This post is all about the dogs at The Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary. Yeah, yeah, I know that my project is about the dog rescue organizations and the people who run them…but I find all the dogs and puppies so distracting! All those personalities, those smiling faces, and all the wagging tails and busy feet–it’s too much for me sometimes and I only want to sit among them and play. So, today, it is all about the dogs…and maybe a horse too. I hope you enjoy the characters. Hug a dog today…and everyday!
And please — Volunteer. Donate. Foster. Adopt a shelter dog.
In March, I spent some time at the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary, a rescue located on 100+ acres outside Santa Fe, New Mexico. Founder and Director, Natalie Owings cares for, and lives among, over 200 animals–dogs, cats, rabbits, wedding doves, horses, chickens, guinea pigs, ducks, llamas, alpacas, goats…. If any animal in the area needs a home, a meal, and some compassion, this is the place.
For the abused, neglected, sick or starving animals who have found safe haven here, this can only seem like heaven. Many of the animals are rescued from shelters in the area. And will stay here until adopted or transported to another state for adoption. Some may live out their days here.
About 30 dogs have the run of the Giant Doghouse and surrounding grounds. While they are fenced out of spaces for some of the other animals in order to keep the peace, they have ample selection of beds (inside, outside, in the sun, in the shade) and can help themselves to kibble anytime they are hungry. There are no cages, no leashes… and no fights. Every creature here is loved, respected, and safe …and they know it.
Please take a minute to visit the website: http://www.animal-sanctuary.org/
Ever wonder what happens with the dogs saved by rescue groups? Transporting rescue dogs gives many a better chance of adoption or foster in a new state. Almost every weekend, hundreds of rescuers move these precious souls miles in 1-2 hour bits of travel. It’s an incredible network, and a feat of organization and determination, and sheer love for the dogs.
Last Saturday, I rode on a dog transport with Judy, picking up 10 dogs in Merrillville, Indiana and driving them to Itasca, Illinois. This was just one leg of their 8-9 hour journey from Indianapolis to Minneapolis.
I arrived at Judy’s just after 7 a.m. as she was configuring the van with her crates and cages. Like a Tetris puzzle, she arranged the crates to maximize the space and to make sure there would be enough separation for the parvo survivors we would soon meet. There was a smell of fresh laundry–bleach maybe–from the clean padding, beds, and towels lining the cages. Some towels were strategically placed on top of the cages under the air vents, so no dog would get blasted with the AC. Behind the driver’s seat was a bag of slip-leads and collars, some towels, baggies, water dishes and water.
We had a list of the passengers to expect…
1. Shelby – Poodle-x, 9y F(S), 30 lb.
2. Goofy – Pomeranian, M(N), 5 lb.
3. Maltese – F, 8 lb.
4. Juno – Terrier, F(S), 30 lb.
5. BeaglePup – 10 weeks
6. Lil Bit & Skittles – APBT puppies, 8 lbs. each
7. Frenchie – 10 weeks
8. Dexter – 4 months
9. Puppy – 8 weeks. WILL TRAVEL IN OWN CRATE
The list also told us the that these dogs were traveling with health certificates, collars and that all were up-to-date on shots. There was an updated e:mail with more specifics on the meeting places for each of the 7 legs of the journey and who would be receiving the dogs upon arrival in Minneapolis. We pulled out of Judy’s driveway around 7:20 a.m. with the crates, the list and the sunshine, headed to meeting place #1 in Merrillville, Indiana.
We arrived a little early to the parking lot where we’d make the transfer from one car to another. A text let us know that Tara and Gwen were 10 minutes away, coming in 2 cars from Indianapolis. While we waited, Judy reminded me to be careful not to touch another dog after touching a parvo-survivor puppy. The parvo-surviving pups would also have to take their potty breaks in a different place.
And then, they arrived! Two cars pulled up, on either side of Judy’s van. Introductions, hugs and brief chatter as we jumped out to make ready for the transfer. I think I laughed and cried at the same time as Gwen’s hatchback opened to reveal a carload full of dogs looking back at me. The next 30 minutes was a whirlwind…get the dogs out, walked, watered and then situated in Judy’s crates and car.
After all the walks, after all the crate moves, Judy and I got back in the car with our passengers. Lucky, lucky me–I got to ride with Jema in my lap! This little girl was recently spayed, and a parvo-survivor. She tried so hard not to sleep…she wagged her tail and smiled at Judy, at me, at the dogs in the back, at the scenery out the window and for a few minutes chewed on my hair. And those of you who know me, know that I was in heaven holding this little happy and curious girl with her sweet puppy smell. Everyone settled in. Some stared out the window–and I wondered what they were thinking, their lives so changed. Some slept peacefully, despite the one who cried and voiced her opinion about a few things.
We arrived in Itasca to meet the next 2 cars who would take these babies on to Rockford, Illinois. Once again, walks, water and a transfer of crates and cars.
It was only in the last few minutes that I realized how bittersweet transporting days were, as we petted and hugged these lucky dogs one last time. Saying our goodbyes, and wishing them safety on today’s journey and much love and happiness for the rest of their lives.
Transporting rescue dogs, from August 3, 2013.
Want to know more? Check out these websites for dog transports–and donate, volunteer, foster or adopt–anything and everything helps:
By the way, I had planned to write a little more about Avery, the beautiful pup who had 17 broken bones. Shortly after I met her, she had her last two casts removed. I plan to see her again soon and get some additional photographs and details. So, more to come. Thanks for your patience!
Anybody who knows me knows that I am crazy about dogs. I have never been able to understand people who would give a dog up. And to be honest, I don’t want to understand them. The act of giving up a dog is mean, and shows no empathy, no compassion, no responsibility. And yet, there are many who do it. Every day, every hour, probably every minute, dogs are brought into shelters all over the country…as strays, or maybe they are too old to play, too much to care for, or they just aren’t wanted anymore. It’s a heart-breaking cycle…for the hundreds of thousands of dogs who wait for their people to come back and for those dogs who are euthanized because no one came.
It’s also an emotional saga for the people who rescue dogs. These people go deep into the shelters to find the dogs who need them the most, or to locate certain types of dogs for breed-specific rescue groups. They have an intense love of dogs that is all encompassing. It is a daily, hourly, constant thought or worry for them. They take dogs out of shelters to fill openings in foster homes–or their own homes. They raise money for care. They network to arrange permanent homes. They schedule a patchwork of transportation to drive dogs to new fosters, or forever homes, all over the country. These people…and there are many…work tirelessly and with all their might for the dogs. I am in awe of their strength.
There is a great joy in opening a cage and rescuing a dog. And there is great pain turning around during that moment of joy and looking into the eyes of the other caged dogs who are hoping you will reach for their door next. So it is with a bittersweet determination that I begin this project to photograph some of these very special souls who rescue, foster and transport dogs. Please take a look. Meet a few of the dogs and the people I will be spending some time with over the next few months, and let me know your thoughts.