that transcends political ideology and other divides. Raha’s story urges us to seek the common ground we share with others, something to think about after this tumultuous year, and as we move into 2019.

A house is made with walls and beams

A HOME is made with love and dreams

Animal sanctuaries are needed everywhere as worldwide interest in Home for Life® attests. Home for Life’s mission and services give hope to animal welfare workers in other countries who face enormous challenges in their efforts to protect animals and provide humane care.

As a care for life sanctuary, Home for Life® supports the work of animal welfare activists in the U.S. and in other countries 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.

At Home for Life®, we envision a world in which the most vulnerable animals like Raha can reach their full potential. His story shows that it is possible to make the best of a terrible start in life. He is a living example of goodness triumphing over cruelty. Raha has survived to enjoy a full life and even give back as part of Peace Creatures® community outreach programs.

More animals need the life-saving dream that only Home for Life® can provide and now is the time to make a dream come true for another dog or cat like Raha who might not have that chance without your support. Thank you for all the dreams you have made come true for Raha and all the animals at Home for Life® in 2018. Think of all the animals we can continue to reach in 2019 with your help.

The Story of Marian and Shadow

Marian is a woman we met through one of our long-time Home for Life® volunteers. She is a giving person who helped the mother of our volunteer for over five years through HER volunteer work with Family Means, located in Stillwater, MN.

After all her years of helping others, the time came when Marian needed help: her husband had passed away, and she had to sell her home prior to moving to assisted living. Marian was not able to take her long time companion, Shadow, a 14-year old Miniature Pinscher, with her. The two gentle, senior ladies were now alone in the world, and about to be separated from each other—and from all they had known.

The senior dog rescues Marian had contacted about Shadow were either unable to help or never called her back. But, in truth, Marian didn't want to send Shadow, her friend and comrade, to a shelter or rescue, where she might be offered for adoption (or not) and may find a home (or not) at her advanced age. Marion was concerned she'd lose track of Shadow, never to see her again and worse yet, not know what became of her loyal friend. The "not knowing" was what was so heart wrenching ...

When there's a need, Home For Life® Steps Up

How many animals like Shadow and the people who love them are invisible in our society—and in the animal rescue world as it currently operates—in need of help but unlikely to find it?

As a sanctuary, standing at the end of the funnel so to speak, we at Home for Life® know that very often, it is not the dogs and cats with the dramatic stories, traumatic backgrounds or disabilities who make for a sensational photo on social media - that need sanctuary. These animals are often skillfully marketed and compassionate people respond.

The assumption is that the " regular" animals like Shadow—good dogs without anything obviously "wrong" with them—will of course be able to find homes. But it is precisely these cats and dogs who are turning up in need of help from Home for Life®, and not only the pets but the people like Marian who love them.

What happens to the pets of people like Marian, who cannot find help with shelters or animal rescues focused on adoption? What do you think happens to dogs and cats 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?

Turned in to animal controls or shelters for euthanasia or quietly put down in veterinarian offices, these "regular" animals are invisible to animal welfare and are not finding help with animal rescues and shelters as they currently exist.

Helping Shadow, Helping Marian

Shadow needed a place to go, and Marian was eager to have her come to Home for Life®. Marian knew that here, she'd be able to continue visiting her long-time companion.

These are the type of situations that inspire us to raise donations. Marian doesn't have extra funds and needed our help to make sure Shadow would be safe and cared for. She wanted peace of mind as she moved to the next phase of her life.

Early this spring, Cathy, our Home for Life® volunteer brought Marian and Shadow out to the sanctuary so Marian could see where Shadow might live. The visit went really well, especially considering that Shadow had been an "only dog" during her years with Marian. After she said her goodbyes to Shadow, and entrusted us with her precious dog, Marian sent us this email: "I was amazed how well Shadow adapted, how alert and happy she was outside with her new playmates. She just needed to be among her own kind at this stage of her life. Thank goodness for Home for Life! Thank YOU for accepting my Shadow!"

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.

Often, people like Marian are forced to surrender their dogs and cats. Money issues, failing health, death of a spouse, a move to a safer setting where the pet may not be able to join them are all circumstances that may result in a person having to surrender a beloved pet. In these situations, sanctuaries like Home for Life 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.

Home for Life® provides a bridge between owners and their Pets.

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 moves to assisted living facilities or nursing homes. In all these cases, Home for Life® has been able to provide an ongoing link that has preserved the relationship between these beloved working animals and pets and their guardians who have the opportunity to visit regularly therefore, preserving 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 the people who love them.

Home for Life® was created to help at risk cats and dogs through responsive, cost effective and replicable model programs which are designed to react swiftly to the ever-changing landscape of unwanted animals who cannot find help through conventional solutions offered by animal shelters and rescues. Home for Life® has given little Shadow a new home with new experiences: for the first time in her life she has dog friends, and her new social life seems to keep her on her toes!

Shadow previously lived alone as an only dog, and although she loved Marian, perhaps she was a bit lonely. The other Home for Life® dogs, her new friends, keep her young and active, and keep her mind stimulated. Fun in our fenced meadows and grooming sessions are part of her regular routine. Shadow loves to be outside in all seasons and the freedom of going outdoors any time she wants through a dog door.

Shadow's story illustrates that sanctuaries have an important role to play in preserving the human-animal bond. The peace of mind Marian has knowing Shadow is safe and loved have helped them both transition to a new phase of their lives with honor and grace.

Sanctuary Saves Lives

As so many animals like Shadow seem invisible in animal rescue, so are their human counterparts in our society. These are the very people Home for Life® strives to reach out to through our innovative community outreach programs known as Peace Creatures®. So many vulnerable people of our communities—the impoverished elderly in Medicaid funded nursing homes, the incarcerated, children and families affected by domestic violence, hospitalized children and injured veterans undergoing long term treatment for chronic and serous medical conditions, and those suffering from mental illness—are forgotten by our society. They are populations who could most benefit from the solace and joy provided by pet therapy yet don't often receive this service. It is these gaps that Home for Life® strives to fill in through our community service work provided by the Peace Creatures® programs. That is the job of Home for Life®—to reach those that are forgotten and overlooked but who are so deserving of help, whether they are dogs and cats or people.

Save A Life Today

Whether restoring the faith of a humble elderly woman who gave all her life and now needed help for her beloved elderly dog at a time of difficult transition, or impacting the vulnerable through our pet therapy programs which reach over 5000 at risk children and adults in our community, your gift today will help us make a difference.

With your help, it will be possible for us to reach out to people like Marian at critical times of their life, and as we hope to relieve the profound isolation of their lives, demonstrate the power of connection and compassion and restore their sense of worth and well being!.

There's never been a better time to be part of creating a new alternative for special animals like Shadow and for the people who love them like Marian!


We lost Shadow just before completing this post, due to a combination of heart and kidney failure. She was almost 15! She was in great health until just a week or so before she passed - a good long life, and died peacefully, on her own, with our staff and her friends around her.

We thought of pulling this story about Marian and her Shadow after Shadow passed away, but then decided to go ahead with publishing it , because the post is a tribute to her, and to them both and the loving bond they had, and the small role Home for Life® played in their journey.

Rest in peace sweet Shadow - we hope your story will inspire people to help us make it possible for Home for Life to reach out more dogs and cats like you who need our help.