The Original Dog Tarot by Heidi Schulman
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Posted on: August 8th, 2013 by Heidi 4 Comments

I’m on a campaign to help the Heeling Hearts New Mexico Prison Pet Program, and here’s why.

They rescue dogs who would have practically no chance without them, and at the same time they rescue people. The dogs are trained by inmates serving time in the women’s prison in the dusty town of Grants, New Mexico.  Trained and loved, the dogs have a good shot at getting adopted.

The women who train them get to care and feel cared for, and feel the release and hope that comes when you bond with another being. At best, it’s a situation of mutual deliverance. Save a dog/save a woman. Do the right thing.

There are thousands of rescue groups and so much need for homes it’s overwhelming. But I’m stuck on Heeling Hearts for a hundred reasons, and two of them are tied for number 1.

Reason 1A:  My dog Tillie comes from Heeling Hearts.

Reason 1B: My heart got stretched beyond its cardiac boundaries by the woman who trained her. We’ll call her Dianna, though that’s not her real name. She’s  serving time for armed robbery with a deadly weapon. Until Tillie, the closest my life came to that world was watching episodes of Breaking Bad. But that’s changed.

Now, I have an invisible relationship to Dianna. People say “we’re all connected” and there’s no denying that’s true. The same hand that held a cold, steel gun in a robbery petted my dog. The same person who turned to violence looked into Tillie’s eyes and said “You can be something, baby dog.” This woman and I are bonded through a gentle heeler mix who is, as I write, sleeping safely 20 feet away.

In conventional doggy-in-the-window terms, Tillie isn’t the prettiest girl in the world. I think she’s beautiful, but most people don’t.

She isn’t fluffy; doesn’t have the exuberant, charismatic, tail-wagging personality of a canine movie star. But underneath her working-dog coat, behind her “please tell me I’m acceptable” stance, is a soul longing for expression. So with Tillie, what you see in looks is not what you get in heart.  The disparity makes me think, pretty much every day, of Dianna.

Who is she – beneath the circumstances of her life? Who was she before she crossed the line to the other side of the law. She gave my dog a second chance. Will she get hers? And what will she be able to do with it?



4 Responses

  1. Well, you know that I think Tillie is simply wonderful.

    I’m thankful for Dianna, too, because without her I would know Tillie. And, I do hope that healing Tillie, and nurturing her, give Dianna hope in her heart. Hope and a feeling of accomplishment. Because when Dianna gets her second chance, I want her to fly.

    Best — Meredith Blevins

  2. Beth Ares says:

    Hi Heidi, How do I contact Heeling Hearts? I am beginning to think about adding an extra dog.

    • Heidi says:

      Hi Beth,

      That’s wonderful news. You should be able to click on the link in the last post…which will link you to (If you can’t, please let me know!) Or you can call either Susan Neal (505-890-0782) or Lyn Martin (505) 873-9207. The website features the dogs who are currently available. Susan or Lyn should be able to tell you something about the dog that captures your heart; that’s how I wound up with Ms. Tillie! They’re wonderful people to work with.

      If you do get a Heeling Hearts dog, please send photos and keep us posted. You won’t be disappointed. Many woofs to you!

  3. Susan says:

    Hi Heidi,

    Love hearing about Tillie. What a beautiful girl. Thanks for giving her a great home and keeping heelinghearts in you thoughts.

    Best wishes

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