On a cool January morning in 2021, PCL Project Engineer Natalie Miller arrived at the Rayos del Sol solar project in La Feria, Texas, unaware of how the day’s events would change the direction of her life.
Natalie, who joined the Solar Center of Excellence team in 2020, had been working on the Rayos del Sol project since October. The solar power-generating facility is expected to generate 180 megawatts of alternating current. It’s one of the many solar projects PCL is building across the United States, Canada and Australia to support the decarbonization of the electric power grid.
On that January morning, Natalie spotted three stray dogs roaming close to her project site. No one knew where they had come from or to whom they belonged — but the dogs lingered outside for days, and it became clear they needed urgent care.
Natalie and the team named the dogs Ranger, Butters and Glenna. They discovered that Glenna had been hit by a vehicle, so Health, Safety and Environment Supervisor Andrew Ferguson rushed her to the veterinarian for extensive rehabilitation and recovery.
As for the others, Natalie says, “I just started feeding them and would stop by to see them throughout the day. That’s how it all started, and I slowly fell in love.”
Soon, Natalie adopted Ranger and Andrew adopted Glenna, and Natalie created a GoFundMe fundraiser to help pay for the vet trips. Sadly, as more and more dogs came to the site, she knew that many more dogs than expected would need to be rehomed. Quickly recognizing that the noise and traffic of a construction site could be dangerous for dogs, Natalie began calling around in hopes of finding somewhere for the other dogs to go.
“Even then, I knew that these dogs deserved the whole world,” says Natalie. “And the team and I would do everything in our power to give it to them.”
She talked with her superintendent on the project who said she could continue feeding and caring for them. The team even built a small perimeter fence around the jobsite trailer to help keep the dogs safe during workdays. Clearly, the dogs were loved.
The rest of the team immediately welcomed the dogs, recognizing there was a problem and offering to support Natalie in her attempts to rehome them. One employee brought in large bags of dog food to help alleviate expenses. Some employees rescued dogs themselves.
When two more dogs, Luka and Jet, were abandoned near the site in a box, one employee adopted Luka, and Natalie adopted Jet. She helped him overcome a terrible case of fleas, mange, emaciation and fear of people. He was eventually adopted by a local couple and now lives a great life with his new sister.
Later, two more dogs were abandoned. One of them, who the team named Bucket, had fleas and rashes, and was missing fur. Bucket only weighed three pounds. The other, Horchata, was afraid of people and wouldn’t accept food. Since Natalie began fostering them, Bucket is up to 46 pounds, and Horchata became best friends with Ranger.
As of today, Natalie has fostered, rehomed, and cared for 31 dogs — a seemingly insurmountable task made possible by the support of other PCL employees who take their solution-provider mentality to heart.
Natalie says she couldn’t have done it without the support of the team, including her supervisors, who kindly allowed her to incorporate caring for the dogs into her workload; her office mate, who patiently put up with her bringing two to four dogs into their shared office each day; and other team members who went above and beyond to ensure the dogs were healthy and fed.
“This project was about more than bringing jobs and opportunities to the local community,” Andrew says. “It was about having an impact outside of our projects, too. The dogs deserved the opportunity to have a happy life and we have Natalie to thank for reminding us of that.”
Natalie’s dedication to helping each dog find its forever home demonstrates the lasting effects that PCL’s stewardship has on the world around us, far beyond its projects.
“At one point, I lived in my one-bedroom apartment with 10 puppies and two full-grown dogs,” Natalie says. “But even in all the chaos, I held on to the mentality that just because a dog doesn’t have a home doesn’t mean they don’t deserve everything the team and I have to give.”