Last Save of the Year


Last save of 2023: that honor belongs to Seamus, a 2-year-old Border Collie mix.
The first photo is the intake photo from a large well known Minnesota rescue doing high volume adoptions. Like most of the animals this place deals with, Seamus was from a rescue down South, and came up to this state to try his luck to find a loving home. He was adopted by an older guy named Ron and his wife, who lived in a condominium complex.
Seamus was well cared for and well loved by his new family but tragedy struck a few months ago when the wife developed cancer and died not long after. Seamus was a great source of support for Ron during this difficult time.
Being a sensitive and highly intelligent Border Collie mix, Seamus surely felt the stress and grief in the home after Ron's wife died. There were complaints about Seamus' barking from some of Ron's condo neighbors even though there were several other dogs in the building who barked more, according to Ron. Then while riding in the elevator with Ron after his wife had died, Seamus reportedly leaped at a cleaning personnel from the building, grabbing her by the coat sleeve and leaving a bruise. This action was unprecedented behavior from Seamus.
The condo association, already full of individuals intolerant of Seamus' barking, now demanded that Ron either get rid of his dog or find a new place to live. Ron owned his condo but it made little difference if those in control of the association handed down an edict. They apparently would not negotiate or give Seamus another chance. Ron was distraught and felt cornered, his only choices to move or put the 2 year old Seamus to sleep. Ron knew Seamus was undeserving of this fate and especially after all the friendship the dog provided during the sorrowful loss of Ron's wife and the aftermath.
Ron went back to the Minnesota rescue where he had adopted Seamus- but they refused to help or take Seamus back into their care. He tried numerous other Minnesota rescues but was turned down by them all after reporting the incident involving the cleaning person in the elevator.
If organizations who place dogs and cats won't take them back or offer help when the adoption runs into problems, then they are not "rescuing" animals but selling them. And in fact, by not standing behind the animals they are putting into the community, they are falling short of even an appliance store- or even a place like Office Depot, who at least offer warranties of two years or more for the products they sell, To bring animals up to a new state from afar and then abandon them if the dog or cat can't keep their adoptive home is not rescue but selling and with even less of a an assurance for the outcome and future of that dog or cat than an appliance store offers on a washer/ dryer or a refrigerator or an office supply store offers on a fax machine or scanner.
It wasn't just Seamus abandoned in this situation but Ron too, who had already suffered the loss of his wife from cancer and was now feeling abandoned and alone in this predicament, facing having to kill his dog or give up his home. It felt like a desperate choice, a no win choice for him.
In talking with Ron and in reviewing what had happened, it seemed like Seamus' behavior was an outlier and that he was capable of and deserving of forgiveness and another chance, even if it couldn't be at the condo or with Ron, let alone with the organization that had sold him to Ron. We don't say adopt or rescue because abandoning this dog and his heartbroken owner to twist in the wind served neither the dog nor the family who had tried their best and now needed support.
Without any other options for the dog, Home For Life Animal Sanctuary again stepped in to deflect what we viewed as an unfair outcome for such a young, loyal and good dog who had stood by his owner during a heartbreaking time of losing his wife to cancer.
Once again, we called on our friends at Liberty K9 MN who welcomed Seamus about 10 days ago. Ron brought him up to Duluth and signed him over to Home For Life Animal Sanctuary who has taken custody of Seamus. He will spend the next 6 weeks with the team at Liberty K9 MN in their training program where we can get a better idea of what he is like and what he needs to succeed.
Upon arrival, the team at Liberty described a dog very much lacking in confidence. He had no doubt observed and felt the sadness of Ron who had lost his wife, the uncertainty and grief about the future as Ron tried without success to find a safe landing for the dog and faced the possibility of euthanizing his best friend and probably Ron's frustration when he faced losing his home and was unable to find help anywhere.
No doubt Seamus was confused to now have lost both his family members, his home and to now be in a new situation, not knowing what to expect. He had felt the grief, confusion, dread and frustration in his old home but didn't know how to process what he was sensing. Part of his rehabilitation will be to restore his confidence by helping him make sense of his world now, so he knows what to expect what is expected of him and so he can trust the situation and respond appropriately. As you can see from the photos, Seamus has already readily responded to sensible, kind handling and is learning tons and having a great time, especially on the nature walks around the facility!

"Rescued" in animal welfare is not the same as being saved. Look at Seamus: at the age of just over two years he had been "rescued" twice. Those are the rescues we know about. Yet his life was at risk again and he was facing an untimely death at age 2. An organization should model the commitment to and bond with the animals they take under their care that they expect the community to emulate and support. Let's not call it rescue if what is really occurring is selling dogs and if the product turns out to be "defective" then too bad, the dupe who "adopted" the animal is on their own.
Instead of 2024 starting without Seamus, he is now saved and safe with Home For Life Animal Sanctuary. Stay tuned for more heartwarming photos and updates about this good and loyal soul who needed a third chance and found it with us.


Seamus arrived at Home for Life on February 15, and photos were taken at the sanctuary. Seamus is
Home for Life!

All reactions:

Celebrating Caden: The All American Dog No One Wanted



Like many, I was very touched by the Subaru television commercial “The Underdogs”—a feat of marketing wizardry. These days, there are rescues for blind animals, disabled animals, neonate animals, senior animals, and even dying animals. When Home for Life® (HFL®) began many years ago, these were mostly the animals that needed our help. They were the last choice of potential adopters, even if they were put up for adoption at all. HFL® remains committed to this population.

But now, something different is going on in animal welfare. Rescues are highlighting animals with disabilities and the message being conveyed is that “if animals with obvious problems are being showcased, then surely the masses of healthy animals are easily finding homes without needing to be promoted.”

The picture looks much different from inside animal welfare. Each week, pleas go out asking organizations to step up for dozens of dogs and cats who will otherwise be euthanized. These desperate souls have no obvious problems aside from the fact that nobody wants them.

Such was the case with Caden, a three-year-old hound who came to HFL® from the Anti-Cruelty Society in Chicago.

The All-American Dog That No One Wanted

Caden was a Southern boy, bo
rn in Alabama, who was sent north to Chicago to try his luck finding a home. As a young dog who should have been in his prime, Caden arrived in Chicago from the Alabama shelter, positive for heartworm and having what appeared to be a dislocated left hip. He was admitted to the Anti-Cruelty Society facility in February 2018. There the Society’s veterinary staff treated his heartworm and obtained x-rays of his left leg and hip. Caden became a staff favorite with his gentle face and humble demeanor.

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? Or did his photos, when shared and networked, fail to convey what a good dog he was?

Adjacent photo: Caden could be defined as “adoptable” and it seemed as if he should be, but how did that definition make a difference for him? It meant nothing if no one would help him.

Months went by, and NOT ONE individual or rescue group from around the entire 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 4th holiday when the shelter staff knew 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 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 plead 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 soon. Home for Life® hastily put together a transport for Caden and welcomed him just a few days later—the week of Independence Day.

What Does It Mean To Be “Rescued”?

“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’d had at least two adoptive homes—all by the age of three. Much of the anguish animals experience occurs not from abuse, as depicted in still more dramatic commercials, but from cycling in and out of the system and homes, forsaken and unwanted.

Adjacent: It is 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, an older dog with many health issues. Organizations were climbing over each other to “rescue” this bulldog while Caden was completely ignored. 

Increasingly, it is dogs and cats, like Caden, who are most in need of sanctuary—those who have nothing “wrong” with them but are nevertheless deprived of options through rescue. When we started our sanctuary, those who needed our help were the animals with obvious disabilities or medical conditions. More organizations are extending themselves to “rescue” these animals with great drama and fanfare, while allowing those like Caden to twist in the wind.

Maybe it’s social media and the need to have a visual impact with a very extreme case 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.

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 who need help, but aren’t finding it with “rescue.” And they are the ones, the invisible animals, who are being left with nowhere to turn, often euthanized because they have been overlooked.

It’s difficult to understand why some animals are so easily dismissed or ignored. It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why some well-behaved, sweet-natured dogs or cats get bounced around various rescue organizations for months or years before finally being put down. What is going on here? The reality is an animal is NOT adoptable if no one wants him. In other words, people’s interests, tastes, and  the current trends decide the fates of dogs and cats much more than the animals’ own worthiness.

What is One Life Worth?

We live in a market-driven world, catering to the interests, tastes, and desires of people. Our problems and solutions are defined in terms of the marketplace. It can be hard to recognize when this framework is creating more problems.

Success in this world is measured by moving your product. Marketing is a useful tool but not the appropriate basis for saving lives. Each animal, like each person, is a unique being whose value can never be measured in market terms. Treating animals as consumer goods has consequences. The adoption-as-success metric hides a sad story: only 1 in 10 dogs born will find a home for their entire lifetime.* One very likely reason for this shocking statistic is that animals rely on people, and people’s tastes and interests change rapidly, depending on what is marketed or promoted. Our attention is curated, and our focus is drawn by whatever is served up. But the problem of unadoptable animals can’t be solved with the same market mindset that created it. It is the wrong system to solve the problem of animals at risk, and the entire strategy that is widely pursued to save animals from euthanasia is creating its own problems. Why? Because such a system where rescues function as the new pet stores is made to close deals, move products, make profits. It is not a system made to honor the intrinsic worth of living beings. We cannot allow the very structure of animal welfare to operate  based on a flimsy and false foundation where living beings are commodified and treated like consumer goods, and where success is measured by how many units are processed.

*Do Something, last updated September 2023.

Rescue Remedy

To see Caden and learn about his story shines a light on a widespread phenomenon in animal welfare that leaves scores of cats and dogs just like him adrift with their lives at risk. It’s real, rather than data. As a care for life sanctuary, standing at the end of the funnel when animals can’t find a new home but shouldn’t be put down, we hear about cases like his that may escape the notice of the average animal lover. Home for Life’s® focus on overlooked individuals and the intrinsic worth of all living beings has enabled us to spot gaps in the animal welfare system where cats or dogs are underserved and vulnerable, to identify where change needs to happen, and where there is opportunity for widespread improvement.

Home for Life® has always taken a different approach to addressing problems in animal welfare. We believe that it is impossible to benefit animals as a whole without caring about each individual animal. While we are mindful of the broad factors affecting animal populations, our focus and service have always been directed toward individual animals. And by serving individual animals, we have been able to exert widespread influence on the direction of animal welfare practice.

Thinking about all the animals who lose their lives each year is overwhelming. The estimate is that close to a million cats and dogs are killed annually because no one wants them. Even people who care are challenged to understand how they can make a difference with a problem of this scale.
When we look at animal homelessness and the vast numbers being killed each year through a wide scope, it’s difficult to see the individuals. They become numbers and abstractions. If we operate only from this frame, we begin to lose the sense of our original mission and that’s when dogs and cats like Caden fail to find the help they so desperately need. Because they are only one animal, it is easy to turn away and ignore them or justify their death as if they are collateral damage. But the truth is, we’re only able to understand the depth of a problem through an individual who is experiencing the problem firsthand and through their story.

The millions of suffering, lonely and unwanted animals are made up of individuals like Caden. Whenever we disregard or devalue one of them, we place all animals in jeopardy, since any dog or cat can lose their home, become old, injured or ill and unwanted. What keeps animals safe and cherished is our attitude towards them, and our capacity to care, recognizing them as spirits in their own right deserving of life and respect—rather than constantly evaluating dogs and cats only in relation to ourselves and what they can do for us and discarding them when they become inconvenient or a nuisance or can’t achieve a price point, a consumer good instead of a living being. For animals who are vulnerable, everywhere, we can’t turn away from tough cases like Caden or consider their fate of negligible consequence. Saving an animal is more than a metaphor or marketing slogan. It is meaningful because preserving the chance for one animal takes a stand for all animals in similar situations and makes visible and practical what is possible.

Just a few days before we went to print, Caden died of inoperable liver cancer. This summer, when his spleen was removed, the surgeon and pathologist were worried about some suspicious areas on his liver, but he seemed to bounce back so well that we were shocked one morning when he wouldn’t eat and was very jaundiced with a soaring temperature. His blood values were off the charts, indicating terminal liver failure and ultrasounds revealed the liver was very misshapen. We had no choice but to let Caden pass peacefully, so he wouldn’t suffer. He was only 8 years old. We considered writing about a different HFL animal, but decided that Caden’s life and death were meaningful, his story emblematic of many animals like him with so much love to give who are forsaken by rescue. Rest in peace Caden and run free now, knowing we have told your story and that we will never forget you.


                            Invisible no more! Caden was never overlooked at Home for Life®!

With Gratitude,




The Beach Party!

We were not going to explain why there is a Beach Party this year and not a pool party but we are getting so many questions, it might help to address the matter once and for all. 

Last year, 2022, a rescue group complained to the Department of Health about our Pool Party, because, apparently this group was not able to present their own pool event. The Department of Health went to the Town and Country Club on the Thursday before our pool party, and told them not to go forward with the pool party. They would not tell the Club who the rescue group or groups were that were the complainants, but told the Club the rescues were upset about how much media and social media attention Home For Life® Animal Sanctuary received as a result of the event.

The Club general manager and board made the decision NOT to cancel the event 3 days before it was set to happen. That day, their staff seemed nervous and on edge—but we thought it was just because they were up the night before for a wedding. No—they were nervous the Department of Health would arrive and close the event down. The Club didn't tell us until this year what had happened relative to the 2022 event.

In 2023, The Club and Home For Life® Animal Sanctuary wanted to present the pool party again. But the Department of Health threatened to withhold the pool license for the Club for the summer if they attempted to proceed with either their own dog event, Paws at the Pool, which has always been the day before our event, or the Home for Life® pool party.  The Monday after the weekend of dog events, the Club would close the pool for the season. Regrettably, there was no choice but not to present either event this year. It is too bad that this rescue(s) who instigated this mean-spirited petty action can't come up with an event but must ruin a day that brought so many people and their dogs a lot of fun and happiness, an event that was looked forward to all year.  We presented the pool party for years with not one problem. 

This year, we pivoted and presented a new event, the Beach Party. We were determined to make it great, another wonderful day for people and their dogs. We were very heartened when the event sold out within a week of the reservations being posted!

It was worth the price of admission to see the recreation of a country club at a county beach setting, the beautiful White Bear Beach located in Dellwood, MN—part of the  Ramsey County Park System.  The weather held, with partly cloudy skies, and break-through sunshine throughout the day, and temperatures in the mid 70s. Everyone from the deputy sheriffs and water patrol responsible for event security to the catering staff got into the tropical spirit of the day, donning leis.

With the creation of a whole new experience this year, Home For Life® Animal Sanctuary's Beach Party, we decided to do something different to commemorate the event, a video capturing the fun of the day in animation, and even some views of the party by drone!


We can't wait for next year's Beach Party—an event but more than a fundraiser, a special day to celebrate our dogs and all they mean to us.  

Giving Animals a Place to Belong: The Story of Ben

Above: Our winter appeal once again will fea  

feature a wonderful illustration by Iain Welch inspired by this joyful Mark Luinenburg photo of Ben

In your mailbox soon—Home For Life® Animal Sanctuary's winter appeal featuring the story of Ben, who is now nearly 14 years old! He came to Home for Life® when only 6 months old after a savage beating that left him permanently brain-damaged and blind.  Yet he has thrived and is now one of our senior citizens at the sanctuary. Read the story of how Ben was not only rescued but saved below and here!

Dear Friends,
Looking out on the world through Ben’s eyes, the world Ben must have seen on that awful day he was left so terribly injured, could crush the spirit of any animal lover—a world of heartless cruelty that made no sense.

What haunted us ...

was the last thing Ben saw, before he lost consciousness—the people beating and kicking him. He was only a puppy when it happened, the beating by a gang of boys in Chicago. The sheer cruelty left even the hardened Chicago cops shaken. They drove off the boys, picked up Ben and rushed him to the Animal Welfare League, a shelter in urban Chicago. Ben lay in a coma for days at the shelter, as their medical team fought for his life. They saved him, but Ben was left brain-damaged and blind. Though his eyes were structurally normal, he had sustained so much trauma from the beating that his optic nerves were damaged beyond repair.

As shocking as the abuse was that Ben suffered, his traumatic background was not the biggest challenge he would face. Though he had survived, he had become one of so many unwanted dogs and cats looking for understanding and a place to belong. Like these many cats and dogs, Ben now faced a different kind of trauma—being unwanted, with dim prospects of finding a home, of having no place and no one to care for him. Think of Ben’s world now: a world where animals in need abound, whether they end up in the rescue and shelter system through a dramatic story of abuse, like Ben, or because they are no longer wanted. Thinking of a world where so many animals like Ben, alone and afraid, are unlikely ever to find help, breaks the heart of any animal lover.

The lifespan of a typical dog or cat is usually at most, 15 years or so. Yet, many animals spend a good percentage of their time alive circulating through rescues or shelters or waiting for their “fur-ever” home.

These years that many cats and dogs spend in this kind of limbo, waiting, can represent a quarter to a third of their life. In their short lives and their prime years, a dog or cat often circulates through the system, “rescued” multiple times but never saved. Organizations may process hundreds or even thousands of animals for adoption annually, but with over a million animals still euthanized each year, these numbers passing through rescue matter little in the larger scheme. Until the life of each animal is cherished, dogs and cats will be rescued in large numbers, yet never saved. 

The first cats and dogs of Home For Life® Animal Sanctuary came from a no-kill shelter where most of them had waited months and some, years for a home. Many had already had two, three, or even more prior placements, equaling a huge percentage of their lifespan. What was their fate? To stay at a shelter facility meant for temporary holding? To reside in a crate or cage in the home of a foster for the rest of their lives, hoping for the magical day when they might get adopted? We thought we could challenge the conventional wisdom and the system of animal rescue by looking at the world from the animals’ point of view: we could give these special animals an opportunity for a stable, loving home—a home that might look different than a conventional adoption, but where a cat and dog would find a place to belong, be wanted and accepted. Isn’t that what any cat or dog (or even every person) wants?

There’s a distinction between the typical animal rescue or shelter and a sanctuary like Home For Life® Animal Sanctuary.

Even some places calling themselves sanctuaries are really adoption clearing houses, keeping dogs and cats until they can be moved along.

A care-for-life sanctuary has a different approach, where animals in need are not just rescued but saved. It is a true home for the dogs and cats in all the ways that are meaningful for an animal: security, safety, great food, veterinary care, grooming to stay good-looking and healthy, warmth in the winter and comfort in the hot weather, the freedom to go outside or stay in, to have friends of their own kind and to socialize instead of living a solitary lonely life, and to have loving humans to care for them. In all the ways that matter for a cat and dog, Home for Life® is a true and loving home for our animals.

And we’re a stable home, where many animals in rescue circulate in and out of placements. Stability—homeostasis—for animals and plants is an important quality of life. You can water and fertilize a plant and keep it near a sunny window, but if you move it and transplant it again and again, it will give up and die. Animals are like that—they need to put down roots and have a stable foundation, and a place to belong. They wither and give up without it.

Giving our animals a place is one of the most important things we do.

And we’re in it for keeps. When Ben came to us as a six-month-old puppy, blind and brain-damaged after being beaten nearly to death, he survived but was left very vulnerable, a slow learner who has never learned to walk on a leash or climb stairs, and who needed protection and loving care for him to live his best, most joyful life. Ben is now 14 years old! He has been safe, protected, and loved; and had dog friends and a wonderful life despite his tragic start, BECAUSE he was part of Home For Life® Animal Sanctuary.

Home for Life Featured in LENS Magazine! Photojournalist portraits of HFL sanctuary animals featured.

This fall, through a longtime supporter, we had the pleasure of meeting photographer Mark Edward Harris, who is based in Los Angeles, CA. Mark Edward Harris is an internationally renown photojournalist. On a recent media tour our supporter told him about Home For Life, and he wanted to visit. He is very interested in animal issues, and his book "People of the Forest", about orangutans, is not to be missed.

Some of his editorial outlets include Vanity Fair, LIFE, GEO, Time, Newsweek, Wallpaper, Stern, Conde Nast Traveler, National Geographic Traveler, Forbes, AFAR, Vogue Brazil, Elle Canada, Esquire Japan, Harper’s Bazaar, Italian GQ, Marie Claire, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The London Times Travel Magazine, The Los Angeles Times Sunday Magazine, as well as many photography and airline in-flight magazines.

Be sure to see his website and see his instagram for a glimpse of his work, particularly of the orangutans' portraits from his book and from his recent trip to Vietnam! Mark's portraits of the animals of Home For Life Animal Sanctuary were just published LENS Magazine. See the link for that feature. Hard copies of the magazine can be gotten from here




Don't miss his website where his portfolio of photos of the Home for Life Animals was just published! His website is a visual feast, with photos from his shoots from around the world and now his visit to Home for Life is included in his on line portfolio, "Rescues of the Last Resort"