Beauty & Fashion Tips from the Animals at Home for Life

In the world of rescue, providing dogs and cats with services like grooming or giving them a nice collar, let alone a coat, might be considered to be superficial details that cost money and are not essential to the mission of saving animal lives.

With a rescue or shelter, saving lives means to process the animals efficiently, spaying neutering then finding the animals new homes as fast as possible to make room for the next dogs or cats that need help. Success is defined in the numbers of animals helped in as short a time as possible , so to give an animal a utilitarian collar identifying them with a number is not an issue. If an animal is lucky enough to get adopted,the new owner can be expected to provide all the nice things which show an animal is loved and cared for.

A sanctuary's mission of saving lives,however, takes on a different expression than a shelter or rescue moving animals through to adoption. As a care for life sanctuary, Home for Life's animals come to us because they have not made it in the adoption world. Many people might think of our cats and dogs as flawed in some way because they could not find a home or could not stay in the one they had. How to make these animals no one wants seem worthy of support, of having lives worth saving?If you believe beauty is skin deep try going to your next party wearing your sweats and no make up. We wish you luck and hope all present will see thru to the real you. Real beauty might come from within , but who's going to give you a chance to show your true colors if you look like a pitiful slob? And so it is with the animals we care for. Few people would be able to see the true beauty of our cats and dogs or be inspired to help them if we presented them in boring choke chains or gritty old webbed collars. It starts with how we take care of our animals on the ground, at the sanctuary and then how we represent our animals in our newsletters and on our website and social media avenues. Forgoing the little gestures which express our recognition of the individuality of our animals does little to foster our conviction with our staff, supporters or the public that each of our cats and dogs is worthy of life and still has much to live for and much to give, even if they have been unable to find an adoptive home.

At Home for Life, our animals know that it is important to look as good as you feel. And once a dog and cat comes to Home for Life, how they feel is that they are cherished. They feel cherished because of the many efforts made on their behalf including but not limited to those efforts made to help them look their best. These efforts don't mean we turn our animals into fur people, and dress them in clothes and jewelry a la Tinkerbell Hilton. There's a fine line between a furbaby in a dress and honoring the individuality of an animal to bring out the best in them. This feeling of being cherished because they have a collar that is pretty and their very own, that someone cared to make them look wonderful, and to give them a warm coat so they look great and are comfortable- imparts an unmistakable sense of self esteem in our animals. They carry themselves taller, with pride,their sweet faces relax and lose the look of worry, fear or anger. They're no longer unwanted,homeless, a problem, a bother, no longer a number, no longer a nameless face, a statistic in a category (unadoptable). The beauty tip best illustrated by the animals of Home for Life is to be loved and cherished for who you are!


One strategy we have of representing the individuality of our animals is through my little hobby of finding beautiful collars for our dogs. I have found great collars for our dogs from all over the United States and many parts of the world including Australia and Canada. Illustrating our devotion to finding collars that present our dogs at their finest, we have our paraplegic Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Audrey Hepburn modelling her " glamour & pin up girl" collar from Lucky Pup Designs of Los Angeles. These are great,well made leather collars which Margaret of Lucky Pup has generously provided to us at cost for many of our dogs. She uses enamel pictovision decals to give each collar its unique look.For example, one of our dogs Roo wears a "storybook dogs" pictovision collar by LuckyPup. This themed collar seemed so apropos for Roo,a large terrier mix,who came to us from Alabama at age 4. He was born with short and deformed front legs and actually has two feet on one of his legs but somehow has not only survived but thrived, his sunny nature intact, without the benefit of even a cart to help him get around.( he now has his own custom made front wheel cart). If that isn't a storybook dog(with a happy ending at Home for Life!) what is? Because he's a boy dog and is white with black patches, we chose black leather for him. The glamour girl collar with red leather was perfect for Audrey with her aristocratic heritage as a cavalier and sweet face and after all, she was named after a movie star. A closer look at the collar is at right, above, and the finishing touch was an enamel, feminine red flower tag with her name and Home for Life's phone and address.Next, modelling the hand painted "Dog Faces" collar by, also of Los Angeles, is senior epileptic chow cross Fozzie Bear. As Fozzie's story recounts, he was always the unwanted, nondescript,shy brown dog in the background at the shelter. The Fozz was eight years old when he finally found a home for life at our sanctuary, and we knew he needed a one of a kind collar to wear as a symbol underscoring that he would always be unique to us, instead of the unwanted,overlooked mutt he had always been. Becky at Heroes and Tails concurred that it was time our Fozzie had a distinctive collar of his very own,and came through with the colorful dog faces collar for him. She insisted on donating the collar for him. The whimsical detail and craftsmanship are easy to see in the photo alongside Fozzie, who is acting like he's a celebrity being chased by paparazzi trying to get a photo of what he is wearing.


Antoinette and Vicki are Home for Life's groomers, and are at the sanctuary every week to groom both cats and dogs. They rotate through all the animals so that each of the dogs is bathed and groomed about every 3-6 weeks. Dogs like our two standard poodles Jacques and Channing , our rough coated collie Fay, our St. Bernard Bert, and our two shelties Bandit and Monty and our old english sheepdog Shakespeare need more frequent grooming but grooming for dogs like Candi who is a big lab/hound mix , is important as well. Home for Life considers routine grooming for our animals a necessity and not a luxury and essential to our animals' health as well as their beauty. Vicki ,left is with Bandit, a senior sheltie, and below is Antoinette with Candi, a giant hound/lab mix.

At grooming sessions, ears are checked and cleaned, nailes are trimmed and every inch of the animal is gone over to check for bumps,lumps and other concerns. Grooming is something Home for Life has always provided for our dogs and cats from the day we started as we believe it's essential for our animals' health as well as their appearance.We have our own small grooming salon on site so our dogs and cats can be groomed at home to reduce stress for them: our groomers bring their own shears,clippers and combs but our grooming room is equipped with a cage dryer,tub,K9 blow dryer and hydraulic grooming table.We have all seen animals in rescues or shelters who are identified as a particular breed but who are unrecognizable because their fur is so grown out or matted. We don't have show dogs at Home for Life but a poodle should look like a poodle and not a chewbacca, a schnauzer should look like they are supposed to, with eyebrows and whiskers, instead of a like a buckthorn bush. Dogs are embarrassed when they look awful,dirty and overgrown, and they know the difference between being uncared for and unkempt and looking sharp, with clean fur and an appropriate haircut. Our cats who may be old or arthritic or who, for other reasons cannot properly groom themselves, appreciate the attention and care when dead fur is combed out,mats removed, and they are bathed and blown dry so their coat is clean,soft and fluffy. Mats,dirty ears and over grown nails hurt and impact the health of skin and even the ability to walk comfortably. Routine grooming keeps all our animals looking AND feeling their best.

MORE COLLARS....Sometimes collars convey the essence of one of our dogs to someone meeting them for the first time. For example, Heroes & Tails also made a gift of these collars for two of our dobermans, Shane and Simon. Becky calls them the "Inspire" collection, and they are blue leather with gold embossed lettering.( She has also made one that says "Peace" in multi-colors for our rednose pitbull Redmond-what a great message for those to see who meet Redmond,a pitbull yes, but a gentle soul with his own stuffed toy animal collection).

The collars she gave to Home for Life's Shane and Simon say "Brave", and they are especially meaningful for two reasons. First,both dogs survived very neglectful homes.Shane was tied to a 3 foot chain attached to a pole, and this is how he lived from the age of a few months to when he was rescued by Doberman Rescue in Pennsylvania. Shane ate,slept and went to the bathroom,all within the circumference of this short chain,and that was his life. Doberman Rescue asked us to help Shane as he had no idea of how to behave as a normal dog or how to live in a home. He has made great strides since coming to Home for Life,but will always bear the psychic scars from the neglect he suffered as a puppy and young dog. Simon,one of our red dobermans, endured a similar neglectful history as a puppy and young dog which nearly broke his spirit but he prevailed because of his brave heart. Both dogs earned these collars that they wear. Second, both dogs serve as therapy dogs, helping soldiers recovering from war related injuries at the Minneapolis VA Polytrauma Unit,one of just four such facilities in the entire country. Brave are what our two dogs are, and bravery is what we hope they inspire in the patients they help at the Poly trauma unit .

COATS OF MANY COLORS... and some more great collars

When cold weather and snow arrive at Home for Life, out comes the wardrobe of coats, in array of colors and in every size to fit all of our dogs. Here, Dodi, our epileptic Harlequin great Dane, enjoys a snowy January day in her royal blue Weatherbeeta coat. The blue coat with light blue trim matches her martingale collar by Wiggles,Wags and Whiskers, of Michigan AND her blue eye( Dodi has one brown eye and one blue eye) for a striking,color coordinated effect. Dodi has very short hair so must wear a coat to be able to enjoy outdoor activities in the winter. This coat she is wearing is actually a coat made for a foal(as in horse); she was too big for even the largest dog coat from the Weatherbeeta collection but they also make great coats for horses so their foal coat fit her perfectly;we only had to take up the straps a bit. Dodi has two or three of these foal coats in varying shades of blue so she can always be outfitted if one is in the wash.

Ashley, a paraplegic chow mix, relies on her own fuzzy black fur coat to stay warm,but because of the way her back and pelvis were injured, she must wear snow pants when out of her cart. Due to the injury she suffered when only a puppy, Ashley's hind legs extend out in front of her when she is not in her cart. When she is outside,as she loves to be in the winter, but not in her cart, her seat and backs of her legs would be subject to frostbite and sores if not protected from the snow and cold. What to do? Our ingenious staff came up with the idea of snow pants: Ashley wears size 2T( T for toddler), and we buy them at stores like Once Upon a Child,where good quality used children's clothing is sold. They work perfectly to protect her while outside as they are warm and waterproof; we cut a hole out for the tail, insert diapers( which are checked every 2 hours to be sure they are clean) and tape them around the waist to hold them up. Voila! Ashley can enjoy the winter season whether in her cart or out,and looks as fetching as can be! Here she models her red velvet snow pants with FAUX ermine fur trim.

Ashley's friend chok dee, is a sleek street dog who came from a dog rescue in Phuket, Thailand where it's always near 90 degrees. chok dee was rescued after he had been in hit by a car and left paraplegic. The policeman who rescued him from the streets of Phuket brought him to,and then, they asked Home for Life to help him due to his paralysis. chok dee was able to adapt to a cart and a new climate:here he is in January of this year, as he explores our big field in his custom made Eddie's Wheels cart and multi-colored Weatherbeeta coat.

Faith, Home for Life's albino dalmation who is deaf, also has very short hair as can be noted in the photo of her on the left,below,in which she poses in her beautiful Furrybeads collar made especially for her by Wagababa of Vancouver, Canada. These collars are made of smooth wooden beads in every color with dyes that are used for children's toys, so we know they're safe for our dogs too. The beads are very durable and are comfortable for the dogs to wear. Faith looks like the Flintstones' Betty Rubble in her Furrybeads collar which, with its beads of blue in many hues matches her blue eye( Faith also has one blue eye and one brown eye), and the beads are striking against her tan spotted coat.To emphasize her feminine qualities, Faith wears a hot pink dog tag with her name, and Home for Life's phone and address. All of Home for Life's dogs wear dog tags in different shapes,although many wear the heart shape( for loved!); the tags are not only functional but add a nice color counterpoint or spot of color coordination for the collars. And to complete the ensemble, Faith likes to wear a warm, quilted Weatherbeeta dog coat in the winter so she can keep up with her best friend, sheep dog mix Stella, who can rely on her own shaggy coat to keep her warm in the winter.

Joey Boxer is a white boxer who came to Home for Life from the Animal Welfare League of Chicago. Joey, a gentle and loving dog, has struggled with severe colitis( known as boxer colitis, an autoimmune disease),the reason he was surrendered to Home for Life, and longs to live like a normal dog. It can be quite frustrating to care for him,but thanks to his doctors at the University of Minnesota Veterinary Hospital he has made great progress towards what we hope will be a full recovery. He too has very short fur and wears a Weatherbeeta coat when outside.Now that he is heavier he only wears his coat when outside, but when he first arrived at Home for Life, he was so thin due to his disease that he shivered even in the mellow fall weather, and wore a coat round the clock to help him stay warm.His collar, another gift from Heroes and Tails is hand painted and,says "I am Loved." It can be hard to take care of him as he struggles to get better (he is fighting debilitating diarrhea, a symptom of the disease) but is always grateful for the care he receives;the collar reminds us that we are fighting the battle with him to help him get better, in spite of the challenges invloved in his care, because he is loved.

Marco, above ,a senior Italian Greyhound, favors the Fido Fleece coats. Even though most of the photos in this blog entry are of our Weatherbeeta collection, rest assured Home for Life also has MANY Fido Fleece coats -also in a multitude of different color combinations and styles, and all available for our dogs to use. We do find that, in general, the big dogs seem to prefer the Weatherbeeta coats while our smaller dogs prefer the Fido Fleece, though exceptions to the rule exist. As Marco's photo discloses, the dogs who favor Fido Fleece appreciate the sleeves and high neck of these coats, which afford extra warmth although they do have to put up with having their two forepaws through the leg holes when they get dressed, to achieve the look .

Tom and Sheba,below, are two senior dogs ( Best Friends part 2) whose owner gave them up when she moved out of state, and the adoptive home she thought she had found for them decided against taking them. They landed in a shelter, then came to Home for Life when they failed to find homes,and started to decline from anxiety and despair. After such a close call,both dogs have found a new lease on life, and seem to make the most of every day. We wanted to get them special collars so that they would know they would not have to face abandonment ever again. As both dogs are strong and still active for their age, we needed durable collars that would look great despite the dogs' love of play and of being outdoors. We chose leather collars by DOGLA of Gig Harbor, Washington. The collars are the same burgandy leather for this bonded pair of dogs but different designs:for Sheba, a husky mix, silver and crystal flowers and for Tom a dingo with chocolate fur and white socks, silver x's and o's- to signify kisses and hugs! Both dogs are hardy but their Weatherbeeta coats keep them warm and cozy. We find that older dogs appreciate the extra insulation of a warm coat even if they enjoy the winter weather.

* not seen in this blog post,but another great collar designer we recommend is Hamisch McBeth of Australia


All cats are beautiful, and even the smallest kitten seems born knowing how to keep their fur and whiskers immaculate. Is there any cuter sight than a little kitten using her paw to wash her face? We would never suggest that the great beauty of Home for Life's cats could be improved upon by a collar,but thoughtfully selected, a collar can enhance their natural feline attributes. For example black cat Jonathan models a gold lame collar in this photo taken shortly before the holidays last year. For Christmas he received a new blue collar with a bow tie. The collars come close to doing him justice but also serve another important function at a sanctuary like Home for Life where we have many black cats. All our staff are expected to know the cats by name. Eventually it becomes easy to identify them by facial features,subtle variations in coat color or length, but initially, so many black cats can be overwhelming for new employees. The collars our black cats wear (and actually many of our orange cats-we have a lot of those too) help make learning all the individuals much easier.

Lynx point siamese Blueberry doesn't need a collar to stand out, but a blue collar with a matching blue bell helps bring out the blue in her eyes and just keeps the "blue" motif going among her name, her eyes and the collar .

I will end this blog post with Peaches the cat, who is not only beautiful but unusual. Most cats with orange fur are males. When she was barely a year old Peaches was shot in the back with a bebee gun and was left a paraplegic and incontinent. Her disability could have easily overshadowed her beauty but Peaches' spirit is unbroken in the face of this great injustice which occurred so early in her life. With her physical strength and determination, she gets around wherever she needs to go, including outside in the cat run and in the grass to help me when I weed the flower gardens. We have had to keep her long flaming red fur in a lion cut to help facilitate keeping her clean. Because Peaches insists on moving around despite her paralysis, we have had to come up with some accomodations for her to protect her from pressure sores and contamination (See Special Cats get Special Care at Home for Life) . Our paraplegic cats don't use carts (they don't like the restriction and won't accept it like dogs will) but instead pull themselves with their front legs even climbing up the cat trees. When we clean the floors they are put up on a couch or temporarily caged til the floors are dry. At night they also sleep in a large cage so they don't have to wear diapers, and their skin can breathe and be in air. During the majority of the day, however, Peaches is afforded as much freedom as she wants. To accomplish this goal for her while protecting her skin at the pressure points, we came up with the idea of having her wear a baby "onesie" and diapers to protect her from germs and her skin from abrasions. Cats have no shoulders so the outfit is secured at the waist with tape. it's fun to find pretty outfits for her,and Peaches has become resigned to her morning routine of getting dressed because she has come to know that once dressed she will be free to enjoy the rest of her day. Home for Life's fashion and beauty strategies may seem superficial but in fact, all these special efforts demonstrate the care that is the hallmark of the sanctuary and ensure that animals like Peaches can live the healthiest, most active life possible.