Meet Natalie, our May Volunteer of the Month! Natalie volunteers on the Tuesday evening animal care shift and is just WONDERFUL! She is our Tuesday PM staff person’s “go-to gal” whenever something is needed – Natalie can do anything! She’s especially amazing with Heartland’s rescued bird residents – and goes out of her way to try and bond with some of our less social roosters, like Krokus and Billy Zoom. Natalie is incredibly trustworthy, reliable and is just fun to be around. We can’t thank you enough, Natalie! We appreciate all you do for our sanctuary!

1. What do you do in your time outside of Heartland? When I’m not at Heartland, I’m working full-time as a Science Writer in Creative/Marketing Services for the biotech company, Promega. In my free time, I enjoy playing volleyball, making music, chipping away at my bottomless stack of craft projects, and spending time with my fianc√©, Patrick, and our cats and dog.

2. How did you find out about Heartland? What got you interested? One of my best pals, Jenny, had already been volunteering at Heartland and after she discovered I was as much of a crazy animal person as her, she was the one who convinced me to be a volunteer. As someone who has been critter-obsessed all their life, I obviously needed exactly zero arm-twisting to come and check it out, and I was hooked from the minute I first set foot on the farm.

3. Can you describe a favorite/memorable moment or event at HFS? One of my favorite moments was getting to snuggle Annie the lady turkey this past fall when she needed a warm compress to be applied to her preen gland. I had felt a little apprehensive about the task, as I hadn’t really handled the turkeys much and didn’t know how she’d respond to the compress. After a minute of getting situated though, it became clear that it must have felt good, as she completely relaxed and even rested her head on my knee a bit while I sat in the stall holding her. It was just an incredibly sweet moment, and now spending time with the Lady Turkeys is one of the highlights of my weekly shift!

Honorable mention favorite moments: the time last year that I witnessed all the goats, sheep, and llamas get the zoomies out in the pasture at the exact same time, and the time that Jenny and I were trying to scoop up Billy Zoom and Fonzie to take them in for the evening and they were just absolutely not having any of it from either of us. It took well over a half hour to finally get them, and we were in tears from laughing so hard at the absurdity of the situation.

4. What is your favorite part about volunteering for HFS? The opportunity to give out any extra lovins is my very favorite part of volunteering at Heartland. Like singing lullabies and rubbing Tanky‘s little piggy belly to get him to go to sleep, cuddling Helen the hen while she gets a foot bath to make it easier to treat her bumblefoot, massaging Zeus‘ noggin until he relaxes his whole head into my chest and closes his eyes, and giving everybody chin rubs and butt scritches and treats! The moments that I have the opportunity to dole out extra attention, care, and affection to our sweet animals, those are the moments at the farm that I absolutely live for.

5. What do you wish other people knew about Heartland? As much as it’s a sanctuary for the animals, Heartland is equally a sanctuary for the humans who work and volunteer there. Having the chance to give of myself and my time to these animals, particularly to the ones who came here from awful situations, and show them what it means and how it feels to be truly taken care of and valued and loved in a way they maybe haven’t ever been before the sanctuary, is just as therapeutic for me as it is for them. I’ve gone through some pretty big life changes since I first started at Heartland, and I’m honestly so grateful that I had the animals and my awesome Tuesday Night Crew to help see me through them all!

6. If you could adopt only one HFS animal, who would you pick and why? There are so many Heartland animals I would adopt in a heartbeat, but if I had to pick just one, it would hands down be Teddy. He’s just the cutest, spunkiest little guy. The little tail wiggles he does when I scratch his chin is just the most endearing thing ever and just turns my insides into an absolute puddle of goo.

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