Venus is a beautiful purebred German Shepherd who was born in Iran. In Iran her name is pronounced "Ven-oos" with a short e on the first syllable. She has no ears. In Iran, some people amputate the ears of their dogs,and sometimes their tails, to make them look more formidable,especially if they intend to use the dogs for guarding or protection. Toni, another of Home for Life's dogs who was born in Iran like Venus, was also missing his ears and part of his tail, and one of our paraplegic dogs, Yasmin, from Iran, has only half her tail.
Toni from Vafa Shelter in Tehran, Iran
Venus was surrendered to the Vafa Animal Shelter, a compassionate organization located outside of Tehran that does miraculous work on behalf of Iran's unwanted dogs. Venus was dropped off at the Vafa shelter when she was about age one, in 2009. The Iranian woman who surrendered her told the shelter representatives that Venus was found as a stray when she was just a puppy with a bad case of mange and her ears badly cropped. This kind woman took Venus to the vet for treatment of the mange and was able to help her heal from that condition. She kept Venus in her yard for several months until neighbors started to complain. We're told by Vafa shelter that when someone complains about dogs, there is little leeway given, and the authorities will just appear and confiscate the dogs- it is assumed that that they meet a terrible fate. Not wanting to take any chances with her precious puppy that she had saved and raised, the compassionate woman surrendered her to Vafa Shelter in 2009 when the dog was about age 1. There, she was lovingly cared for, received on going vet care and was altered.
Vafa has an incredible website and Facebook page with many friends from around the world who support their heroic work. Many photos are posted of the dogs in their care by Vafa Staff. It was through Facebook and spying a photo of Venus that the German Shepherd Dog rescue group in Northern California first learned about Venus, inquired about her and offered to take her on. Venus would have been the 2nd case they had taken on from Vafa. The United States representatives for Vafa Shelter made the arrangements for Venus to make the long journey to California all the way from Tehran to a new life in America. When she was about age 4, Venus arrived in California to begin her new life and try her best to find a loving new home in her adopted country.
Everyone was disheartened when, unfortunately, Venus became protective of the foster mom in her new home. Then yet a new problem for Venus - instead of the Shepherd rescue committing to working with a trainer or seeking another home for her, they asked Vafa to take her back! Back to Iran? to Vafa who already had done so much for her and was daily dealing with so many new dogs? It was not possible to think of this outcome for Venus, so one of the representatives from Vafa found a second foster home for her. Thankfully, this home became a long term foster for Venus, and the family figured out how to handle her when they had house guests, although they were not able to commit to her permanently. Vafa featured Venus on their Petfinder page and on the Vafa Facebook and website pages for months without receiving any interest at all. Representatives believe prospective adopters were deterred because of Venus' cropped ears, and admittedly they were cautious about placing Venus in a home that might not be able to manage her and the protective traits she exhibited or worse yet, a placement that would exploit her protective tendencies. The only inquiries that they had received about her were from individuals who didn't appear reputable and who intended to use Venus as a guard dog instead of adopting her as a loved pet and family member.
Vafa Representatives thought long and hard about asking Home for Life to help Venus. By this time Home for Life had developed a close working relationship with the US representatives and were caring for Toni, as well as three other dogs from the shelter who had special needs. To us it seemed odd that prospective adopters would overlook Venus just because of her ears -to us it made her more endearing. Venus had so much intelligence and was so loving with "her" people that Vafa couldn't imagine her ending up in a situation where she wouldn't be appreciated for her potential and best qualities. They worked on us for several months, and at last we thought we had room and could give her a try. Demonstrating their dedication and love for this special dog, the US representative for Vafa, Farah Ravon, flew out with Venus all the way from California to bring her to Home for Life and help get settled. She also had a chance to see our other dogs from Vafa at the same time!
A few weeks later, Venus' long term foster, also from California, visited Home for Life to see how Venus was doing. As hard as it was to give her up,she was so happy to see for herself that Venus had settled into life at the sanctuary and had made many friends, both dogs and people! Initially Venus became a companion to our dog Smokey (of the famous duo River and Smokey: see blog post about them here). River had just died of heart failure, and Smokey who was blind missed his companion of 11 years: River was deaf and Smokey blind and they had become eyes and ears for one another. When River passed away at the age of 12, Smokey was bereft, so to meet Venus within a few weeks of this loss was a great comfort to him. Through the late summer and Fall of 2014, Smokey and Venus resided in the townhouse that Smokey had shared with River, and became close friends.
As winter approached it seemed that Smokey started to fail: the sharp bite of cold in the air seemed to wear him out, and he suddenly grew more frail as if overnight. Venus seemed worried, and it was clear we would need to move him from the townhouse to the main dog building were he could be watched more closely. Because Smokey's fragile condition , we moved him to the main dog building entrance where he could be easily monitored . But for Venus, we thought she would enjoy the opportunity to live with more active dogs, and introduced her to Diego and his pals. It was a great success, and even more graceful a transition because Venus could still visit with Smokey through the fence of the adjoining runs where they can smell and hear each other, and where Venus can see her old friend.
One great feature of the dogs we have helped from Vafa is their lack of dog aggression. They all are well socialized and do superbly well with other dogs . Venus quickly made friends with Diego, who was happy to have a new running companion, and is also close with Tracy, Mack and Meyer, Emily the bassador and Candi, the blind lab/hound mix. Venus shows compassion and concern for the more fragile members of her new pack like our seniors Mack and Meyer, but also has the energy to run in the larger fenced areas now more accessible to her with the more active dogs of her group like Tracy and Diego.
Venus is such a smart dog and has so much love to give. Now that she is safe at Home for Life, we were eager to find an outlet for her kindness and intelligence. We were so happy when one of our volunteers chose Venus to work with at the Minneapolis VA Hospital's Polytrauma Unit, one of just four such facilities in the country. Our volunteers and Home for Life therapy dogs visit the soldiers who have returned from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflict with terrible injuries and who are facing long term rehabilitation challenges. Our volunteer had long worked with two of our dobermans from Home for Life: Simon and then Shane, one of Home for Life's dobermans in this Home for Life outreach program. Simon can no longer participate because he suffers from Wobbler's Disease and, we lost Shane suddenly this summer due to cancer. Simon's absence and now Shane's loss were keenly felt by all at the VA PolyTrauma Unit and the volunteer who had worked with both dogs.
This spring, our HFL volunteers visited the sanctuary to find a new dog to work in our program serving the VA Poly Trauma patients. After meeting several of our dogs that afternoon, the volunteer settled on Venus, hoping that her story of survival and her Mideastern origins would be aspects that the soldiers would find interesting and be able to relate to. Also, the soldiers identify with the "manly" breeds like our Dobermans and German Shepherds who are often involved in military and police work. Our volunteer will soon begin the process with Venus to become a certified therapy team so she may continue Simon's and Shane's legacy of service to our brave soldiers.
Update :Winter, 2015-2016
This fall, 2015, Venus successfully passed her therapy dog certification,working with her volunteer partner, Home for Life volunteer Christine! Congratulations to Venus and Chris! Venus and Chris have now commenced regular visits to the patients of the Minneapolis VA Hospital Poly-trauma Unit where Venus is a favorite of the staff and patients.
If you would like to sponsor Venus, please fill out a form here.
Chris and Venus outside the Minneapolis VA Hospital
Venus and Shannon, a rehabilitation therapist at the
Minneapolis VA Hospital Poly-trauma Unit