How do you restore a dog to psychological health who has known nothing but abuse? How do you persuade such a dog to trust and love people again? At The Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary we have an answer: The Giant Doghouse. There are no cages or pens in this house. It’s actually a home—a group home for 25 to 30 rescued dogs, presided over 24 hours a day by our founder and director, Natalie Owings.
The Giant Doghouse is filled with soft beds, which are covered with freshly laundered blankets or towels. Soothing music plays quietly. The dogs wander in and out. They are free to play outside, to explore the woods, to lounge, socialize or nap on the wrap-around covered porch. At mealtimes they are given top-quality, nutritious food, ladled with a meat and vegetable broth from a simmering crock-pot. Any dog would enjoy living in such a home. But its effect on dogs who have known only hunger, cold and damage is truly remarkable.
Take Rooney. A beautiful golden retriever mix loving puppy, who came from a litter of 11.
The desperate mother had been roaming the streets of El Paso, Texas. When rescued, it was discovered that not only was she pregnant, she was infected with Ehrlichia, a tick bourne disease carried in the blood, which causes anemia, fever, joint pain, and bleeding disorders. Ehrlichia is fatal if not treated properly. The rescuers called Natalie, at The Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary, for help and advice. She put them in touch with her veterinarian, who then conveyed the proper treatment plan to El Paso, to save this very sick mother and her puppies. Fortunately, the puppies were not affected. The Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary absorbed all of the responsibility and expenses for this family. While the mother initially remained in El Paso for many months of treatment, her healthy puppies were transported to the Sanctuary at the age of 8 weeks. Their first visit was to Smith Veterinary Hospital in Santa Fe, where they received their first check up, and initial vaccines. One of the puppies was immediately adopted by one of the vet technicians. The 10 remaining puppies were then transported to the Sanctuary on December 23rd, 2015.
Every Christmas, the Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary hosts an annual Christmas dinner for the staff and volunteers. Natalie prepares an amazing feast of roast turkey and stuffing, potatoes, vegetables and all the trimmings, including an assortment of sumptuous desserts. This past Christmas, after dinner, several members of the staff and volunteers wandered over to the puppy house, to see the adorable El Paso pups. It didn’t take long for Jill, one of the newer volunteers to fall head over heels for Rooney, the big, burly blond of the bunch. Jill, and her husband Tony, had no intention of adopting a puppy just yet, having recently relocated to Santa Fe. However, once they saw Rooney, and spent some time observing and playing with him, they knew in their hearts that he would fill that empty place that remained, after their 15 year old Lucy had passed away a few months earlier.
So this beautiful puppy, who might never have survived without Natalie’s intervention, became the best Christmas present ever, and is now, at this writing, a thriving four month old, 40 lb. ball of fluff. He can often be seen walking the trails in Eldorado with Jill and Tony, and loves to meet and greet all the other dogs and their walkers.
Such is the power of love—and the Giant Doghouse—to restore even badly damaged dogs to health and happiness. It’s stunningly clear that this environment supports the fundamental rights of dogs. By contrast, cages promote loneliness, howling and mental degeneration.
This is the heart of what we do at The Heart and Soul Animal Sanctuary. We are here to give these dogs a second chance at a happy life, with as much freedom to be themselves as safety will allow. That is our great gift to them. Our great regret is that we aren’t able to take in every dog who needs and deserves a life like this.