Animal Rescue of Fresno: Heaven Can Wait

Jan 7, 2017 | 2017 Articles, Animal Rescue Adventures

by Wendy Hunter

Wendy Hunter is a volunteer with the Animal Rescue of Fresno. ARF shares with KRL their animal rescue adventures every month.

”If at some point you don’t ask yourself, ‘What have I gotten myself into?’ then you’re not doing it right.” — Roland Gau

What do you get when you combine fifty-five dogs, two cars, 480 miles, and four sleep deprived ARF volunteers? You get a recipe for chaos, confusion, and the craziest road trip since Thelma and Louise. I’m talking about the “Heaven Can Wait” pilgrimage, where Animal Rescue of Fresno transports lucky dogs from California to Oregon several times a year. With adorable critters like Chiquita, Mr. Big, and Emma Lou, what could possibly go wrong? Don’t ask.


Linda and Mr. Big

Before beginning our wild adventure, we endured a hectic weekend of activities, including a Holiday Party, Petco adoptions, packing dogs, unpacking dogs, and packing up dogs again. In between, we found ourselves trying to squeeze in some shut-eye before this marathon migration. Quicker than a New York minute, we were braving the brisk night air, with the moon guiding our way.

In our CRV, Mindi and I would follow the ARF auto, driven by Linda and Erika. Theoretically a van, it’s basically a metal box on wheels, with a giant Fido face on the back doors. If you’re trying to pursue someone on the freeway, then chasing a bouncing hound head is the only way to fly. Oh, and did I mention it’s midnight, and I’m behind the wheel of a vehicle I’ve NEVER driven before? Yikes.


Emma Lou

First stop, Dutch Bros for much needed caffeine, where the baristas offered to treat our dogs to creamy Puppuccinos. We were forced to politely decline, or we’d still be in the drive-thru. Fortified with hot beverages, we started our journey up to the chilly hills of Oregon. This is where our friends at SoHumane would be awaiting our arrival, and preparing to welcome the pooches. Our partnership with SoHumane gives deserving dogs a much better chance for adoption than they have in the Central Valley.


ARF van

Hopping on Hwy 99, we rolled through the darkened towns of Merced and Modesto, while working our way to the I-5. Oh, did I mention I have an itty-bitty bladder? And due to the large latte I downed earlier, we hit just about every rest stop from here to Stockton. Things were going along swimmingly until Woodland, where a spooky stretch of fog loomed ahead. Suddenly, it was like being in a bad Hitchcock film, and we were swirling in a tunnel of thick pea soup, our headlights transforming that friendly Fido face into a creepy Cujo. White-knuckling the steering wheel like a madman, I almost yanked the thing right off. Soon, the vapor dissipated, and I was finally able to untangle my fingers and exhale.


Oregon bound

We continued through Red Bluff and Redding, until the sun awoke and stretched its sleepy arms across the morning sky. I took this as a sign, and moved over to the passenger seat for a little snooze. Mindi eagerly took the reins, and I drifted off to slumber-land, with visions of happy doggies being adopted dancing in my head. Ah yes, a dream come true.



When I opened my eyes, I could see Mt. Shasta towering like a come-to-life snow globe. I could see the stunning sapphire waters of its namesake lake. I could also see my cohort steering like she was a possessed Sandra Bullock in “Speed.” Oh, and did I mention Mindi isn’t fond of curvy roads, overpasses, or bridges? She was desperately clenching the wheel, while scrambling to find her inhaler. She might have been speaking in tongues, but don’t quote me on that. Mindi was more than happy for me to resume my driving duties, and I was thrilled to see the color return to her cheeks.

We forged ahead, through the mighty town of Weed, and the winding beauty of the Siskiyou Summit. Just when I thought I’d never regain feeling in my posterior again, the SoHumane sign popped into view. Eureka! Actually, Medford, and a welcome sight indeed. As we pulled into the driveway, a well-oiled machine of volunteers emerged like soldiers on a mission. Our dogs were unloaded within minutes, and led into the heated kennels of their facility. Well, at least the ones who didn’t immediately scramble back into their snug crates. Did I mention how insanely COLD it was? It was insanely cold. It was like Mother Nature was all kinds of cranky. If the mutts had cartoon balloons coming out of their heads, they would have read, “Why are we here? My feet are frozen, my nose is numb, and my goose bumps have goose bumps! Now get over here so I can bite you…”

In the meantime my emotions got the best of me; it was a tidal wave of happiness and sadness at the same time. I thought, “Wow, look at this awesome thing we just did, and I was a part of it.” It really was a great feeling. We would return later for an official goodbye to the hounds, though this first farewell was tough on all of us.

Tired and hungry, we headed to Ashland, home of the annual Shakespeare Festival. After breakfast at the Morning Glory Restaurant, it was off to our hotel, which shall remain anonymous due to several unanswered questions. For example, why didn’t Mindi and I have a microwave? Why was our Keurig machine hidden under the bathroom sink? Why was Erika and Linda’s room like the Ritz-Carlton? Why was ours like a Motel 6? Why did they have an extra TV? Why did we never get replacement coffee cups? And what the ding dang were our noisy neighbors doing upstairs; practicing for Riverdance? It was all very suspicious. Apparently, our traveling companions were lodging in upper Manhattan, and we were slumming in the lower East Side. But the beds were comfy, and after burrowing beneath the blankets, were settled in for a well deserved nap. Later we enjoyed dinner at The Great American Pizza Company, where the garlicky “dough-knots” were absolute heaven.


Arrival at SoHumane

After a nice long hibernation, we awoke to a wintry wonderland. It was crisp and silvery, the rooftops dusted with layers of icy powdered sugar. Did I mention how cold it was? Way cold. Thirty-four degrees of cold. We warmed up with breakfast and brew, then were off and running. Or should I say off and shopping? If Ashland was having any sort of economic crisis, we certainly helped bring it back to life. From Paddington Station to the eternal search for the perfect Rocky Mountain caramel apple, we put some serious mileage on our shoes. A round of Dutch Brothers for stamina, and we arrived at the fabulous Harry and David Store, where the Moose Munch is plentiful, and samples are handed out with great enthusiasm. Don’t ask me how much I spent there. Just don’t. Up next, Fred Meyer, a superstore where you can find just about anything. It’s also where I set off the alarm with my newly purchased Christmas sweater, thereby causing my comrades to double over in fits of laughter. Don’t ask. snow arf

We ended the day with a savory steak dinner at Omar’s Fine Food and Cocktails, which is an Oregon institution. The filet mignon was juicy, and my Makers Mark Manhattan was superb. We greeted the morning with yet another visit to our favorite java joint. Did I mention how many Dutch Brothers there are in Ashland and the surrounding vicinity? A lot, I mean, a whole lot. If you’re lost and need a landmark, just look for the nearest one—civilization found!

With caffeine coursing through our veins, we returned to SoHumane and bid adieu to our dogs. This proved to be a very poignant experience for everyone, myself included. It was lovely to see them all in a safe place, in the best hands, enjoying the attention. However, it was also difficult to let them go, after all, they were OUR dogs! But, let them go we did, and many tears of happiness were shed.


Left to right, it’s Erika, Mindi, me, and Linda (our owner)

We eased our broken hearts with more shopping in the historic town of Jacksonville. Blocks and blocks of quaint boutiques and restaurants, it’s a painting right out of Norman Rockwell’s studio. Don’t ask me how much money I spent there. Just don’t. After exhausting our Visa cards, it was an early supper at The Wharf Seafood Restaurant, where Erika eagerly dived into her much anticipated fried calamari.

Then it was a field trip to the Oregon Cabaret Theatre, for a performance of Pine Mountain Lodge, A wonderful show featuring Irving Berlin classics like “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm.” Located in a converted pink church, the theatre is a 2-story labor of love, boasting a grand twinkling chandelier. While a light snow fell outside, we enjoyed steaming Irish coffees and decadent desserts; the salted caramel cheesecake changed Mindi’s life forever. The evening was almost perfect, except for the gentleman seated below us, who felt compelled to clip his nails during intermission. I guess it could have been worse; it could have been his toenails. Gross.

That night, we slumbered in our toasty beds, and awoke to a glacial wind that permeated our fleece jackets and froze my nose. This was our cue to pack up and hit the proverbial road. It was hazy outside, with a fine mist settling onto our windshields, but the traffic was light and the highway clear. Until we hit Sacramento at rush hour, where the traffic was heavy and the highway jammed. Blah.

After our dinner break, my co-pilot took the wheel and pointed us toward home, our mission finally accomplished. The next weekend, SoHumane held an adoption event, and 35 of our dogs found forever homes…in ONE DAY. So was it worth the time and trouble? Absolutely. Was it worth that demanding drive? You bet. Would I do it again? In a heartbeat.

Video of the dogs being unloaded:

You can learn more about ARF on our website at

Check out more animal rescue stories in our Pet Perspective section and check back every month for another animal rescue adventure from ARF. Advertise in KRL and 10% of your advertising fees can go to a local animal rescue.

Wendy Hunter has been volunteering with ARF for just over a year. She grew up in Fresno and recently became an Office Assistant with Fresno County. She has been writing all of her life, though never professionally, and currently writes personalized poetry for birthdays, weddings, pet remembrances, etc.

1 Comment

  1. What an adventure! I’m so glad they made it safely after all


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