Pet of the Month: Southern Hearts Rescue and Preston Noland

By Mary Eggart

Some of the biggest hearts belong to those who rescue animals, and Preston Noland’s passion for rescuing and finding homes for abandoned and abused dogs and cats is unparalleled. But this is only one of his areas of expertise. He has partnered with Southern Hearts Rescue, a nonprofit organization based in Bauxite, whose mission is rescuing and saving as many animals as they can in the Central Arkansas area. Noland, along with his rescue partner, Whitney Ashcraft, also offers consulting and humane trapping of lost and loose animals that need their help. Together, they have reunited countless owners with their beloved fur babies.

Additionally, Noland is always on the lookout for dogs and cats that have been dumped outdoors, often when the weather is not conducive to their survival. More often than not, these animals are starved and have undergone heartbreaking abuse. The process of coaxing a traumatized dog or cat to safety requires an abundance of skill and patience, all of which Noland possesses. Not only do he and Ashcraft come to the aid of dogs and cats that are in peril, they also save multiple forms of wildlife, including rabbits, raccoons, deer, birds and even once a wallaby. As Noland said, “Literally if it’s an animal, and we can find a way to save it, we will.”

In 2014, Noland became the administrator for the Facebook page called Arkansas Lost and Found Pet Network. The page connects owners and finders of lost pets and provides a place where loose pets can be reported. It is one of the first ways he receives notifications of animals in trouble. One of these notifications was actually what led to him meeting Ashcraft in 2018. Someone reported that puppies had been dumped on the side of a road 45 minutes away from him. 

The weather was calling for snow, so he knew they would most likely not survive if left outdoors. Apparently, Ashcraft had the same idea, and together, as the first snow of the year began to fall, they worked until 3 a.m. to catch the puppies, who were incredibly tiny and absolutely terrified. Since then, Noland has acquired special humane equipment and developed skills that make rescues easier and faster.

Preston Noland rescued five-year-old Chica, a chiweenie, nearly three years ago through Southern Hearts Rescue. She was found running loose as a stray in the deep cold of winter. His fiancée, Heather, had recently moved to a new apartment and was lonely, so Noland sent her a photo of the friendly, nervous little dog. Heather responded, “I love her—bring her to me.”

“Every animal deserves a loving home, and if all that stands between an animal’s safety or demise is me being the connector, I will definitely take a shot!” he said. “My determination is definitely stronger than the animal’s fear. When people send you pictures of that scrawny, terrified ball of fur that you were not sure was going to make it later lounging in their new home with their family, that is my reward.”

Sadly, the work that Noland does is endless. He and Ashcraft are always coming across new animals that have been abandoned. He said he can’t stress enough how important it is for people to spay and neuter their pets.

Noland and Southern Hearts Rescue are totally self-funded and rely on the generosity of donors to further their work. Any donations made go towards vet bills, animal food, blankets, gas, equipment, travel expenses, etc.

“This is definitely not a way to make money; we always give it back to the animals in one way or another,” he said. “Luckily, my day job and fiancée help keep the lights on in my home. Rescue work is very demanding. It really takes a toll on a person. The amount of injuries, wear and tear on my vehicle, loss of equipment and money spent is mind blowing. Not to mention, the heartbreaking times when you’re so overwhelmed with requests and you want to, but you can’t possibly help them all and that is emotionally devastating.”

But for Noland, it’s those amazing success stories that give him the patience, motivation and fortitude to keep going, keep working and keep saving lives—one animal at a time.

Visit Preston Noland and Southern Hearts Rescue on social media. Monetary donations can be sent via Paypal, Venmo or CashApp accounts, or mailed to The Empty Vase, c/o Preston Noland, 11330 Arcade Drive Unit 3, Little Rock, AR 72212. Donations for Southern Hearts Rescue are also gratefully accepted. To donate monthly, go to Checks or packages can be mailed to Southern Hearts Rescue, 13616 Mars Hill Road, Bauxite, AR 72011.