Niagara Gazette

Features

March 25, 2014

Heart of Niagara: Dogged rescuers

Ladies of Heart of Niagara are best friends to the underdogs (and cats)

Niagara Gazette — Gracie was just a tiny puppy when she was slated to be killed.

She, her two siblings and their mother were on a list to be euthanized last year in an overcrowded animal shelter in Alabama when they were rescued at the last hour by an extensive network of people devoted to saving dogs.

The little furry family was transported to the Niagara region through a chain of many volunteers, who each drove a two-hour portion of the journey. When the dogs arrived in the region, they were placed in the waiting arms of the founders of a year-old rescue organization called Heart of Niagara. 

That scene has played out for about 150 animals this year. Saving animals is something the three founders — Margie Kwiatkowski, Kathy Nowakowski and Linda van Harssel — have been dreaming about doing most of their lives. Each of them has worked or volunteered at the SPCA of Niagara, and held out hope of one day creating an animal adoption agency that could provide more options to potential pets. 

It was just about a year ago when the founders of Heart of Niagara saved their first dog. Since then, they’ve created a base of foster homes and volunteers that is 60-people strong.

It’s an impressive start for a non-profit, and the trio are proud of their successes thus far, with bigger dreams for the future including a permanent home with a pet sanctuary for the older dogs of owners placed in nursing homes. They dream of a place where abandoned pets feel truly sheltered and — given the success of Heart of Niagara thus far —it’s a good bet that the ladies will make that happen.

The trio said each brings a formidable “power” to the non-profit organization, which they feel accounts for their success.

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