It all started 15 years ago when Gao Xia saw a stray one-month-old puppy in a market that needed help.
The puppy was too young to fend for himself so she took him home. The little puppy was just one of hundreds of stray animals that needed help, so with the help of with her sister, Gao Li, they founded Jian Ai Shelter. The sisters have given everything they have and devote all their time to rescuing animals in Tanggu, China.
The women live in a poverty-stricken area but have become very resourceful and always find a way to care for stray and abandoned animals. They are currently caring for over 140 dogs and cats and rely entirely on donations from the community.
“At first I took one, then two, then three, then I had a lot of them,” recalls Gao Xia.
The sisters do all the work from cooking the meals to daily care and maintenance. Their days start with fetching water and preparing food for all the animals. The next task is to treat any skin conditions, trim nails and clean ears.
They do not own a vehicle and public transportation does not allow animals, so they have learned how to do basic vet care, like inserting a drip into a dehydrated animal. If an animal is really sick and needs to see a vet, they ask one of their neighbors for a ride into town.
Many of the animals that they rescue are injured and need special care. Somehow the women find time to check on and massage injured animals every few hours to help them recover. Sadly, the sisters see a lot of dogs abandoned because people do not want to spend the money on medicine to help treat a skin condition or help their dog that was hit by a car.
“Nobody wants them. When I see them, I feel sorry for them. Their lives matter, so I take them home,” Gao Xia said.
They explained that the reason the shelter has so many dogs is due to stray dogs and from people dropping off their unwanted pets. In addition, some of the rescued dogs are pregnant when they arrive.
In every neighborhood there are stray dogs that need help, but the sisters are not able to help them all. “We don’t have enough strength. We don’t know what to do.”
Amanda Santos, a volunteer at the shelter, helps out by donating some money, caring for the animals and finding them loving homes. She said, “I am proud of the whole thing. It is impressive what they do – like having not much and giving everything they have still. That is just impressive.”
The women see the dogs as family and will continue to care for the puppies and the seniors. “Animal lives and human lives have the same value. They are actually equal. Equal.”
“I can give up everything – only life I cannot give up on, especially their lives,” Gao Li said. The women have given everything and hope that someday soon they will have a permanent residence and enough income/donations to provide food and shelter to all the stray animals.
Currently, the shelter is made out of recycled materials they have found and this is the third time they had to move. A permanent structure would allow the sisters to focus all their time and energy on caring for the animals and finding them forever homes. They want to end animal homelessness but need your help!
They are happy when the animals are happy. Seeing a dog or cat recover is worth all the sacrifices.
Learn more about the two amazing sisters in the short documentary by Tidy Docs below.
Andrea Powell is an animal enthusiast that resides in West Michigan. When not writing, she is exploring the great outdoors with her dogs and horses.
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