Lucky Dog!

Revisiting Iran's first animal shelter


Lucky Dog!
by kfravon

I could hardly wait to go back to Hashtgerd near Karaj for another visit with the beautiful dogs and the amazing staff at Vafa Shelter. Most of you may have read the story of my first visit there back in march of 2009 I was thrilled to see Mr. Karam and Mr. Gholam still looking after the dogs, cleaning up, welcoming the visitors and... [photo essay]

I arrived in Iran early Friday morning.  After settling in at my in-laws home, I called Mrs. Esna-Ashari, the shelter’s director to arrange a visit. I had collected many donations to deliver to them. Besides leashes, collars, and toys for the puppies, some friends had donated travel kennels that are used to transport the dogs that get adopted by families living overseas. Another generous donor had purchased  a very much needed ‘humane’ tattoo machine so they can start marking the dogs and making files for each of them.

Lucky for me, the day I arrived happened to be ‘Rooze Navazesh – Pet the dogs Day’.  I rested a bit and then got on my way to the shelter. I was amazed by the number of volunteers/fans who had showed up to help. Some were washing the dogs, a few were walking them, and some were brushing the dogs. I noticed there were two huge pots of food that Mr. Karam was removing from the back of the van.  He said one of the fans of the shelter sent chelokabob (kabob and rice) for the dogs!!!!  Two of the volunteers rolled up their sleeves, put on some gloves and started cutting the kabobs in to small pieces and mixing them with the rice.  The dogs were in for a treat for dinner that day.

They were thrilled to receive the large kennel filled with toys and other stuff.  This time I had another  important mission as well. One of the supporters of the shelter who lives in the US had her eyes on Shoko (AKA Shokolat) and had asked to adopt her, and I had offered to bring her to the U.S. upon my return.

Mrs. Esna-ashari tells lovingly about Shoko:

‘When Shoko came to our shelter she was a cute little puppy who soon grew to be a beautiful 50 pound dog. She gained her name, Shoko, due to her chocolate milk color. She was always very gentle mannered and never got involved in tackles with other dogs. And she was so tame that no one thought she could be a good guard dog. I often thought she would end up spending all her life here at the shelter. As pictures of our dogs spread around the world on the Internet and Ms. Faranak told me that she has a suitor in USA, it was hard for me to believe my sweet Cinderella has found a bright future.

"The primary preparations for her relocation got done quickly with the help of members and two weeks before her big move we brought her to my home to housebreak her. Shoko loved getting a bath. Unaware of how hard it was for me with my broken leg to handle her, she decided to play around in the bath suds. It took me hour and a half to give her a bath, as her beautiful coat is quite heavy. Afterwards she allowed me to dry her up well and then she joined me and my dog, Judy, in the house and they curled up together. The pleasant finding for me was that from the very beginning, after being a shelter dog all her life, she never had an accident in the house and even in middle of the night if she needed to be let out, she would let me know of it.  She accepted the leash and learned all the rules of a social life with people quickly.

"Finally, on Wednesday March 24th of 2010 we took her the airport and Ms. Faranak took her to her new home. Now, Shoko lives in Oakland, California like the princess that she is with the angel who is giving her all the love she deserves. She has been able to impress and amaze every one with her ability to adapt to her new life, and connect with her loving guardian.’

Lida Esna-ashari

Shoko’s new mom sent me a note about her: "She is the smartest, most intuitive dog ever!  And acrobatically very talented, a wonderful pouncer and bouncer.  A great guard dog.  The most well-mannered dog (without training!).  Not one house-breaking mistake since day one!  Social and friendly with other dogs, while maintaining healthy boundaries.  I call her Chocolat Vesper Street (Vesper for James Bond's girlfriend, Street because she will always have that in her; a combination of Lady & the Tramp)."

On my next visit to the shelter about a week later I tagged along with Lida Esna-ashari for a ride. I spent a lot of time with the dogs. We got down and dirty but it was well worth it. I was energized! On our drive back we noticed a dog on the side of the road, running like a Kangaroo! As we looked more closely, we noticed his back legs were tied!!!  Lida  pulled to the side of the road. We ran out and started walking towards the dog who was scared and ran away from us. We didn’t give up, and finally cornered him. Lida attempted to untie the plastic rope that was wrapped quite tightly around the poor dog’s legs and he was not able to free himself from it. I ran to a few guys who were hanging out down the way and borrowed a knife.  Lida was finally able to cut the poor dog loose.  The smell was foul and the dog had a big scar, as the rope had cut deep in to his skin!  God only knows how long he’d been tied. We guessed perhaps since he was a puppy!

I got to see with  my own two eyes how selfless Lida is when it comes to rescuing these mistreated and unloved animals.

Last but not least, I wanted to let you about some of the improvements that have got done in the last year thanks to your help.  You know who you are!

Insulation of all roofs. Roofing the puppies den in the dirt yard. Completion of 20 units of dens with roofs and metal doors for dogs in need of special care. Compacting the dirt in the yard and covering it with pebbles. Providing shaded area for protection against the Summer sun. Building a main pool, and smaller pools around the shelter. Building of three feeding areas including one dedicated to puppies. Constructing a sewer system including channels behind the eastern and western walls for proper cleaning of the dens. Building a 30 meter room to shelter the dogs from extreme weather. Planting of 100 young trees and Jasmine vines around the property. Providing electricity. Repairs of roofs of existing dens from inside. Repairing the drying spring that provides water for the shelter.  Repairing the shelter's truck.

Providing food and health care for the ever increasing number of dogs and growing expenses. With efforts in vaccinations, though they had dogs that came to the shelter with deadly diseases like Parvo and Distensper they did not loose lives.

In the past year aside from neutering and spaying the residents of Vafa they were able to reach cats and dogs outside the compound as well.

FYI: Vafa shelter now has a fan page in Facebook. If you are a member on Facebook, do join them. (Vafa Animal Shelter) Another piece of good news is the English portion of Vafa shelter website is now up and running (Thanks to many volunteers who took part in translation and Mr. A.Zahedipour for compiling and launching it:

Please note that Vafa shelter is a non-governmental charity that relies solely on private support from kind and generous donors and volunteers.  The shelter has made great strides over the past few years but there is much more to be done.  Please consider making a contribution for the care of over 400 homeless dogs.  Your donations will pay for medications, spay/neuter surgery, food, shelter maintenance and other expenses.

* Thanks to Mehrnoosh Nayak for her contribution to this feature.


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Diana Croissant

Wonderful Report

by Diana Croissant on

Thank you so much for this post.  I have been waiting for your report on your second trip to the Vafa shelter.  It is so good to learn that the shelter continues to thrive and improve, and that there are so many people willing to support it.  And how wonderful for Shoko to have a new home!  Such a happy story.  There are no words to express my respect for the people who are there caring for these dogs every day.  Thanks, too, for all the photos.  Nothing makes a person happier than looking at the faces of contented dogs.  I hope some day to see more photos too of the second shelter.

The love and care of animals unites people from all walks of life and from all countries and ethnic groups.