Above is Shoja at the Vafa Animal Shelter, Tehran in October 2015.
Above and below is Shoja, mid-January 2016 at Home for Life!
Many people have been touched by the photos of one of Home for Life's® dogs, Shoja, who had obviously been through so much in his short life before coming to the sanctuary.
Shoja, which means brave in Persian, lost one of his hind legs after it was crushed when he was run over by a car. He was found on the side of a road, laying in the snow. He also had both his ears and tail cut off by some cruel person before being rescued by Vafa. While recovering from the amputation of his crushed leg Shoja, unfortunately, contracted distemper. In this emaciated condition he was lucky to survive but now finds it difficult to walk and has a constant tremor.
Shoja is a sighthound mix. He is meant to be slender but had not had decent food or enough of it for a long while at the time he was found. The shocking condition he was in is more shocking when he is contrasted to the beautiful white Saluki in the video Vafa sent, asking for help on Shoja’s behalf Shoja was in such a distressed state yet still smiling despite all he had been through, his short life revealing the courage and forgiving hearts of dogs.
The team at Vafa wrote with his rescue story,
"Shoja was found by a guy who was driving on the Tabriz to Qazvin road right before Persian new year in mid-March, 20915. Apparently Shoja was hit by a car and was laying in the snow and in the middle of the road by the retaining wall. Vafa Qazvin( the newly opened 2nd shelter) team received the call and plea for help. His leg was crushed. The shelter vet put him on antibiotics right away to avoid infection until he was seen by Tehran clinic (as our regular vet was away on holidays). That's where they decided to have the leg amputated. Unfortunately, he suffered from distemper following surgery."
Shoja had obviously suffered much, and has had a very difficult life. At the time he was found at only age 2, he had already endured starvation and neglect, the cruel amputation of his ears and tail, being struck by a car and then distemper.
Unlike all the Vafa dogs we have received to date, who have always been at good weight with beautiful coats, Shoja was obviously malnourished and not rebounding even with the good care he received at Vafa. He has a tic as a result of his bout with distemper and found it very difficult to get around. He seemed so exhausted in the photos we saw of him while he was in Iran and was suffering from significant and infected pressure sores on his remaining hind leg. To be only age two, the prime of life in dogs and look as he did only a few months ago was heartbreaking to see.
Once Shoja arrived, we went to work to restore his health and happiness. A complete medical workup revealed normal bloodwork but he was wormed as a precaution, He has steadily gained weight to cover his ribs which had stuck out like a washboard when he first came to us. With great new nutrition, his coat now has a healthy sheen instead of looking like a scrub brush, standing on end, harsh and dull. Most importantly his energy has returned. Shoja was holding his life together before by sheer will to live- it’s a near miracle he was able to keep his soul in his body with how weak he had become. Although he will always bear the marks of his previous hard life- the shorn ears and amputated tail, the tic- a lasting effect of the distemper he survived and the difficulty walking—a three-legged dog and with a healed back injury which left him in a permanently crouched position when walking—he is now a happy and strong dog who can walk without a cart and looks for an opportunity to get in trouble when he can—that mischievous spark against the backdrop of his previous years before arriving at Home for Life® is good to see—a sign of life and will.
Shoja's roommate is another prickly pear of a dog, Robin, a shepherd mix who was transported from the south to try her luck to find an adoptive home at the local humane society. But the skills Robin needed to survive her years of being unwanted and abandoned while living in the south didn’t translate well to shelter life nor selling herself as a potential adoption candidate: too feisty, too self-protective. At only three years old, she was scheduled for euthanasia and was without rescue offers when Home for Life® offered to help her, unwilling to see another young dog become a sad statistic. The contrast between Robin’s shelter photo and the happy joyful dog who is Shoja’s best girl is striking to see So the local rescue and the rescue from a world away have found friendship and happiness at the sanctuary—both had similar experiences and needed the same understanding and time to heal, physically in the case of the more resilient Shoja, mentally and emotionally for the sensitive Robin.
The obvious question is why Home for Life® would take a dog who lived thousands of miles away in another country? When we heard Shoja's story and took one look at his photos, we couldn't disregard him just because of where he was born. No matter where he came from, it was obvious he had few options and desperately needed our help. As the writer, Maya Angelou wrote, "Love recognizes no barriers. It jumps over hurdles, leaps fences, penetrates walls to arrive at its destination full of hope."
Part of Home for Life's® mission is showing what's possible—that animals like Shoja CAN live a great life if just given the opportunity, in a setting suited for their needs. Animals like him (and we help many like him from the United States too!) deserve a chance and want to live, but adoption into a typical home is not an option. While shelters and rescues focus on the "adoptable" (a malleable term depending on whom you're talking with) dogs and cats, few opportunities are available for special animals like Shoja. Home for Life®, the third door in animal welfare, provides a loving, life-saving, and innovative alternative for animals who may never find an adoptive home, but for whom euthanasia is premature and inhumane.
In different ways, Shoja and his roommate Robin are similar in what they have overcome. Shoja had a strong and resilient spirit and survived the neglect and abuse while Robin wasn't physically maltreated but was still traumatized by her abandonment and processing through the rescue and shelter procedures to be offered for adoption and couldn't cope emotionally. That inability to weather all she had been through might have resulted in her death. For different reasons, both needed Home for Life® to heal and in the process, whose stories started out worlds away from each other found common ground, fun, and friendship at our sanctuary.
Below are pictures of Shoja's roommate Robin.
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