by Angela Marshall
Living in the Valley, we have all experienced driving somewhere and noticing a stray dog aimlessly running around. How many stop and try to help? How many of those dogs actually are rescued or end up fending for themselves or end up as road kill? Fresno County euthanizes thousands of dogs every year because of overpopulation.
Pawsitive Connections is one non-profit rescue that is trying to improve the lives of the animals in the Valley. It started last year and in its first year saved close to 400 dogs that otherwise would have not survived. Pawsitive Connections was founded by Kelly Okland of Kingsburg who also owns Doolittle’s grooming. She has been saving dogs on her own for most of her life and decided to take it to the next level. One of her daughters, Jordan Okland who serves as the board Treasurer, was instrumental in getting the paperwork done for Pawsitive Connections to be a legal corporation, and an official 501 c 3 non-profit.
As important and noble as saving dogs is, the ultimate goal for Pawsitive Connections is provide a no-kill animal sanctuary for animals in need, while matching their characteristics to determine how they can best serve the community. How can an animal serve their community? By providing love and comfort through visiting nursing homes, providing companionship for those with emotional difficulties, working with people with autism, or simply becoming a family’s best friend.The dream is to develop a sanctuary where animals and people alike can find refuge. This will include a location capable of housing animals, meeting their needs as well as facilities that allow people, schools and organizations to interact with the animals creating a “Pawsitive Connection.”
Currently Pawsitive Connections houses their dogs at people’s homes who have volunteered to be foster parents. The foster parents take the dogs into their home until a forever home is found. There is a piece of property that would be ideal for Pawsitive Connections to reach their goals. It is not yet a reality, but it looks like a real possibility it could be soon.
Every Friday and Saturday, volunteers go to Petsmart in Fresno on Shaw and Feland in order to try to get the dogs adopted. It is a lot of work for the volunteers to load the dogs, transport them, set up the crates, clean up after the dogs, walk them and answer potential adopters questions.
Pawsitive Connections is in need of more volunteers to foster animals or to take them to adoption events. There are only a few very dedicated volunteers who carry the burden on their shoulders. One of them, is Cheryl Neilsen. She had been helping with a local rescue a few years ago until it closed. She noticed a need for transport, so she used her own money and purchased a van so she could volunteer her time and money for gas to take dogs from shelters to no-kill shelters. She still transports, but fosters many dogs for Pawsitive Connections and goes to Petsmart every Friday for adoption days.
The mission statement of Pawsitive Connections is “To serve the community through the healing power of animals.” I think anyone that has ever had a dog as part of their family can relate to that statement. Dogs love unconditionally, and understand when we are hurting emotionally or physically. If you don’t understand what I am talking about, you haven’t given a dog a chance. They add so much good to a person’s life.
Pawsitive Connections is on Facebook, and our website (still under construction). To contact e-mail email@example.com or call 559-393-1946.