When we arrived in Nebraska on the latest stop for our Adventure Of A Lifetime, I was overwhelmed. Overwhelmed by miles and miles of unending wheat fields. Overwhelmed by the untouched nature, bright evening sunsets and beautiful sounds of coyotes at night. But I was also overwhelmed by the idea of visiting Hearts United For Animals in Auburn. Why? I knew by reading their Facebook page and website that they had just rescued over 38 animals from the floods in Louisiana. I knew that they had also just rescued many puppy mill dogs and others in need as well. How was an organization in this part of our country able to accomplish such feats? How would we feel when visiting them?
After driving for over an hour, we reached Hearts United For Animals down a long, dirt road. I saw their beautiful sign and knew I was in the right place.
We were met by beautiful Carol Wheeler, the founder of this rescue which sits on over 60 acres. Carol started this rescue over twenty years ago as a foster based organization and has grown to the place where they are now. She formed Midwest Animal Shelter in 1989 and it became HUA in 1993! Seeing Carol’s joy at showing us around put me at ease. I knew right away how Hearts United For Animals was able to save so many dogs. This was their leader. This was their founder. She was the “heart” behind Hearts United For Animals.
According to their website, “Hearts United For Animals is a no-kill shelter and sanctuary dedicated to the relief of animal suffering. HUA has rescued over 10,000 dogs from puppy mills, has provided low cost spay/neuter services for over 13,000 patients, provides temporary housing for animals of families fleeing domestic violence, places dogs and cats in wonderful new homes across the country through our JetSet Dogs program, and assists with veterinary expenses of animals in need when their owners have nowhere else to turn. Dogs and cats who cannot be placed due to medical or behavioral issues stay with us forever as Sanctuary Sweethearts”.
We met one of those dogs who cannot be placed named Larry when we arrived. A beautiful dog, due to health and behavioral issues, Carol explained that Larry would be with them for the long haul. As we visited with Carol more throughout the day and saw her dedication and care for EACH one of the hundreds of animals here, we knew how fortunate Larry was.
As Carol led us through the many buildings on the over 60 acres here, we visited where spay and neuter services are done, different areas for newcomers and those dogs ready for adoption. It takes so many volunteers to run HUA, not only for the many daily duties, but for the emotional care and concern they give their residents.
One of their valued staff members, Christy, agreed to film the latest episode of Stop Hounding Me in their comfy cat room with Carol waiting in the wings!
Just recently in October, the HUA shelter received 38 very special deliveries from Louisiana. In cooperation with Dog Is My CoPilot, they were able to save these lives from the flood ravaged areas of Louisiana. These animals would have surely died in overcrowded shelters or hazardous conditions. To see all of these animals was indeed overwhelming to us. As Carol was introducing us to many of these animals, she knew them by name, what they had been through and kissed them through the crates. On the day we visited, these animals were lovingly being moved to different areas on the facility by staff member John, whose apparent dedication showed. These animals trusted him. They were safe now.
Around the same time as the Louisiana animals arrived, they were saving an additional 22 dogs from puppy mills. Yorkies, Dachshunds, Shih Tzus, Pomeranians, a Schnauzer and a Bull Terrier. Emotionally broken, some of these dogs may be living permanently at HUA or have to wait longer to be placed. What IS a puppy mill though? The ASPCA explains, “in a puppy mill, dogs are often kept in cages with wire flooring that injures their paws and legs—and it is not unusual for cages to be stacked in columns. When female breeding dogs reach a point of physical depletion and can no longer reproduce, they are often killed. Because puppy mills focus on profit, dogs are often bred with little regard for genetic quality. Puppy mill puppies are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions including heart disease and blood and respiratory disorders. In addition, puppy mill puppies often arrive in pet stores and in their new homes with diseases or infirmities ranging from parasites to pneumonia. Because puppies are removed from their littermates and mothers at a young age, they also often suffer from fear, anxiety and other behavioral problems.Because so many of these breeders are operating without oversight, it is impossible to accurately track them or to know how many there truly are. The ASPCA estimates that there could be as many as 10,000 puppy mills in the United States. There is no legal definition of a “puppy mill,” so don’t be fooled by pet store owners who show you “papers” or licenses to prove that their dogs are from humane sources. The fact is, responsible breeders would never sell a puppy through a pet store because they want to screen potential buyers to ensure their puppies are going to a good home. The ASPCA encourages everyone to make adoption their first option.”
Carol explained to us that the thing she is most proud of in all of her years here is that every life matters and is cared for in the right way, no matter how many animals they house. We think that is a very special thing to be proud of. As she showed us a building where they train dogs for adoption, she beamed with emotion.
If you have been in animal rescue, you know how easy it is to become burnt out. For the many years Carol has been running this rescue, it is obvious she is nowhere near to this point. She feels that she has much more work to be done, including educating the public on puppy mills and why adoption is the only way. They also advocate and highly believe in spaying and neutering. They dream of a time when their rescue is no longer needed in a perfect world.
Many of us, including myself cannot imagine the daily operations of HUA. How they care for so many animals, yet care for them in a proper, healthy and loving way is inspiring. This place is certainly Carol’s heart and soul.
We cannot thank her enough for personally showing us her beautiful rescue and sanctuary. What she does for this community by way of example, spay and neuter services and by providing a place for animals to be safe once again is rare. We only hope that Nebraska residents can get more involved by volunteering, fostering and adopting. Fans in other places can certainly help in many ways as well. They simply need donations if they are to continue. If you would like to learn more on how you can help, visit the following links:
Hearts United For Animals Is A 501 (c) (3) organization.