by Wendy Hunter
Wendy Hunter is a volunteer with the Animal Rescue of Fresno. ARF shares with KRL their animal rescue adventures every month.
Wow, am I tired. I’m as tired as a marathon runner in the Tokyo Olympics. I’m as tired as a lumberjack in a log rolling contest. It’s been Termite Central at our place recently, as we had our casa tented for the little buggers. Trust me when I say I wouldn’t wish that exhausting experience on my worst enemy. If you’ve had the circus visit your house, then you know what I mean. The drudgery of double-bagging every freaking thing in your refrigerator and freezer, spices, baking goods, and open food containers lurking on top shelves. You don’t know how much expired stuff you have, until you come across three different cinnamon bottles from 2014. And don’t get me started on the frostbitten pork chops from my high school days. Bleah. After spending a few nights at our local AirBnB, we schlepped back home to begin the tedious task of unpacking everything we just packed. Mom and I are still walking zombies and just might be recovered by Labor Day. I was secretly hoping that a superhero would fly in out of the blue, and rescue us from our misery and aching bones. Unfortunately, we had to settle for the comfort of heat patches and a whole lot of Advil.
Some find their heroes ‘mid the battle’s strife; The greatest heroes are in private life. —Simeon Carter
At ARF, we may not be Batman, Superman, or even Wonder Woman. But just like all of them, we have heart. Unfortunately, some folks question our sanity. “You must be cuckoo, I don’t know how you do it.” Don’t you just want to take them all home? I’d be crying all day.” It’s true, you have to be a little nuts trying to save every sad face you come across. Sometimes you have to reign in the crazy when you see what horrible things humans do to animals. The things you’d like to do to them. And you must be a bit wacky to show up in triple digit heat, or freezing rain, just to put a bunch of shelter dogs to bed. If that’s insanity, then color me guilty. I only volunteer on Saturdays, but if I didn’t have to punch the clock during the week, I would surely be hanging out with the dogs and giving lots of tummy rubs. Boy, that would be so much better than working on a computer all day, and dealing with cranky supervisors. Hmm, I bet those mucky-mucks would benefit greatly from a good ol’ belly scratch. Hey, don’t look at me; that’s definitely NOT part of my job description.
But I will wear my heart upon my sleeve. —William Shakespeare
Lately, the press has been reporting about people returning dogs they adopted during COVID. A recent article in the N.Y. Times said many were keeping their pets, and not being returned in “droves.” I’m not going to argue with the mighty Times, but that sounds like a whole lot of something you don’t want to step in. Fortunately, ARF has only had three of our dogs returned. Shelters are overcrowded taking in their own adopted dogs, along with pets purchased through Facebook and Craig’s List. Even though many people have returned to work, they cannot afford to keep their dog, as rentals have spiked for pet allowance. It’s so difficult to turn away dogs because, just like other shelters, we don’t have the space. In addition to surrenders, we’re still pulling dogs from kill-shelters. These dogs would be euthanized if we didn’t step in. For volunteers, seeing what horrible shape these dogs are in, can really take a toll emotionally. The eyes cannot undo what they see. The worst part is not being able to save all of them. It’s a bit like Sophie’s Choice, where Meryl Streep has to choose between her young son and daughter. She selects her son because he has a better chance at survival. I’m thrilled to say I’ve only been on a couple dog pulls, because my decision making skills really suck.
Of all the animals, man is the only one that is cruel. He is the only one that inflicts pain for the pleasure of doing it. It is a trait that is not known to the higher animals. —Mark Twain
One of the lucky dogs pulled for ARF is “Pinky,” an energetic tan and white terrier mix. I just met her yesterday, and my automatic reaction was sadness and anger. She has burns on her lower back and side, which resemble a really bad sunburn. Her skin is raw and angry, but despite her injuries, she is one of the happiest dogs I’ve ever seen. She was running around like crazy, chasing “Felix,” another dog I’ll introduce you to. Dashing in circles, Pinky was determined to snag her comrade’s squeaky toy. Later, I put Pinky in a kennel, and applied Aloe Vera to her wounds. She laid silently and let me distribute the lotion, as if she knew I was there to help. Afterward, I placed her on the ground, and off she went. A little firecracker skittering across the grass, off to find another friend. If you’re looking for a dog with the capacity to forgive and forget, then come meet Pinky. Snacks are optional, chewy toys required.
And now we have “Felix,” our one-eyed Chihuahua mix. Felix came to ARF with a bum eye, and due to the vet’s advice, it was promptly removed. I think he should be renamed Ragetti after the wacky sea rover in Pirates of the Caribbean. You’ll remember him exclaiming, “Hello Poppet!” after popping out his fake eyeball. Doink! Felix is now wearing the cone of shame, and cannot WAIT to boot it out the door. Even though he hates the cone, he’s racing around the med yard with Pinky, a match made in heaven. Hmm, perhaps someone will take both of them? Like a nice pair of fuzzy slippers, these two would be warm and comforting, and happiest by your bedside. C’mon, you know you want to.
Now let’s talk about “Pete,” the tricolor tripod rescued from animal control. Pete had a badly injured leg that was, literally, hanging from his body. He immediately had surgery, and is recovering nicely. He’s a fast little love bug, who loves some playtime with his buddies. And that face, oh my goodness, that face! I think you really need that in your life. Right? If you’re looking for something more laid-back, how about a senior poodle with a curious nature? Currently residing in the ARF office is “Bo,” a quiet, friendly, gentle soul recovering from a bout of vertigo. This means he walks slow and steady, with a slight head tilt. Bo was so matted upon intake, he had to be completely shaved down. He loves everyone, especially if they have treats; I swear, he can smell chicken a mile away. Bo wants nothing more than to hang out on your couch, obsessing over your latest Netflix series. Popcorn, anyone?
Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not. —Dr. Seuss, The Lorax
For every volunteer, the dogs we rescue are now a part of our lives. To see the terrible condition of some of them during intake is overwhelming. I recently asked ARF’s President and VP what the pros and cons are of rescue work. Some pros were saving deserving dogs from being euthanized, knowing we are doing amazing work, and how good it feels when a dog is adopted into a loving home. Some cons were the heartbreak in not being able to help them all, and then pulling a dog only to have it get sick, and you’re the one who has to send them over the Rainbow Bridge. Also, seeing how physically abusive humans can be to these dogs. Our VP says, “It mentally breaks me. When I close my eyes every night, the things I’ve seen haunt me. I’ve seen things some people will never see, and I wouldn’t want my friends to see everything I have in my fifteen years of volunteering.” Rescue work may not be for everyone, but if it’s in your blood, you won’t stop for anything. Maybe someday, way down the road, we won’t be needed. And not being needed is that wonderful day we wish for.
Animal Rescue of Fresno
4545 E Dakota Ave.
Fresno, CA 93726
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. We also have a pet Facebook group for KRL and we would love to have you join!