To listen to the Road to Rescue interview with Heart and Soul founder Natalie Owings on Animal Radio Network, click here.
Natalie Owings is the sanctuary's founder, fundraiser, groundskeeper, and caretaker. (And yes, any one of those on its own is a full-time position.) An animal lover since childhood, Owings spent much of her adult life "unofficially" rescuing dogs.
became intricately involved with municipal shelters around New Mexico, but frustrations with the way the organizations were run, and what she
considered misguided goals, led her
to open her
own sanctuary for needy animals.
In 1997, Heart and Soul became an official, government-recognized, nonprofit organization.
And though the work can be physically grueling and emotionally wrenching, Owings
has never looked back.
Always a place to call home
They dogs live in the main house with Owings
- new mothers have their own private quarters - and are free to come in and out as they please.
No question, Owings
is the matriarch here.
tall and slender with a sort of detached nobility about her
attitude about the many medications she
dispenses, the lack of reliable volunteers, and even the difficulty of fundraising for such a large operation is all very matter-of-fact, very practical.
And there is an added hardness to her
voice when she
talks about the cruelty she
is regularly exposed to.
I'm sick to my stomach when she
describes the starving, beaten animals who miraculously make their way to her
Or when she
tells me about a "game" prevalent in the southern part of the state in which young men deposit their dogs on the side of the road - and then attempt to hit them with their cars.
But when I notice a photo on her
desk of a particularly soulful looking terrier mix, she
looks away and tells me she
can't talk about him.
reassures me that the story's outcome is a happy one, but she
can't bring herself to relive it.
In so many of the animal advocates I talk to, there is a layer that never toughens up, that remains forever raw.
I'm amazed that anyone can do this sort of work, day after day, year after year.
As we finish the interview and I gather my things to go, a young girl and her
mother - volunteers - arrive to spend some time with the sanctuary's nursing mothers and their pups.
It's heartening to see first hand that Owings
is not alone in her
pursuit to create better lives for these animals.
Call Natalie Owings
at 505.757.6817 for details and to make arrangements.