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.