Home for Life's Winter Appeal: Giving Animals a Place to Belong $30,000 Matching grant! Deadline: March 1

Above: Our winter appeal once again will 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"

I Hear With My Heart

It’s a story that could only have happened at Home for Life.®

It’s a story that lifts the heart. But you will not see this world exclusive in any newspaper or TV show. These days, news presses in on us from all directions—bad news, confusing news, sad news, stories that cause outrage or kill hope—leaving us shell-shocked and exhausted. This barrage of alerts and updates, vying for our attention 24/7, presents a world in chaos.

But there are other stories going on in the world that are just as real and just as crucial, and perhaps more worthy of our attention. These are the stories that restore our hope by touching our hearts, reminding us that our ability to care is the greatest power we have for repairing the world.

Last year, Home for Life® became center stage for one such story, when the paths of two beleaguered dogs met at our sanctuary. This is the story of Henry and Georgia, who suffered years of rejection, fear, and isolation before finding acceptance, companionship, and a home together at our sanctuary.

Two of a Kind

This miraculous outcome began in the typical way that a journey starts for dogs and cats who are unwanted in the shelter and rescue system. Shelters and rescues focus their efforts on adoption, fostering, training, food banks, and vet care, all in the name of closing the gaps in the animal welfare system. But all too often the biggest unmet need of all goes unnoticed: the thousands of dogs and cats who circulate in and out of the shelter and rescue system without ever finding a stable permanent home—animals like Henry and Georgia.

HENRY, a purebred border collie, is a blue-eyed ginger. He’s also epileptic and deaf. Originally taken in by border collie rescue, he was placed in a home that turned out to be a disaster. His “family” locked him in a crate where he sat for hours every day in his own urine. He was left isolated and only sporadically fed. His epilepsy also went untreated. When he was finally removed from this cruel situation, his whole belly and chest were bald from urine scald. Thankfully, an incredible young law student in Minneapolis learned of his situation and took charge of him, despite her busy schedule and two other dogs. She got him the medical care he needed and gave him a loving home. But then she got a job that involved long hours, travel, and a move to Chicago that disrupted Henry’s stability. She tried without success to find a new person to take him in. Henry needed a miracle to have another chance at life, but would he find it?

GEORGIA had a much different start in life than Henry, yet she still wound up circulating through the system, never finding a secure and permanent home. Georgia is a smooth coat collie mix, aged 6 or 7. She was rescued 4 years ago from a reservation in New Mexico and ended up in a shelter in that state. From there, she was accepted into the training program of International Hearing Dog (IHD), a Colorado nonprofit that trains dogs to help hearing impaired people navigate the world by alerting them to such occurrences as doorbells, a knock on the door, the phone, and many other auditory cues. Although she is a shy dog, Georgia is also very smart and tries hard at everything she attempts. It was no surprise that she did well in IHD’s 8 month long comprehensive training program to become a certified hearing dog.

Upon successfully completing her training, Georgia was placed out of state with a hearing-impaired man and his son. They lived in a basement apartment within a house. Georgia performed her hearing work well, and the man and his son bonded with her. However, she became increasingly reactive to people visiting their apartment. Her family felt she was “aggressive” to their guests. She started barking at sounds and soon the man’s landlord complained. This behavior was unlike anything IHD had seen from Georgia during her time in their program, and it was causing great stress for the man she was there to help. So, Georgia returned to the IHD facility where she was re-evaluated. IHD assessed that her posturing was due to a lack of confidence and lack of understanding about what she “should be doing.” Since a hearing dog’s role is a demanding one, IHD determined Georgia would fare better as a pet companion where she would face fewer expectations.

IHD next adopted Georgia to a family (father, mother, son, and daughter). They were, of course, candid with the family about Georgia’s shyness and aggressive posturing when she felt threatened. Again, Georgia bonded with the family but later became protective. The family worked with an animal behaviorist but eventually decided to throw in the towel and returned Georgia to IHD.

The staff at IHD were saddened by all Georgia had been through. They contacted Home for Life with a letter, saying: “Georgia is a very sweet girl. We feel that we have served her poorly by putting her repeatedly into situations that were not aligned with her nature. When given permission to be herself and the space to simply choose not to engage in a situation, she is loving and happy and even playful. We do not know what happened during the first three years of Georgia’s life on the Reservation, but she was a timid and scared girl when we first met her. We have thought about and discussed what is best for Georgia and tried to explore all her options. We have come to the decision that a sanctuary lifestyle without the demands and expectations of a typical companion pet will allow her the best option to live a quality life with a sense of security and contentment.”

The director of IHD, herself, wrote of Georgia: “Our brave girl, who tries so hard, is a sweet dog, but her fear and anxiety are profound. I have so much I would love to share with you about her. I have worked with dogs for three decades. Never have I seen a dog so in need of a forever home—a home for life.”

How to Save Them All

Animals carry the psychological scars of their past. It is hard enough to reassure any traumatized animal who has been through so much, let alone one like Henry who cannot hear. It is difficult to engage the trust of a dog like Georgia who has become hypersensitive to noises, and who is on edge in this world. Yet even the most timid or dejected dog or cat can still find a way to trust and feel loved again. With their heightened perception and sensitivity, animals navigate the world. Animals don’t comprehend or care about mission statements or strategic plans, but surely understand authenticity and discern without fail when they are cherished and safe.

Our hearts went out to these two beautiful dogs who had suffered neglect, fear, loneliness, and repeated rejection—two dogs with the same desperate struggle to find a place to belong. Their individual journeys took them through breed rescue, animal shelters, rehabilitation, specialized training, foster homes, and multiple placements. Yet they remained at risk.

Home for Life® was established to welcome animals like Henry and Georgia, and so many other cats and dogs who fail to find or keep homes. The plight of these dogs and cats has continued to confound the animal welfare world charged with helping them. Home for Life® has an innovative solution to help these special animals—a new idea that we call “the 3rd Door”—the care-for-life sanctuary, where their hearts can heal.

Henry and Georgia have been given a new start and a new life at our sanctuary, where they have found acceptance, loving care, stability, and friendship. Henry had been at Home for Life® for about two months at the time Georgia arrived. He came to our sanctuary shy and reticent, not ready to engage with other dogs. He settled in, but had not found any canine pals yet.

When we agreed to accept Georgia at the sanctuary, we never thought that she might be a possible friend for Henry. But, she was a herding breed, like him, and of similar age. Henry also seemed perfect for Georgia. She had become sensitive to noise and, being deaf, Henry was not a barker. In time, a bond began to form between them. They developed an understanding and partnership. Georgia expresses affection for Henry by touching noses with him and shouldering him in a comradely fashion when they run in the fields together. To see Henry and Georgia so happy together at last after all they have been through feels like a miracle. Their bond transcends their challenging pasts, and even Henry’s disability.

Hearing with the Heart

It seems like a miracle that the two dogs who came to Home for Life® have been so happy, after all they have been through and all the options tried for them. But when all else is gone or wrecked, these dogs can still hear with their hearts.

Our ability to help dogs like Henry and Georgia is not a result of luck. All that we accomplish starts with the belief that led to the founding of Home for Life® 23 years ago: animals who need us are not a problem to be solved, but an untapped treasure. We believe in the significance of every life we care for, and that the life of each cat and dog counts.

That perspective is transformative, a premise that creates miracles—from establishing and taking new ground for the most vulnerable cats and dogs, to creating a safer world for all animals by showing what’s possible, to reaching out to the community through our animals who serve as ambassadors for our mission and conviction that all life is valuable. As a supporter said to me in an email message, “Home for Life® is a sanctuary for us too because you show that there is still kindness and compassion in the world.”

And we show that miracles are still possible. Henry, the deaf dog, isolated in his own world, who must have been lonely and lost after his odyssey through rescues and placements, now has his very own friend and hearing service dog in Georgia. Henry who really didn’t like other dogs, found a steadfast companion in Georgia, and she found a job and outlet for all her hard work and training. Hearing with the heart made the miracle possible—a miracle that could have only happened at Home for Life.®

Heartfelt stories like Henry and Georgia’s are ones you, our supporters, have made possible and continue to help us create at Home for Life.® They are the stories and the miraculous outcomes that resonate with us, and that lift our hearts in these challenging times. We all need more good news and stories we can hear with our hearts.

With gratitude,

In memory of Raha by Vafa Animal Shelter

When Reza Davari and Mohammad Reza Raminnia went to a small town in Abhar to rescue an injured dog, they saw a calm dog that had lost half of its face. The village residents told them that on "Charshanbeh Soori" (firework festival), some people tied firecrackers to his snout so that they might laugh a little and have fun with the explosion.

Volunteers named him Ghahreman (hero) and transferred him to the Vafa shelter. But unfortunately, his condition was not well, and he could not eat, so he was sent to Tehran several times for treatment. Finally, in Vafa, they did everything possible for him, but after receiving admission from the Home for Life® sanctuary, Gahreman(AKA Raha) left Iran for America.

Farah Azari and Majid Hooshmand were with him at the Tehran airport. Then, a kind passenger took him to Toronto. Finally, Raha arrived in Toronto on August 4, 2017, and Vafa's friends in Toronto welcomed him. They were all upset to see such cruelty inflicted upon an innocent creature. Mr. Touraj fostered him for a few days, and Vafa's friends did not leave him alone for a moment until Amir and Farnoosh finally sent him to America.

In "Home for Life®," Raha had freedom. The staff and volunteers did everything for him during his five years there. Raha was about eight years old when he arrived in the United States. Burning half of his face, losing an eye, having a severe mouth infection, and arthritis were not the only illnesses he faced.

With a deformed face and sticking tongue, he soon became a prominent figure, The symbol of a victim, the victim of the ignorance of those who have not been taught that the life of other creatures on earth must be respected. They have not been taught that life for every animal on the planet is sweet and that even if you do not appreciate all life, at least do not harm them. These individuals have not heard that Gandhi once said, "The greatness of a nation can be judged by the way its animals are treated."

Raha became famous. He was one of the most popular dogs at Home for Life® at every party and event. Famous and prominent figures in various fields, such as Jane Goodall, the ambassador of the United Nations and animal behavior scientist, and Ashley Judd, the Hollywood actress, have a photo with him.

Although Raha was happy and had a good life in Home for Life®, his problems worsened as he got older, until he died in early April 2022. We thank our friends at Home for Life® for their love and kindness, efforts to alleviate the suffering of injured animals, and everything they did for Raha.

Dear Raha, we will never forget you.
Rest in peace, innocent soul.
Home For Life® Animal Sanctuary

All Good Dogs Go to Heaven: In Loving Memory of Raha

Raha, the most recognized animal at Home for Life®, passed away at the sanctuary about 10 days ago.

Above: Raha as he looked when first arriving at Home for Life®. He couldn't open his mouth more than a centimeter due to the scar tissue from the firecracker trauma and he was slowly starving to death

Raha was estimated to be 13 or 14 years old. He was suffering from severe arthritis and on the maximum amount of medication to treat the condition plus special food for arthritic dogs, had sessions of cold laser therapy each week and slept on his own orthopedic cushion. All these therapies, however, did not relieve his discomfort, and he seemed to be in alot of pain in the last 2-3 days of his life. In the end, Raha had stopped eating and was breathing very heavily, from the abdomen, yet bloodwork including a 4DX to check for tick borne illnesses, was normal. We had also had him reevaluated at the University of Minnesota Vet Hospital, to check for condtions like immune mediated arthritis.

Raha meets Dr Jane Goodall at our 2018 Gala

The recommendation was for Raha to lose some weight. For a dog who had suffered so much in his life, it was important to be sure he did not endure a painful end so we chose to let him pass peacefully with help to cross. Near the end he was very detached which was so unlike the Raha we knew. He was at the end of his life and ready to let go. At this point, further intervention would have been for us and not for him.

Above: Raha served as a therapy dog in our Peace Creatures program

Already older, probably over age 8 when he came to Home for Life in the summer of 2017, and already arthritic, Raha had lived the hard life of a street dog in Iran for many years. Someone had already cut his ears off. Older, slower moving and friendly towards people, he was vulnerable and became a victim of shocking cruelty that left him with terrible facial deformities. The firecrackers that had been tied in his mouth and then set off did not explode but caused extensive trauma including severe burning to the tissues. When he arrived at Home for Life®, we found that he was suffering from a terrible infection and couldn't open his mouth more than a centimeter. Vafa Animal Shelter, who had taken him in after he was injured, were feeding him with a syringe but Raha was a big dog and needed far more calories than could possibly be administered that way. He was slowly starving to death.

Above: Raha with his friend Tux

It took us months of intense rehabilitation and a complicated surgery but Home for Life® was able to save Raha's life with the help of many skilled veterinarians, and we also gave him a life. In spite of what had happened to him, Raha still loved people and served as one of our therapy dogs until he became too arthritic to ride in a car and move around comfortably at our outreach sites. He even had some brushes with fame, meeting actress Ashley Judd and Dr Jane Goodall at Home for Life's® galas. We could have never imagined the impact Raha would have on so many people when Vafa asked us to help him back in 2017.

Above: Raha rolls in the dandelions last year. We're sad that he will miss spring this year but where he is the flowers are brighter and the grass smells sweet.

Raha was so well known because of the evil he had survived which maimed him so horribly. But he wasn't a victim and I think that he overcame the injustice that he had suffered is what touched the hearts of anyone who met him. Thanks to the many people who were inspired by Raha and who loved him as we did Home for Life® was able to ensure that the brutality inflicted on him never defined him and was not the end of his story. Raha's beautiful smile and his soul will always live in the hearts of those who cared about him.

Above: Raha in the light. We will never forget you, Raha. Rest in peace.