Dogs at Stray Hearts Animal Shelter in Taos will have a bit more shade and protection on hot, windy days in the next few years thanks to a collaboration between donors and arborists to plant more than a dozen trees.

In mid-June, "we planted 15 trees -- one Canada red chokecherry, two frontier elms, five box elder maples and seven Austrian pines," said volunteer Sandy Tonnesen, who pitched the idea to the shelter board.

"We partnered with Dan Jones (Beyond Wild Flowers), our horticulturalist, to recommend appropriate trees and their placement at our hot and windy location; and with Patricia Okamoto (Petree Nursery), our arborist, to consult, obtain, and plant the trees."

Donors helped buy the trees in memory of a beloved pet, friend or family member. On Monday (July 20), four of the donors gathered at the shelter, at 1200 Saint Frances Lane, to dedicate the trees and small customized granite plaques.

"It was a beautiful day, everyone was able to see the trees up close and the dedications were very heart-warming," Tonnesen said in an email. "We hope to have our second dedication ceremony early next week."

Tonnesen said they also partnered with Jerry Martinez (Raindance Landscaping) to install a custom irrigation system, and with Bob Draper (Phoenix Mechanical) to run the electrical line to the irrigation system.

The trees, in 15- to 20-gallon containers, are ones that Tonnesen said "are cold- and drought-resistant, can tolerate poor soils and harsh winds, are hardy and fast-growing, and will provide year-round interest. The trees will enhance the comfort of shelter animals and staff from sun, heat and wind; encourage human interactions and community engagement with the dogs; and build upon the facility's 10-year plan to foster coordinated grounds development and maintenance. The trees will also provide habitat for birds," Tonnesen added. "Staff and volunteers have expressed joy in seeing the trees and watching them grow."

Tonnesen keeps an eye on the trees. "Next year I hope to plant more trees and to build planter boxes next to the pods for trellis vines and other colorful plants that the staff and volunteers would enjoy," she said. "I'm a huge Stray Hearts Animal Shelter advocate and am grateful for the important work they do in our community."

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