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Shelter wins grant for ‘senior-to-senior’ program

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Henry Evarts and his rescue dog, Sugar Plum, helped the Animal Village NM no-kill shelter win a $10,000 grant from the Petco Foundation. The 90-year-old Alamogordo resident adopted 10-year-old Sugar Plum at a “senior-to-senior” adoption event organized by the shelter. (Courtesy of Animal Village NM)

LAS CRUCES – “I looked down at her and she looked up at me. They said she’s shy. She won’t be friendly,” Henry Evarts said, recalling his first meeting with his rescue dog, Sugar Plum. “She came up and kissed me. That was love at first sight.”

The 90-year-old Alamogordo resident found 10-year-old Sugar Plum at a “senior-to-senior” adoption event organized by Animal Village NM. The no-kill shelter in Alamogordo takes in abandoned and abused dogs from across the state.

“Two senior citizens get together and he changes her life and she changes his life,” said Sunny Aris, co-founder and director of Animal Village NM.

Evarts and Sugar Plum’s story helped the shelter win a $10,000 Holiday Wishes grant from the Petco Foundation, which awards funds to help “support lifesaving animal welfare organizations.”

Sugar Plum was rescued from a man who had kept her chained to a tree, according to Aris.

“She had been there for so long her legs had calcified. She could not walk,” Aris said. “Neighbors complained the man was starving her to death.”

Sugar Plum recovered with rehabilitation and had been living at the shelter for seven years when she was adopted by Evarts. “Henry and Sugar Plum, they understand one another. They’re pretty much at the same pace,” said Aris.

“She’s made me want to do more,” said Evarts, who lives alone. The gentle medium-sized mastiff mix is trained to sit, heel and stay. And she welcomes him home when the retired landscaper returns from his daily lunch at the Alamogordo Senior Center.

“She’s so happy to see me,” he said with a big smile.

Their story was among 3,000 entries from across the country. Animal Village NM is the only shelter in New Mexico to win one of the 51 holiday wishes grants.

“They need it. I don’t know how she survives. She’s not a rich woman,” Evarts said of the shelter and Aris.

The funds will help Animal Village NM care for all its dogs and spay and neuter a group of 51 neglected dogs and puppies rescued from the Mescalero Apache Reservation in September. They were wandering onto U.S. 70, Aris said. One named Princess Q “had a face full of porcupine quills and she was dying.”

“Her story just got me,” said John Kind who adopted Princess.

He showed up with her at the Las Cruces Petco store Wednesday to celebrate the $10,000 grant awarded to Animal Village NM.

On Saturday, the shelter will participate in a nationwide adoption event and reduce the fee to $20, a small fraction of the normal cost. To qualify for the low-cost adoption, people must fill out the shelter’s application online or drop it off in person no later than today.

And Animal Village NM has an opportunity to win another $25,000 grant from the Petco Foundation this holiday season when people vote for their favorite story in the People’s Choice Awards at www.petcofoundation.org/holidaywishes through Dec. 19. The winner will be announced before Christmas.

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