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A little dash can make a big difference; Hagerman resident’s dream of a local animal shelter gains support of community, other shelters, rescue groups

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This pre-fab barn donated by the Bonner Family Foundation looks cheerful and welcoming. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

The little hyphen that comes between someone’s year of birth and year of death only may be a millimeter or two wide. But those short dashes can represent big accomplishments for those who commit themselves to making the world a better place.

Hagerman resident Viola “Vi” Babcock decided she would “live the dash” about two years ago after her pastor, Rick Hale of Grace Community Church, encouraged congregation members to do something important with their lives.

“(It’s) whatever’s in your heart that really bothers you,” Babcock said.

What really bothered Babcock was the desperate plight of homeless animals in the area.

An animal lover and employee of the town of Hagerman since 2001, Babcock went to the town leaders and requested a piece of town property where she could open an animal shelter.

The land on the north side of Hagerman was part of the town’s public works yard. Located on the property was a small derelict building that formerly was an office for a cable TV company.

That building was torn down in October, but the cell tower behind it is still functional.

“Getting the old building torn down was the first thing. It was just dangerous,” Babcock said.

After less than two years, Babcock’s “dash,” the All Hearts 4 Paws Shelter, has rehomed between 65 to 70 dogs.

The shelter takes animals from the Roswell Animal Control shelter and from the shelter in Artesia.

Babcock said she doesn’t get cats very often, but area farmers have expressed interest in feral cats as barn cats after they are spayed or neutered.

Two of the dogs living there now in outdoor kennels are feral dogs that were brought in from the desert last October.

They are brother and sister, called Sage and Rosemary respectively.

Rosemary is still a bit standoffish with humans, but Sage, who seemed curious about the visitor from the newspaper, is starting to warm up to Babcock.

“I’m determined to tame them,” she said. “Sage licks my hand now.”

The shelter now consists of two small buildings that are much nicer than the old cable company office.

One was the former well house for the missile silos that were located in the nearby farm land. The other is a little pre-fab barn that was acquired with help from the Bonner Family Foundation.

“I was watching KOB-TV one evening and they were doing a story on the Sunflower Sanctuary Animal Rescue, who was selling the house to raise funds for their rescue,” she said. “I contacted them and after a discussion it all came together, and I purchased the house with money from the Bonner Family Foundation.”

Though Babcock acknowledged she is the spark that started the fire, she emphasized that everything she’s accomplished wouldn’t have happened without volunteers and donations.

“I have at least eight volunteers, but when I have a work day, more people step up to help,” Babcock said. “These people come from all over.”

The two buildings sit on a fairly good-sized plot that provides plenty of space for the dogs to run around.

However, the old fencing, which is in pretty bad shape, is steadily being replaced with materials donated by the town and inmate labor from the Roswell Correctional Center.

Babcock said she would like to spruce up the property a bit.

“People have expressed interest to donate a tree in memory of a loved one,” she said.

Babcock networks with other shelters and rescue groups to find new homes for the dogs that are brought into the no-kill shelter.

“The only way we can do this is through rescues and other people helping.”

The shelter is located at 611 E. Argyle St. in Hagerman. For more information or to adopt an animal, call 575-626-4661, email hagermanshelter@yahoo.com or visit the All Hearts 4 Paws Shelter Facebook page.

Community News reporter Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.