by James Garcia Jr.
According to The Humane Society of the United States, about every four seconds one of four million cats and dogs are put down in U.S. shelters. One Kingsburg woman has made it her life’s work to see that something is done about this sad fact.
Marilyn Lofgren and her husband John have always loved dogs, but there was one incident 28 years ago, that changed her world and the worlds of so many unloved, uncared for dogs. “I had found a couple of dogs. I heard about this dear woman who was running a dog rescue in the hills above Fresno. I called her and she told me that she would take the dogs. It just broke my heart because she probably had over 5oo dogs.” The woman’s heart was in the right place, but she was really overwhelmed. “I just couldn’t leave them, so I brought them home and that was how I started.” In 1997, the Lofgren’s founded, P.R.O.U.D. (Pet Rescue of Unwanted Dogs).
The non-profit, no-kill shelter is located just north of Kingsburg at 13570 South Academy Avenue, where they care for somewhere between 75 and 100 dogs. The shelter takes every breed of dog, save one, but not for the reasons one might think. “We don’t take Pit Bulls,” she said, although she loves them dearly and does have one on the property. “It is too difficult to find them a good home. A friend of mine does take them on, but she does home checks, something I can’t do. She checks the home, checks the yard; everything.”
Something that Marilyn does do is offer a money-back guarantee. She does this because she wants the dog back in case it doesn’t work out, for whatever reason. The goal of the shelter is to match the right dog with the right people. “We want our dogs to find homes with people who will make a life-time commitment to their new pet. We think our pets should be like family, that is why we always offer a trial period after each adoption…to make sure it is the right fit for everyone! If after a reasonable amount of time things just do not work out, you are able to bring the dog back for a refund or exchange.”
When asked how long this trail period was, she smiled. “I’ve taken dogs back after three years, five years, even after 10 years. For a full refund. If someone can no longer care for their dog, I want it back.” The adoption fee is $150.00, although once a dog came so sick that it cost fifteen hundred dollars to save it. When the dog was adopted, they still only charged the $150.00. There is also a no resale clause written into the contract.
Some dog owners have had their situations change and barely have a home for themselves, let alone their dogs. They have returned them to Marilyn, knowing that there was no one better to love them, making donations as they can to help with their care. One owner sent a dog from as far away as Texas, but Marilyn is unsure just how she might have heard of the shelter from there.
How do the Lofgren’s care for so many animals? During the first ten years, they paid for everything themselves. “It cost us $500 per month just for dog food.” Although still paying for things as needed, they do rely more on donations than in the past. “Selma Wal-Mart donates, individuals donate.” One might think that she would hoard the food that she does have for her dogs, but she does not believe in that kind of thinking, freely donating food to whoever needs it. “God provides,” she said. Written into their brochure is the following Biblical verse from Proverbs 12:10: A righteous man cares for the needs of his animals.
Caring for this many dogs is a large task. The day begins early in the morning when the dogs are let out of their kennels where they are housed overnight. They are loosed into various fenced-in play areas or pens that are set up about the property. The dogs have pens based on several factors: one large pen had many smaller dogs; a few large pens had only two dogs because they were very large animals; they even have a senior pen for some of the oldest. In the evening, the dogs are returned to their kennels for the night. During the summer months, the dogs have pools, misters and one pen even had a cooler set up. During the winter months, straw is added to their compounds, some areas have tarps set up for the dogs who do not handle the elements as well as others, and some heating is provided. Some of the smallest animals actually make their home inside the Lofgren house.
Twice a day, all of the areas need to be cleaned and the pens washed out. There is a staff of two who come on alternating days, working about seven hours. Marilyn and John take care of the dogs the rest of the time. On weekends, all of the work is up to them.
Very interestingly, one volunteer, Diane Vanoncini, comes three days a week, spending four hours on the property. She performs what is called, Reiki, “a Japanese technique for stress reduction and relaxation that also promotes healing”, according to The International Center for Reiki Training. This can work through the laying on of hands as well as simply being in their presence. The website at Reiki.org explains that it is based on the idea that an unseen “life force energy” flows through us and causes us to be alive. If one’s “life force energy” is low, then we are more likely to get sick or feel stress, and if it is high, we are more capable of being happy and healthy. The word Reiki comes from the Japanese words – Rei, which means, “God’s Wisdom or the Higher Power”, and Ki, which is “life force energy”. According to the website, Reiki is actually “spiritually guided life force energy”. It may seem hard to believe, but Marilyn says that her property is the calmest place in town when Diane is visiting.
“Generally speaking, I think it has really helped the dogs to settle down,” said Diane.
The dogs are up to date with regard to their shots. The animals are properly groomed, teeth checked, and all are treated for fleas and ticks every thirty days. Marilyn keeps extensive records for all of this, and has a great relationship with both local Veterinarian clinics, especially Doctor Hatayama in Selma. In fact, she has great relationships with everyone. Over the years, both the Kingsburg Police and Fire Departments have brought her dogs and work with her.
For anyone who wishes to help Marilyn with her work but is unable to take an animal, she accepts donations of dog food, carriers, old blankets, doghouses, beds, etc. She can always use volunteers or even dog sponsors.
If one wishes to adopt one of Marilyn’s dogs they can schedule an appointment at 559-896-2026 or visit Pets Mart in Fresno at the Shaw and Feland store every Saturday and Sunday from 10:00 to 3:00. However, you had better be prepared to want the pet as a family member and not just a guard dog. “I ask a lot of questions. If I don’t hear words such as ‘doggy door’ or ‘inside’, you won’t be getting the dog. These animals have been mistreated and neglected. They need love, not to be chained up in the yard as some guard dog.”
Check out a YouTube video on P.R.O.U.D.