When a Taos cat, dog or restless iguana leaves home for an adventure, perhaps lunching in the parking lot of Cid’s or hanging out in Kit Carson Park, they may be checked into the Stray Hearts Animal Shelter at 1200 St. Francis Lane for a few nights until a frantic parent shows up to claim them. Of course, not all the temporary residents of Stray Hearts have homes to go to or someone looking for them.
The fees to house, feed and provide some respite for the stray and lost animals in Taos cost thousands of dollars a month. Staffed with animal-loving volunteers and paid staff, the shelter operates on a song, a prayer and the goodwill of our community. Thankfully, this time of year, there is “Dog Days,” an annual benefit to provide the song and the community. The event has amassed close to $100,000 since its humble beginnings in 2009.
The dog-loving patron behind the benefit is local businesswoman “Mattress Mary” Domito. It started serendipitously when Domito bought a single raffle ticket in support of a film project by Taos writer and filmmaker Allegra Huston. Her winning ticket was for a local concert by Bone Orchard. She was inspired to share the ticket, and the “Dog Days” fundraiser was born. Bone Orchard’s Carol Morgan-Eagle joined in the effort, and the fundraiser brought in more than $4,000.
Domito then started Mollydog Productions in honor of her black Labrador to “promote the Taos community as an arts destination, hoping to enrich residents and visitors alike with an endless variety of cultural experiences.” This is the eighth year she and the volunteer staff of Stray Hearts have organized this important revenue source for the shelter. The volunteers canvass local businesses for silent auction and raffle donations. Big-ticket items from past benefits include a used automobile. This year, Domito is donating a Simmons Beautyrest mattress valued at $2,500 and a Serta iComfort mattress valued at $1,500 for the raffle. She is also offering a $500 gift certificate good at her store, Taos Lifestyle at 710 Paseo del Pueblo Sur, where tickets are available for the event. All donations are welcome and tax deductible.
The venue this year is indoors for the first time at Old Martina’s Hall, and the lineup is an eclectic mix of local and regional cover bands. There is a silent auction supported by local businesses, as well as raffles and the opportunity for animal lovers to come together behind the cause. The entertainment and the indoor venue promise a good turnout this year. Domito explains, “The monsoon season in Taos rained us out some years and discouraged a robust attendance. Old Martina’s Hall – with space, historical significance and the location – is perfect for this event.”
A music lover herself, Domito handpicked the lineup this year. The headliner, Citizen Dan, is a world-class lineup of musicians paying homage to the songwriting team of Donald Fagen and Walter Becker. Citizen Dan performs “straight-up Steely Dan arrangements with spot-on accuracy.” Another musician performing at the benefit is Colorado’s Chris Collins, who “honors John Denver’s legacy with fresh energy and musical integrity.” Domito says Collins’ rendition of Denver’s “Rocky Mountain High” takes her back to the time in her life when the song was popular. “Collins keeps the beauty of John Denver’s music alive, honoring an artist taken away from us too soon.”
The mission of Stray Hearts Animal Shelter is to “provide interim compassionate and humane care for lost and abandoned canines and felines in a safe, secure and healthy shelter.” The shelter has many programs and services designed to provide support, education and assistance for all the people who care about them. This ambitious undertaking operates under financial stress on a continual basis while the homeless cat and dog population in Taos grows every year.
The “Dog Days” benefit helps the only place in town for our animal friends to be found or adopted. Domito and the volunteer staff at the shelter plan to continue and grow this tradition. “The Stray Hearts Animal Shelter is a vital member of our community, and they need and deserve our support.”
Fundraising tickets are available at Taos Lifestyle, 710 Paseo del Pueblo Sur.