Dust devils pirouette harmlessly in the distance, dissipating as rapidly as they form. Pickens tells me about other rescue animals at the preserve, like Tommy, her beloved dachshund, and Nero, a Belgian Malinois that was used in combat for several years. Nero, who has been here a few months, suffers from PTSD and jumps at the slightest noise. He is slowly recovering.

I share pictures of my own rescues: three Shelties, a schnauzer and a cat. Pickens is more than merely courteous as I speak — she’s genuinely interested. After all, she paid for and arranged the rescue of more than 800 dogs and cats from New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina.

Later, while I’m resting in my room, there’s a commotion in the kitchen. Pickens’ staff found a Sheltie stumbling into ­traffic on a remote stretch of highway. Matted, tired, hot and nearly run over, he’s now safe — ­rescued like the mustangs.

NOW YOU KNOW: Madeleine Pickens was named a “Person of the Week” by ABC News in 2008 for her efforts to develop a sanctuary for horses.

On my last morning at Mustang Monument, we indulge in a hearty breakfast and delicious coffee (no chewing required). Our new furry friend greets Pickens with a ­special Sheltie dance, to which Pickens says, “Hello, Sunshine!” That becomes his name; Sunny for short.

Sunny hangs out with Nero and Tommy while we humans visit a special group of older horses living their last years in luxury. Some are caisson horses whose duty it was to transport service members to their final resting place. Incomprehensibly discarded for slaughter, the horses have been given by Pickens the dignity and respect they deserve. These horses happily saunter up for ear scratches while pronghorn watch from a safe distance.

When the end of my time here comes (far too soon), I say my goodbyes. Pickens has already found a home for Sunny. Sad as I am not to take him home with me, I know Pickens has made sure he has a wonderful life ahead of him. She’s good at that. 



REBECCA MILLER left the world of broadcast meteorology after 21 years in Dallas/Fort Worth. She currently works as a consultant, combining her media experience with her degrees in meteorology and homeland security.