Healing Haven


Between the shelter and the foster home: a place for animals to decompress
By Amy Brase  |  Photography by Kelvin Andow

It’s not hard to imagine the horror of being displaced from our homes into shelters without our familiar surroundings and people. We know that we wouldn’t be ourselves due to the stress. 

It’s really no different for animals who are scared or shut down in a shelter. Often, these animals are labeled as “not adoptable” or “rescue only” because of their behavior or medical needs. What they need most, though, is someone and somewhere to offer them a second chance.

This is where Emily Randolph and Tania Richter step in. Emily and Tania share a heart for animals in urgent situations. Their small but passionate rescue, Fur Ever Home Rescue, specializes in urgent medical and behavioral cases. The women have long dreamed of a place with more space in which they could help needy animals heal, a place they would call Healing Haven.

Shake off shelter stress

This slice of heaven, now a reality, is nestled on a 78-acre property in Zimmerman, Minn., with a renovated log cabin and two additional buildings. Healing Haven hosts an outreach program that can house dogs and cats with immediate medical and behavioral needs who aren’t ready for foster homes.

Animals stay for a decompression period that allows them to shake off shelter stress and show their true colors before being re-evaluated and placed in appropriate rescue organizations or foster homes. The hope is that restful, unconditional time at Healing Haven will help the animals better prepare for their forever homes.

Q&A with Emily

When did your passion for helping animals begin?
I have always loved animals. As a kid, I would mush up leaves with rocks to make juice for bugs. I’ve always grown up with pets and began my career in rescue in late 2007 when a plea went out for supplies to help rescue some dogs off the Lake Traverse reservation after their dog ban. I couldn’t just donate towels. I knew I had to go and help.

How did you fund the purchase of Healing Haven?
The opportunity to get the property fell into our laps with only a few months to raise a very large amount of money. It was also at the end of the year, which is typically when large donors and businesses already have their donations allocated. We only raised $28,000 of the $100,000 we needed to get the buildings up to code, repairs done, kennels built, cat buildings purchased, etc. Our fundraising efforts continue. We have made the most of every penny raised by repurposing lumber, doors, kennel panels and fencing that were at the property when it was purchased so we could do the most possible.

What’s the hardest thing part about what you do?
It is stressful being financially strapped when we have this amazing property with so much potential and so many plans. The hardest thing is seeing dogs and cats that we know would do so well here not make it because we don’t have the funding yet to be able to take them. It’s heartbreaking.

What’s the best part? My top 3 would be:

  1. Seeing an animal that was supposed to die because of their behavior (or health) in a shelter environment, completely and totally transformed before your eyes and flourishing here with some consistency, calm energy, clear boundaries and some positive physical and mental stimulation.
  2. Being able to help other rescue organizations and the general public with animals that literally have nowhere else to go.
  3. Watching a community of amazing people who simply adore helping the “underdogs” come together to help us with this crazy dream.

Before Healing Haven, how were you able to help animals in need?
Tania, our founder, and I kept scrambling to save urgent animals that were on 24-hour deadlines and kept finding that they were not at all what they were said to be like, even moments after walking out of the shelter.

The time constraints don’t give us enough time to assess the animal, locate an appropriate foster home and then approve that foster home.

Before Healing Haven, I would take whatever dogs I could into our 900-square-foot townhome, and Tania would take the cats into her home. We would work around the clock to find a rescue or foster to take them once we could get some video of them to show everyone they were nothing like their description from the shelter. It was very overwhelming, but we couldn’t watch these animals die knowing they were just scared and confused. We could only take one or two at a time, so we could only do so much. It was very emotionally taxing.

What’s one “happy tail” you could share with us?
There was a dog named Happy who was brought to an emergency hospital with her owner after fleeing a dangerous home situation due to domestic violence.

We were contacted to take in this poor woman’s dog while she healed and found housing. Happy was an amazing dog, and I held calls with her mom on speaker phone almost every night so her mom could talk to her while she looked for a place for a place for them to stay.

The day she came to pick her up is one I’ll never forget. Happy knew when her mom pulled up, even though she wasn’t in a familiar vehicle. The joy Happy exuded when her mom came into the fenced yard and the pure joy on her owner’s face. It was the most amazing thing I’ve ever witnessed.

It was our honor to be able to help keep that family together, and every single person who has contributed toward our fundraising efforts for Healing Haven and the outreach program is responsible for that.

How can we help you?
We are always in need of daily items like paper towels, detergent, blankets.

We’re looking for volunteers at the Healing Haven property. Positions are available for the Dog Crew and Cat Crew. More information and applications can be found on our website.

We are really pushing to secure some monthly recurring donations to help sustain our efforts.

Find out more information about Fur Ever Home Rescue, how to donate and how to foster animals at fureverhomerescue.com. 

Amy Brase is a writer who deeply admires those who rescue.