It’s all about faith, as far as Donna and James Fowler of Heavensown Rescue are concerned. Faith that they can make a difference for any dog in need of an 11th-hour miracle…that people will see beyond a worse-for-wear exterior and see the loving and lovable inner canine.
“Many of our rescue dogs and puppies come from high-kill shelters on or near their last day of life,” the couple explains on their Facebook page. “We rescue puppies, pregnant dogs and adults at our county-run animal shelters.” For them, it is both a mission and a sacrament.
And receiving the Grand Prize donation in Petful’s 2016 Halloween photo contest has allowed the North Carolina-based organization to keep doing just that.
How It Began
The rescue began 17 years ago, when the Fowlers were raising and showing Australian Shepherds. Doing breed-specific rescue seemed like a natural extension of their avocation; in the course of going in and out of shelters, they saw dogs who “all needed a voice and a chance at a happy life,” something that “we could be for all dogs, no matter what breed.”
Donna was very ill at the time and feeling as though her life was without purpose; now, suddenly, she had one. It “was laid on my heart to give back, not give up. … The love, loyalty and kindness of a dog is not based on their breed but on their heart. When given the opportunity, rescue dogs are some of the most loyal you will ever find.”
The dogs the Fowlers take in are generally the ones whom “other people might turn away,” admits volunteer Suzanne Frain, who has been taking pictures for Heavensown’s website and Facebook page for about a year now. It was the photo that she took of her dog, Lola B., as Oscar the Grouch — complete with shaggy green yarn and a brown craft-fur unibrow — that won the organization the donation.
A Second Chance
The Fowlers have, Frain says, taught her to see the possibilities in every canine they take in, no matter how beaten down by life they look. “They’re people of great faith,” she adds. “This is their calling — they would do anything to save an animal.”
Among the “overlooked dogs” who have been rescued by Heavensown are:
A black Labrador Retriever who was found tied up in someone’s backyard with an open gunshot wound.
A hound who had been reduced to a walking skeleton.
A puppy who had been attacked by an older dog and who had to have an eye removed as soon as she reached the 8-week-old mark.
A “very pregnant” dog whose “collar was so tight, it was embedded in the neck,” Frain recalls.
A 2-year-old Beagle who was pulled from a high-kill shelter, blind and heartworm-positive, she had “little time left,” says Donna. “We drove 3 hours to pick her up and began fundraising for what we knew would be extensive vet care.” Despite her serious health issues, Daisy “never stopped wagging her tail! Her story is still unfolding, but her recovery has begun with being spayed, having her eyes removed due to severe glaucoma, and beginning her heartworm treatment.”
Daisy’s story is one in which “the obstacles seem to outweigh the benefits of adoption, but she spoke to our hearts.” Apparently, she has spoken to a lot of other hearts, too, because the Fowlers have been receiving more than a few adoption applications for the little dog who almost ran out of time.
Heavensown may be “a struggling entity,” as Frain puts it, but it’s managed to save 300–350 dogs a year. Everything — time, money and energy — goes into the rescue. For instance, even though there’s a perfectly good kennel with outside runs, Donna will bring mothers with puppies into the house to watch over them. In fact, any dog who’s really sick or recovering from surgery gets brought inside.
“I’ve told her that with every animal she has saved, she has saved people, too,” Frain says. “She has given them a loving pet that is family. It’s 2-fold.”
Donna Fowler loves her work and is grateful for the donation, which bought “20 bags of food, paid $500 toward the never-ending vet bill, and paid 1 month’s power bill for the kennel to keep everyone comfortable. God’s timing is perfect, and he used you, Petful, to bless the wonderful creatures!”
Of the work itself, she says, “The absolute best feeling in the world is watching a pet go from fear and depression — literally at death’s door — to becoming a loving, confident member of a family. Some rescues come to [us] with only hours left, yet end up being such a blessing for their forever homes.”