Late one night in July, Eldad Hagar got a call about a dog named Gaia that had been abandoned on the side of the road in the California Central Valley. While barely surviving in the middle of nowhere, the dog gave birth to three puppies that were hiding in the tunnel to a deep well.
Eldad, who is the founder of the non-profit rescue organization Hope for Paws, left his home at 3:00 a.m. and drove two hours to go get the puppies and their mom. But in those precious few hours, Gaia was hit by car. “I was two hours late and that made all the difference,” said Hagar. “With shelter rescues you know when the animals are scheduled to be euthanized. When you are rescuing them off the street, two hours can be the difference between life and death.”
This is a typical night for Eldad, who drives hundreds of miles each day to rescue lost and abandoned dogs. You can see the rest of his dramatic rescue of the puppies - and how Gaia helped even after she had passed away - in the video below. (Warning: may cause uncontrollable sobbing).
Before starting Hope for Paws in 2008, Eldad and his wife Audrey volunteered for several other rescue organizations. But their rescues proved to be a drain on resources. “We tend to rescue the most miserable dogs who need a lot of help,” said Eldad. They were rescuing the ones no one else wanted to touch - the ones with the most severe injuries or health issues that cost the most money to rehabilitate. “It’s really hard for these organizations to get $3,000 and then we go and spend it all in one day on a single surgery.”
The Hagars decided to start their own 501(c)(3) in the hopes that they could raise enough money in donations to pay for the expensive care that these dogs desperately needed. Thanks in large part to their smart use of social media, they’ve been able to.
Now instead of saving them from shelters, Eldad is rescuing dogs off the streets where they are in the most danger and in the worst condition. This type of rescue not only takes a lot of persistence and effort, but also a person who knows how to gain the trust of animals who have been abused and abandoned.
Eldad isn’t just an animal rescuer - he’s a hero. Everyday he is out there saving sick, injured dogs who are alone and suffering. He’s giving them a second chance at life with an owner who appreciates and loves them. I spoke with Eldad at 3:00 p.m. while he was tending to a dog that had been nearly killed by a coyote - but he wasn’t finished for the day. “Since this morning we rescued fifteen dogs,” he said. “I’m hoping that by midnight I’m going to rescue at least six more.”
The only way to understand the real impact of Hope for Paws is by watching the heart wrenching YouTube videos Eldad makes about his sometimes very dramatic rescues. The videos have proven to be a powerful tool for getting donations and driving awareness about Hope for Paws. The one below about Fiona, a blind dog who regains her sight as a result of their efforts, has gotten more than 1.2 million views and landed Eldad and Audrey on Anderson Cooper.
When other people’s rescue efforts fail, they call Eldad. People desperate to save stray dogs have flown him to Florida and even to Israel for his help. He's also inspired the "Eldad Ripple Effect," where his network of animal rescuers use the techniques from his videos to help animals. "With our videos, we've inspired a lot of people to take action and save animals, so we helped these animals indirectly," said Hagar.
Eldad recently competed in Toyota’s 100 Cars for Good non-profit competition. Using NationBuilder, he was able to quickly email all of his supporters and in fourteen hours had gathered enough votes to win a new Toyota Highlander. “I have a new rescue vehicle arriving any day now. It’s incredible. I drive insane distances to save these animals. NationBuilder was very helpful in helping me get it.”
Here’s Eldad’s latest video about Sonya, a dog who had been living on the same street for more than ten years. She had been there for so long, in fact, that she can be seen on Google Maps Street View. She’s adorable and still looking for a home.